Over 100 prisoners on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment in May after the election of a new government. Some remaining political prisoners held by the previous government were released and three prisons used to detain political prisoners in the past were closed. Ill-treatment of criminal suspects by the police continued to be reported. A commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the suspicious deaths of three government ministers and one member of parliament in 1983. There were no executions but at least two people were sentenced to death. The first multi-party elections for over 30 years were held in May. They were won by the opposition United Demo-cratic Front (UDF), whose chairman, Bakili Muluzi, won the presidential election. He replaced Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), whose government had been responsible for widespread human rights abuses in the past. In the early part of the election campaign in January and February, when the mcp was still in power, there were reports of intimidation and harassment of supporters of opposition parties in rural areas, particularly in the central region. Supporters of both the ruling MCP and of the opposition UDF were reported to have beaten opponents. The editor of The Independent newspaper received death threats in March for reporting allegations of corruption by supporters of the government. In Mangochi, southeastern Malawi, former members of the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP), the paramilitary youth wing of the MCP, were said to be crossing the border from Mozambique and threatening people. Some 2,000 members of the MYP were reported to be encamped in neighbouring Mozambique, in camps controlled by the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO), Mozambique National Resistance, throughout the year. The myp had been responsible in the past for many human rights abuses against government opponents. It was forcibly disarmed by the army in December 1993 and the law establishing the MYP was repealed in March. In his inauguration speech on 21 May, President Bakili Muluzi announced the release of all remaining political prisoners, believed to be few in number, held by the former government. He also commuted all current death sentences – about 120 – to life imprisonment. He announced the closure of three prisons which he said had been used to detain and torture thousands of opponents of the former government. A new provisional constitution was drawn up by the National Consultative Council, a body composed of government and opposition leaders, and was enacted the day before the election. It included a Bill of Rights and provisions for an Ombudsman and for a Human Rights Commission. These had not been established by the end of the year. The Constitution was to be provisional for one year, to allow for further discussion and changes. Hundreds of former political prisoners initiated cases in the courts seeking compensation for detention, torture and seizure of property by the former government. In June a commission of inquiry was set up, chaired by a High Court judge, to investigate the deaths in May 1983 of three government ministers and a member of parliament, who had allegedly been extrajudicially executed (see Amnesty International Report 1986). It had not reported its conclusions by the end of the year. In June two Malawians – Kelly Nkhoma and Sam Phiri – were extradited to Zambia, reportedly to stand trial for involvement in the deaths in Zambia of a journalist opposed to President Banda's government, Mkwapatira Mhango, and members of his family, who were killed by a bomb in 1989 (see Amnesty International Report 1990). However, they were instead charged with the murder of Tito Banda, a Malawian journalist, who turned out to be alive and living in Malawi. They were released in September by a magistrate's court in Zambia, for lack of evidence, and returned to Malawi. Following the May elections there were reports of journalists being briefly detained. In July the editor of The Enquirer was held for four hours by the police. Also in July the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice banned an edition of The Malawian newspaper which had published a photograph of President Bakili Muluzi taken after he had been convicted of theft in the early 1960s. The editor, Chimwemwe Mputahelo, was charged under the Protected Flag, Emblem & Names Act, which had been used by the previous government to restrict freedom of expression. He was not detained and the charges were dropped in August on the instructions of the President. In September the editor of The Independent was reportedly beaten by the police and detained for several hours. There were continuing reports that the police ill-treated criminal suspects. For example, a man detained in July claimed that he was whipped during interrogation by the police in an attempt to force him to confess to robbery. Trials of death penalty cases, which until October 1993 had been heard in "Traditional Courts" which did not provide fair trials, were transferred to the High Court. Trials restarted in October. By the end of the year at least two people had been sentenced to death for murder. No executions were carried out. In February Amnesty International published a report, Malawi: A new future for human rights, calling for human rights to be fully protected in the new constitution. Amnesty International representatives attended a symposium on the new draft constitution and met members of opposition parties, lawyers, journalists, religious leaders and new human rights groups. In May Amnesty International expressed concern that human rights abuses committed in the run-up to the election did not appear to be being adequately investigated or punished by the authorities. After the election Amnesty International wrote to the new President welcoming the commutation of all death sentences and urging the government to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty International jointly sponsored a conference on human rights in Malawi with the Public Affairs Committee, a body of religious groups, in August. The conference brought together representatives from human rights groups, religious groups, lawyers, the police and the army to discuss the future of human rights in Malawi.

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