Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September 2014, 12:56 GMT

Human Rights Watch World Report 1997 - Mozambique

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1997 - Mozambique, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8a434.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
Comments This report covers events of 1996
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.

Human Rights Developments

Human rights practices gradually improved in many parts of the country, two years after Mozambique's first ever multiparty election. However, significant human rights concerns remain, including restrictions on freedom of movement and expression by the former armed opposition group Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), heavy-handed policing including torture, and appalling prison conditions.

Accountability for human rights abuses during the 1977-1992 civil war continued to be discussed in the media but both ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and RENAMO officials continued to advocate impunity, arguing that any trials or exposure of the past would undermine national reconciliation. However, local communities across the country conducted traditional healing ceremonies at which people made public confessions about human rights abuses. In March Lutero Simango, leader of the opposition National Convention Party (PCN), announced that he would bring the case of the summary execution of his father Uria Simango by the government in the early 1980s before the courts.

RENAMO continued to rule some areas it controlled at the end of the war four years ago, and to exclude government officials. In Maringue, RENAMO's wartime capital in Sofala province, RENAMO expelled five government officials, including the deputy administrator in May. A parliamentary delegation tried the same month to investigate this incident but was intimidated and a meeting in Maringue was abandoned after intense heckling by RENAMO youths. The opposition Democratic Party (PADEMO) had also complained in January that it was unable to work freely in Maringue district because of serious obstructions by RENAMO sympathizers.

The frequency of this type of incident continued to decline elsewhere in Mozambique in 1996 although there were accounts of RENAMO representatives forcing people not to send their children to school because they were government-run. RENAMO also refused to allow freedom of movement in parts of Niassa province and in various locations around the country insisted that those traveling in its administrated areas should carry RENAMO travel permits.

Police behavior remained a serious concern and continued to be the source of the majority of complaints Human Rights Watch/Africa received from Mozambique in 1996. Arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and bribery were common allegations. For example, Luis Franque TChembene died on June 9 from injuries sustained after being tortured for eleven hours on suspicion of steeling a car by police from Maputo's 7th precinct. The police's thirteenth precinct in Maputo's Triunfo Ward also had a particularly bad reputation for torture in 1996.

A paramilitary police unit used to protect highway No.1, Buffalo Battalion, continued to be associated with human rights abuses too. The unit was accused of being responsible for the disappearance of Abdul Mota on May 21 after being arrested on suspicion of being a car thief. Soldiers of the Third Brigade of the Mozambique Defence Force (FADM) stationed in Chimoio in March also detained and tortured six civilians they suspected of trying to steel scrap from their barracks. The six were only freed by the soldiers when each of them paid the soldiers US$13.

The justice minister in June admitted to a parliamentary hearing that there were illegal detentions and seizure of goods from innocent citizens by the police, a growing problem, especially for foreign tourists and truck drivers who faced harassment by police demanding bribes to escape trumped-up charges of minor infractions. Attorney General Sinai Nhatitima also admitted in November 1995 that police used "illegal means of investigation in order to extract the truth," a phrase commonly understood to mean torture: 555 police were expelled for excesses in 1995, around 5 per cent of the police force.

Prison conditions and detention with-out trial remained a source of grave concern. The Interior Minister Manuel Antonio provoked a public outcry in January when after being asked about deaths of inmates in interior ministry jails, he claimed that they were in police custody "because they committed misdeeds and they have to bear the responsibility." This revealed a gross misunderstanding of the law. People held in interior ministry jails are under preventive detention and should be held under the presumption of innocence.

In September Nampula's main jail housed 317 prisoners although it was built for ninety; only thirty-four of these inmates were serving sentences. Nampula is not unique. In 1996 at least five prisoners died in Quelimane's main prison which had 406 inmates although it was built to house ninety; most of them awaited trial. Chimoio's provincial prison, "cabeca do velho," the scene of appalling conditions and deaths in 1995, attracted public attention again in April when inmates complained that little had improved and that two prison guards were demanding money in return for not beating them up.

A parliamentary delegation found in May that prisoners had not seen the sun in a year, and were forbidden from receiving visitors in Beira's main police station. "BO" prison in Maputo was also reported to refuse inmates daily deliveries of food from their families and prisoners were permitted to receive tinned food once a fortnight only when they paid bribes to prison officials.

The Ministry of the Interior became worried about such negative publicity and in June sent instructions to all districts not to allow unauthorized visits to police or prison installations. Justice Minister Jose Abudo acknowledged in June that there were poor prison conditions and called for an end to the system whereby some prisons were run by the justice ministry and others by the interior ministry. Conditions in interior ministry jails are inferior to those run by the justice ministry.

Mozambicans continued to lack confidence in the legal system and the police. Citizens had a constitutional right of access to the courts but there was a shortage of judges and lawyers and the poor remained unable to afford the fees for defense lawyers. Deputy Attorney General Agostinho Abdul became embroiled in a scandal when in June the newspaper Domingo claimed that in 1993 he released three arms traffickers in exchange for $1,500. Drug-trafficking in Mozambique and the failure of the judicial system to bring anyone involved to justice also became an area of international concern. Local human rights groups campaigned for judges to receive a pay increase because judges earned between $50-150 a month, making them financially prone to corruption.

Throughout 1996 there were incidents of banditry. A shadowy group called the Chimwenje, allegedly made up of Zimbabwean dissidents and ex-RENAMO fighters, was blamed in March for the abduction of fourteen people in Manica province. It was also blamed by both the Mozambican and Zimbabwean governments for numerous armed robberies and theft in the border region but its real origins remained uncertain. There were also occasional riots and violent demonstrations by ex-combatants whose demobilization subsidy ended in March and also incidents where landmines had been used by highwaymen or criminal gangs to ambush vehicles or close roads.

The Right to Monitor

The Mozambique Human Rights League (LDH) campaigned for better prison conditions and police conduct. In early 1996 the LDH signed with the Interior Ministry a memorandum to train police officers in human rights practices but the Ministry later postponed implementation of this project. In July the Criminal Investigation Police Studies Office held a training seminar for its officers in human rights, technical, and legal developments but without the formal help of LDH.

The Association for Defence of Human Rights (ADDH) did not conduct any high profile work in 1996 but the Order of Lawyers of Mozambique (OLM) lobbied for a reorganization of the legal profession and a redefinition of the national standards for accreditation as an attorney. In January UNESCO sponsored a conference "Culture of Peace and Human Rights," which attracted publicity and was well attended.

The Role of the International Community

The World Bank's Consultative Group on Mozambique (Paris Club) pledged more than $881 million in loans to the government in April. Although donors raised concerns about the growth of corruption and drug-trafficking in Mozambique they remained generally supportive of the post-election government. In June Spain and the Netherlands announced a $9.4 million grant to train or retrain the 9000-strong police force.

United States

Bilateral U.S.-Mozambican relations remained cool although President Clinton signaled a warming in July when he received the credentials of the new Mozambican ambassador to the U.S. and described Mozambique as a "genuine success story [which] has made remarkable progress politically and economically in the transition from war to an enduring peace." The revived Clinton administration interest in Mozambique was also demonstrated by a drop-by meeting in Washington of Secretary of State Warren Christopher on Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on September 20.

The tutorial style of U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis Jett, who ended his posting in July, had contributed to the cool relationship. USAID continued to shift its strategy and resources away from emergency relief toward a longer-term development program. Total U.S. aid to Mozambique in 1996 was estimated at $64.67 million making it one of the main international donors.

U.S. administration visits were kept at deputy assistant level. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Bill Twaddell visited Mozambique in April and October and a deputy assistant from the treasury also visited during the year. During July and August a six week program of "Joint Combined Exchange Training" between the Mozambican and U.S. armed forces was conducted. Eleven members from the Third Airborne Group of U.S. Special Forces conducted the training alongside an unspecified number of Mozambican commandos.

A U.S. embassy policy of boosting RENAMO's image, and they hoped therefore confidence in the democratic process, continued with the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 deliberately down-playing RENAMO abuses. Human Rights Watch was informed that Ambassador Jett personally edited out references from the original draft.

Copyright notice: © Copyright, Human Rights Watch

Search Refworld

Countries