Markus Löning, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement in Berlin today (20 May) in reaction to the sentencing of the Malawian same-sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga Kachepa and Steven Monjeza Soko to 14 years’ imprisonment:
“I was deeply shocked to hear about the sentence handed down to the Malawian same-sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga Kachepa and Steven Monjeza Soko for “indecent acts against the law of nature” and sodomy. This judgment is contrary to international law and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. I urge the Malawian Government to comply with its obligations to protect all people regardless of their sexual orientation and to suspend imposition of the sentence passed on Mr Kachepa and Mr Soko.”
The Malawian media reported in December 2009 that the same-sex pair had celebrated a traditional engagement. The resulting public attention led to their arrest; during their months of pre-trial detention they were mistreated both by their fellow prisoners and by the authorities. By sentencing them to 14 years in jail the court complied with the recommendation of the state’s attorney that a harsh punishment was necessary as a deterrent to others. The defence’s pleas for a lighter sentence were ignored; the defence lawyer announced that the pair would appeal.