Seventeen prisoners suffocated to death in one night in overcrowded jail cells. Ten prisoners remained under sentence of death. In June, the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) party pulled out of the United Democratic Front-led government and AFORD leader Chakufwa Chihana resigned as Second Vice-President. Also in June, Malawi acceded to the (First) Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In September, police arrested Malawi Congress Party opposition leader John Tembo on charges of plotting to kill three cabinet ministers in 1995. Cecilia Kadzamira also faced charges of plotting the murders. Seventeen prisoners died of suffocation in January when police held more than 70 suspects overnight in two jail cells. In September, the government appointed a commission of inquiry which investigated the deaths and made a series of recommendations. Ten people remained under sentence of death in Zomba Central prison, awaiting appeals in the High Court. In June and again in November, Amnesty International met Ombudsman James Chirwa to discuss his office's role in investigating human rights. In October, Amnesty International appealed to the authorities to abolish the death penalty.

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