Amnesty International Report 2005 - Namibia
|Publication Date||25 May 2005|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - Namibia , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27ef2f.html [accessed 29 October 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This 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 2004
The human rights situation showed improvement on the low point of 1999-2000 when there was a sharp rise in violations following an armed secessionist uprising in the north-east Caprivi region and Namibia's intervention in the Angolan civil war. However, threats to the independence of the judiciary were a cause for concern. New statistics on violence against women and children showed no slowdown in the rate of attacks. The Caprivi treason trial began: most defendants, many of whom were prisoners of conscience, had been in prison awaiting trial for five years.
Elections in November saw the ruling Swapo party returned to power with 76 per cent of the vote. Swapo's candidate Hifikepunye Pohamba won the presidential election; he was due to replace President Samuel Nujoma, who had been the head of state since independence in 1990, in March 2005.
Trial of Caprivi detainees
The trial of some 120 people accused of high treason, murder and other offences in connection with a secessionist uprising in the Caprivi region in 1999 finally got under way in August, after most of the defendants had spent almost five years in custody.
The case was expected to continue well into 2005. The judge barred the media from identifying several state witnesses – the first such ruling since independence in 1990. Police officers accused of torturing suspects detained in the wake of the uprising had still not faced any formal charges or disciplinary action.
A new Labour Bill was passed that specifically outlaws discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of HIV status. The approval of a Stock Theft Amendment Bill, which makes the crime of stealing a goat punishable by a possible 30-year jail sentence, was criticized by opposition parties as draconian.
Leading politicians continued to verbally attack the judiciary, with Swapo youth leader Paulus Kapia accusing the judge in the Caprivi case of "sabotaging peace" in Namibia after he ordered the release of 13 suspects. The decision to release the 13 was later overturned by the Supreme Court. Swapo's election manifesto committed the party to changing the composition of the body that appoints judges so that it would "comply with the will of the people".
Violence against women and children
The police announced that during 2003 over 1,000 cases of rape were reported to Women and Child Protection Units compared to 814 in 2002. Interim figures released in 2004 indicated no decline in the rate of attacks on women and children. Despite concern over the high number of assaults, Women's Solidarity, a leading non-governmental organization offering counselling to victims of domestic violence, closed down in early 2004 due to a lack of funding.
Six refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were charged with inciting public violence after a demonstration on World Refugee Day at the Osire camp in central Namibia. The six had been protesting about delays in processing their applications for asylum. The voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees continued throughout the year.
Freedom of expression
Although there were fewer reports of politicians using hate speech against minorities and political opponents than in previous years, in May President Nujoma made a vitriolic speech against Ben Ulenga, leader of the Congress of Democrats opposition party, during which he referred to him as a homosexual.
The government refused to insert election-related educational material in The Namibian because of its ban on advertising in the newspaper, a ban in place since 2001 because of The Namibian's alleged anti-government reporting. Opposition parties complained that the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation showed a heavy bias to the ruling Swapo party during election campaigns.