An Irish NGO, Front Line Defenders has spoken out about the trial of of five Malawian human rights defenders accused of conducting a demonstration without police permission under the Police Act after holding a peaceful demostration urging President Bingu wa Mutharika to call a referendum for an early election, demand the resignation of Police Inspector General Peter Mukhita and call for an investigation into his alleged involvement in the death of student activist Robert Chasowa. All participated to the demonstration as members of the Forum for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), a civil society platform formed in August 2011 to advance pro reform demands. The men were held for 5 days before being granted bail. The Frontline press statement noted that:
'the prosecution of the aforementioned human rights defenders is directly related to their legitimate work in defence of human rights, particularly with regard to their attempts to draw public attention to the accountability of the authorities for human rights abuses'.
It also went on to say that:
"Front Line remains deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Malawi. We have reported on a number of instances of attacks against human rights defenders, including in March, July, and September, detailing the ongoing crackdown and campaign against those who have been vocal in calling for changes within the current Government."
Frontline Defenders was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).