Head of state and government
Bingu wa Mutharika
Death penalty
abolitionist in practice
15.7 million
Life expectancy
54.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
125/117 per 1,000
Adult literacy
72.8 per cent

A same-sex couple were sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment and then pardoned. Prisons were overcrowded and lacked adequate facilities.


Malawi’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review, during which officials stated that an independent police complaints commission had been established to investigate police brutality.

Up to 1.1 million Malawians were in need of food aid despite five consecutive years of maize production surpluses.

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Prison conditions

Prisons were overcrowded: the prison system, with a capacity of 6,000, was holding around 13,000 prisoners. Prison congestion was exacerbated by prolonged pre-trial detention, with pre-trial detainees forming up to 20 per cent of the prison population. Overcrowding, poor nutrition, poor sanitation and inadequate health facilities contributed to the spread of infections including tuberculosis and measles. Many prisoners relied on families and charities for supplementary food.

  • In Chichiri prison in June, prisoners were locked in overcrowded communal cells with poor ventilation and had to sleep sitting up. Up to 200 prisoners shared one toilet. One inmate, Alex Mkula, had been held for nine years without trial: he was later released on bail. The female section of Chichiri prison was similarly congested. Eight of the 55 female prisoners were mothers with babies.

In its Universal Periodic Review, Malawi stated it had ended mandatory pre-trial detention to prevent prison overcrowding.

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Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

On 18 May, two prisoners of conscience, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, were convicted on charges of “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts” after holding a same-sex engagement party in December 2009. Both were sentenced to 14 years with hard labour. On 29 May they were pardoned by President Mutharika, following a visit to Malawi by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. However, Tiwonge Chimbalanga went into hiding in fear of hate attacks.

In its Universal Periodic Review, Malawi stated that it had no plans to legalize homosexuality.

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Freedom of expression – journalists

In February the Journalists Union of Malawi expressed concern about a government directive advising officials that they should not advertise in newspapers published by Nation Publications Limited, including The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday, after they had published articles considered critical of the government.

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Trial of former opposition politician

The long-running trial of Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi continued at the High Court in Blantyre but was delayed by his health problems. He was arrested in 2005 on corruption charges, but alleged the charges were politically motivated.

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Human rights by region

World regions Midde East and North Africa Asia Pacific Europe and Central Asia Africa Americas


A number of countries in Africa celebrated the 50th anniversary of their independence during the year while others prep ...


In the Americas many human rights have been recognized in law, if not always in practice, over the past 50 years. Whi ...

Asia Pacific

In a region with almost two thirds of the world’s population, stretching a third of the way around the planet, ...

Europe & Central Asia

The right to truth and justice, and the determination of victims and their relatives to achieve this how ...

Middle East and North Africa

2010 dawned with Yemen an unusual focus of international attention following an alleged terrorist ...

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Country Visits

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Malawi in June.