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Amnesty International Report 2004 - Namibia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 26 May 2004
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Namibia , 26 May 2004, available at: [accessed 24 October 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2003

Arbitrary detention and excessive force by the police and members of the paramilitary Special Field Forces (SFF) continued to be reported. Journalists perceived to be critical of the government were harassed and threatened.


In May President Nujoma announced that he would not run for a fourth term in office.

In October the Namibia Farm Workers Union (NaFwu) announced that its members would occupy white-owned commercial farms in protest at the slow pace of the government's land redistribution program. It called off plans to occupy farms after the police declared that illegal farm occupations would not be allowed and that perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Caprivi treason trial

On 20 May one of the defendants in the Caprivi treason trial made a compensation claim for alleged police assault following his arrest. The 122 defendants, charged with treason, murder and other offences in connection with the secessionist uprising in the northeast Caprivi region in August 1999, have been on trial since 2001. Similar claims made by at least five other defendants were settled out of court on 8 July.

In July charges against five defendants were withdrawn, in part because witnesses had died, and they were released. There were undue delays and numerous adjournments of the trial.

On 16 October, one of the defendants, Oscar Luphalezwi, died at the Katima Mulilo state hospital while in police custody. This brought to 12 the number of treason trial defendants who have died in police custody since 1999. No independent or impartial inquiry was carried out into this or the earlier deaths as required under Namibia's international human rights obligations.

Police abuses

Police used excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrators. The SFF were reportedly involved in arbitrary arrests and intimidation along the border with Angola.

  • There was no independent investigation into allegations that police used excessive force to quell riots by refugees at the Osire refugee camp, northern Namibia, on 17 October. Seven people were shot and injured when police fired live ammunition to disperse refugees protesting about food distribution in the camp. Police later arrested and released without charge eight students at the camp.
  • In November, six armed members of the SFF detained and threatened to shoot journalist Paulus Sakaris of Die Republikien newspaper and his driver Simon Haimbodi as they drove near the Angola border. The two men were taken to an SFF base where their vehicle was confiscated and they were accused of driving without a "road authority clearance certificate". They were later released without charge.

Violence against women

Violence against women in the home remained persistent and pervasive. On 11 February police threatened to fire on women and children demonstrating peacefully in support of legislation to combat violence against women and children. On 27 March the National Assembly passed the Combating of Domestic Violence Bill, aimed at strengthening the protection offered victims by the courts and police.

Freedom of expression

President Nujoma openly attacked media professionals deemed critical of the government.

  • On 28 August, the President reportedly told a student audience that Hannes Smith, editor of the Windhoek Observer newspaper, was "looking for trouble" and would "get it" after allegations made in the President's autobiography were disputed in an article in the newspaper.

Food shortages

In August up to 400,000 people, approximately 20 per cent of the population, were in need of general food aid distributions, according to the country's Emergency Management Unit. In September the World Food Programme expressed growing concern about the food security situation. The hardest hit area was the Caprivi region, afflicted by both drought and floods.

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