(May 29, 2010, Cape Town) – Today’s order for the unconditional pardon and immediate release from prison of Tionge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza by Malawian President and African Union Chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika is a welcome one. The two have been serving a sentence of 14 years imprisonment with hard labor for their convictions under the Malawi Penal Code prohibitions on "unnatural offences" (Section 153) and "indecent practices between males” (Section 156). They have been in custody since their arrest in December. President wa Mutharika made the announcement in a joint press conference in Lilongwe with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
“We commend President Mutharika for arriving at a decision that prevents two innocent people from spending years in prison without just cause,” said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “This pardon should be seen as a significant challenge to laws and proceedings that are inherently unfair. However, it should not require a presidential intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Malawians to obtain justice.
“We applaud President Mutharika for this bold decision,” said Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of People. “As Chairperson of the African Union, his actions should set a precedent for African leaders to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all Africans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. We hope that the President now pardons all Malawians imprisoned on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that the judiciary overturns all such convictions, and that the government ensures the constitutional rights to equality and non-discrimination for all.
For more information, see the Malawi archive of IGLHRC at: http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/region/44.html
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