Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Namibia

The long-running Caprivi detainees’ treason trial concluded. Violations of the right to freedom of expression continued. Cases of women being killed as a result of domestic violence were reported. A journalist was assaulted and briefly detained by police for taking a photograph of police arresting a criminal suspect.

Caprivi detainees’ trial

The Caprivi detainees’ trial concluded on 7 September. Judge Elton Hoff found 30 of the 65 accused guilty of charges of high treason, nine charges of murder, and 90 counts of attempted murder. Thirty-two people were acquitted and released, and a further three were found guilty of other charges. The detainees were originally arrested and charged in 1999 for allegedly attempting to secede the then Caprivi region from the rest of the country. They had spent more than 14 years in remand prison. The majority of them suffered health problems linked to age and prolonged detention and many of their relatives had no means of visiting them. Many of the Caprivi detainees were possible prisoners of conscience because they were arrested solely on the basis of their actual or perceived political views, ethnicity or membership of certain organizations. The length of their pre-trial detention violated the rights of the accused to a fair trial. Ten of the accused died in police custody before the High Court trial commenced in Grootfontein, Otjozondjupa Region, in 2003, while another 12 who went on trial died before its end.

Most of the detainees reported being tortured or otherwise ill-treated at the time of their arrest.

In passing his verdict, Judge Hoff upheld a 2001 Supreme Court decision, making confessions extracted under coercion inadmissible and also dismissed testimonies secured by torture or illegal police behaviour.

Freedom of expression

The right to freedom of expression continued to be violated.

On 5 December, New Era journalist Nuusita Ashipala was physically assaulted by a police officer in Oshakati, Oshana Region, and was locked up in a police van for about 30 minutes for taking pictures of police officers arresting a criminal suspect at the Game shopping complex. She was ordered to delete the pictures from her camera before being released without charge.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women, in particular so-called passion killings, remained a concern.

On 21 April, the police reported the death of a 26-year-old mother of two from the Oneshila informal settlement in Oshakati East. She had been murdered in full view of her children by her male partner.

On 20 June, Martha Iyambo died after being stabbed by her ex-boyfriend at Oyovu village in the Omuntele constituency, Oshikoto Region. In the same month, Justine Shiweda, a 50-year-old teacher at Onalulago Primary School in Oniipa constituency, was shot dead by her husband. In 2014, UNAIDS, the joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and Victims 2 Survivors, a Namibian NGO, called for gender-based violence to be declared a national disaster.