Published: July 23rd 2011July 21st 2011
As we sat there waiting for Isaac, a police truck pulled into the station. Cops with guns and clubs rush out of the bed of the truck then turn around as they yell at the civilians inside. As the detainees exited, the officers started to beat them with clubs. They lined people up and, no lie, spanked them. As they pushed them toward the holding cell area, they continued to hit them.
We could hear what sounded like people being beaten from inside the holding cells.
Two more such trucks came in, though each had progressively fewer civilians, which thankfully also meant that the beatings were less severe.
When more people were brought into the holding cell area, there were cheers, which we interpreted as cheers of comradely.
The officer comes back to ask Dave to come inside so she can get “more particulars.” Apparently that meant, “Stand around while we try to write a report, then give us the exact same information you already did.”
About 15 minutes later, I looked toward the front desk, trying to see if Dave was still there, when I saw Isaac. I turned to the girls and said, “I see Isaac, he looks fine. Just stay calm as he comes out.” As he approached, it appeared his right eye was partially closed. Someone asked what happened, and he said, “I was beaten.” He showed us a mark on his arm and several on each of his legs. I don’t know how or with what they hit him, but I can best describe the mark on his arm as a cigarette burn (though I don’t think that’s what it was). His undershirt had been pulled down to his stomach and his button-down was ripped.
I asked if he was free to go, and he said he had to wait in order to give a statement. Sure enough, when Dave walked out, Isaac was called in. We sat there waiting and waiting. The female officer who had assisted Dave came out and asked why we were still there. We explained we were waiting for our friend. She said, “Well you’re free to go from me,” as if to say, “I said you could leave, anything that happens now doesn’t involve me.” She and Thoko exchanged something in Chichewa.
After waiting an hour, Dave went back inside to see what was taking so long. He was told that Isaac had argued, was arrested, and would be held overnight. As we stood there talking, Thoko mentioned that the female officer had said that he was receiving treatment because he complained of pain in his arm. Since we weren’t sure what was happening, we asked a nearby officer who had recently come out. He confirmed that Isaac had been arrested.
When we told a’mai, she said we should leave, as there was nothing we could do.
In Malawi, detainees are not fed in police cells unless a visitor brings food to them. Knowing this, I asked the guard when afternoon visiting hours started. He said 2pm. It was 2:09pm. I then asked if we could take food to him, to which he replied no, and that there would be no visiting hours today because of how busy they were and due to the chaos inside. (He didn’t say ‘chaos,’ I think he just said there were too many people inside). Thoko asked if we could pay to have him released, and he said no, again because there were too many people inside and too many that may be brought in to try and process just one person. He said that Isaac would likely go to court in the morning.
See Part IV.