Britain 'dismayed' at Malawi convictions

20th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain said Thursday it was "deeply dismayed" by the jailing of a gay couple in Malawi, saying it ran counter to the progress made by the southern African country on improving human rights.

"We are deeply dismayed by the conviction for buggery and indecent practices of Mr. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Mr. Steven Monjeza," said a joint statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

"We are also very concerned by the allegations of their mistreatment in police custody," added FCO Minister Henry Bellingham, International Development Minister Stephen O'Brien and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone.

Chimbalanga and Monjeza were arrested on December 28 after holding an illegal same-sex wedding, accused of violating "the order of nature". They were convicted Tuesday and sentenced Thursday to 14 years hard labour in jail.

The men's lawyer, Mauya Msuku, said he would consult with his clients on filing an appeal.

The British ministers said Malawi had made "significant progress on human rights in recent years" but the conviction of the couple "runs counter to a positive trend".

"Britain has a close and strong partnership with Malawi and it is in this spirit that we raise our concerns. The UK believes that human rights apply to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," they said.

"The UK urges the government of Malawi to review its laws to ensure the defence of human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds.

"The UK, along with our international partners, will continue to press the government of Malawi on this issue," added the ministers from the two parties in Britain's new coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

© 2010 AFP

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