Malawi's major donors on Tuesday condemned the abuse of human rights in the southern African nation, particularly a crackdown on gay rights, and warned that abuses could affect budget suppport.
The Common Approach for Budgetary Support (Cabs), a grouping of major donor nations and international bodies that supports the poor southern African country, said in a report it was concerned by rights abuses, but did not suggest any sanction.
"When we talk about human rights, we do not only talk about the majority but also minority groups like the on-going issue of homosexuals which needs to be looked into thoroughly," Cabs Chairman Frank Kufwakwandi said in a statement.
A Malawi magistrate will rule next week on public indecency charges laid against a gay couple, who have been in detention since December last year after publicly getting engaged in a traditional ceremony.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Malawi and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
"Government should endeavour to take heed of human rights issues which some of our constituents have raised ... respect for human rights is one of the fundamental principles of Malawi's budget support cooperation from the Cabs group of development partners," Kufwakwandi, who is also AfDB country representative, said.
Cabs is made up of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Norway, Britain, Germany, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Commission.
The group is meeting in Malawi to assess the performance of both Malawi and development partners.
Malawi is aid dependent with the Cabs group contributing over 40 percent of its budget. In the current financial year, it is contributing about $500 million. The statement comes a week after Norway's minister of environment and international development cautioned the government on the need to respect gay rights.
In January, Scottish and British MPs petitioned President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration to drop the case against the couple -- Steve Monjeza, 26 and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The two are accused of sodomy and public indecency.
Malawi's chief justice last month dismissed the couple's appeal against the case, and a magistrate will give his verdict on March 22nd. They are widely expected to be jailed.