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Human Rights Watch World Report 1998 - Mozambique

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 1 January 1998
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1998 - Mozambique, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b010.html [accessed 23 November 2014]
Comments This report covers events of 1997
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 continued to improve in many parts of the country. However, human rights concerns remained, including restrictions on the rights to freedoms of expression and movement by the former armed opposition, Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), heavy-handed policing, and appalling prison conditions.

Over 146 police were expelled from the police force in the capital, Maputo, alone in 1997, many for serious breaches of the police disciplinary code, such as drunkenness on duty and prolonged abandonment of their posts. A small number were accused of violence against civilians, extortion and contraband trading, including trade in light weapons. Police brutality more commonly went unpunished. For example Azarias Estevâo Piquei was badly beaten up by police in Maputo's suburb of George Dimitrov by three police from the police's fifteenth precinct when he refused to pay a bribe; Manuel Mateus suffered serious head injuries from police from the same police station on the same day. To date no prosecution of the police involved has taken place.

Police treatment of suspects in the capital appeared to have improved following President Chissano's dismissal in November 1996 of Interior Minister Manuel António and his deputy Edmundo Alberto and the appointment of the new minister, Almerino Manhenje. The change followed repeated scandals, and intense pressure on the president from the media, civil society, and foreign donors to dismiss António. Remarks by António in January 1996 that the deaths by starvation of prisoners in Interior Ministry cells were "their own fault" caused a particular outcry. One of the first actions by the new interior minister was on December 4 to attend a training course for 750 police officers at which he issued a blistering attack on corruption and abuse of power in the police force. Manhenje singled out several police precincts in Maputo for criticism, including the thirteenth and fifteenth. A fact-finding visit by Human Rights Watch in March, to seven police stations in Maputo, found that assault, the treatment of suspects, and the conditions in which remand prisoners were held had improved.

On January 30 Maputo City Court sentenced four policeman to seven year jail terms on charges of manslaughter for their part in torturing a suspect to death in June 1996. The victim, Frenque Tchembene, had been accused of stealing a Toyota Hilux. Police from Maputo's seventh precinct detained him on June 2, 1996, and at the station tried to beat him into revealing the whereabouts of the vehicle. Tchembene's wife, Mauharawa Hamido, witnessed this and was beaten herself. The intervention of the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) resulted in the police sending Tchembene to hospital, but he died there of injuries sustained while in police custody.

From late December, newly trained policemen were seen patrolling parts of Maputo particularly prone to crime, areas a few months earlier consciously avoided by the police. Police behavior remained a serious concern outside Maputo and was the source of the majority of complaints Human Rights Watch/Africa received from Mozambique in 1997. Arbitrary detention, torture and extortion were common allegations.

In May RENAMO engaged in a series of angry demonstrations around the country, protesting at alleged "misgovernment" and the cost of living. In Beira demonstrations on May 5 and 12 ended with riot police using tear gas and arresting thirty-one RENAMO protesters for illegally demonstrating without a permit. On May 15 in Chimoio police dispersed a crowd of fifty people before a march had begun. Six people were injured, two of them seriously. Two people were arrested.

Prison conditions remained a source of grave concern. Abuse in prison was largely due to overcrowding and lack of food and medical attention, but prisoners regularly reported police beatings, rape, and demands of money in exchange for freedom or food. Chimoio's provincial prison, "Cabeça do Velho," the scene of appalling conditions and deaths in 1995 and 1996, attracted public attention again in 1997 for its poor conditions. Following the appointment of a new interior minister in November, the conditions of the ministry's jails improved, although they still suffered from shortages of food, poor hygiene, and over-crowding. The Ministry of Justice began an initiative in its jails in Sofala, central Zambézia, and Manica provinces whereby prisoners were given their own plots of land to cultivate food crops and in Quelimane prisoners were contracted out as laborers to local businesses.

In January the LDH found that despite its formal agreement with the Ministry of Interior on prison access police demanded bribes to allow one of its lawyers to visit detainees in Beira's police cells. The LDH entered a cell with an official capacity of nineteen people, in which sixty-seven prisoners were held. Hygiene was poor. Those prisoners with relatives looking after their needs had plastic bags in which to defecate and bottles in which to urinate; others used the floor. Sofala Provincial Attorney Nazarinho Mourinho visited several prisons in Beira run by the Interior Ministry in December 1996 and concluded that they did not meet the minimum conditions for accommodating human beings. Mourinho also discovered many children under the age of sixteen in the cells, although under Mozambican law the civil responsibility for crimes committed by minors falls on their parents or guardians and international standards do not permit minors to be held with adults.

RENAMO continued to rule some areas it controlled at the end of the war five years ago, and to exclude government officials from conducting their duties, although the extent of its control declined significantly from 1996. In Maringue, RENAMO's headquarters during the war, the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), first secretary, Albertino Sandeangane, reported in February that RENAMO had threatened to attack him and his staff , to destroy his office, and to burn his party's flag. In Inhaminga, in the central province of Sofala, armed and uniformed men belonging to RENAMO's "presidential guard" interfered with police work and intimidated local residents. The district police commander, Alves Joâo, accused RENAMO supporters of forcing him to release suspects even before investigations were underway by threatening to beat him and his men up. Chazuco Jojo, the newly nominated administrator of Inhaminga claimed in July that members of this armed RENAMO force continued to restrict movement in the area, while subjecting residents they suspected of having FRELIMO sympathies in Cheringoma municipality to beatings. In the municipalities of Muembe and Mavago in Niassa province, RENAMO reportedly prevented people from leaving, sometimes by force.

RENAMO alleged that its officials have been harassed by local government officials and FRELIMO members in some areas. In Inhangoma locality at a political rally the local administrator reportedly pointed a pistol at the head of the local chief, a RENAMO member, and forced him to repeat insults about RENAMO. There were also reports that civil servants in Tete who were members or supporters of RENAMO were systematically harassed because of their political affiliation.

Accountability for human rights abuses during the 1977 to 1992 civil war continued to be discussed in the media, but both FRELIMO, RENAMO and many church and traditional religion groups continued to advocate impunity, arguing that this made possible healing and reconciliation at the local level through healing ceremonies and other rituals.

Landmines in Mozambique have claimed some 10,000 victims: more than 1,000 people have been injured by mines since the October 1992 peace accord. Landmines constitute one of the most immediate obstacles to postwar redevelopment, and hinder delivery of relief aid, resettlement, and agricultural and commercial reconstruction. Human Rights Watch believes that the frequently cited U.N. estimate of two million mines in Mozambique is too high, with the real total in the tens or hundreds of thousands. But the number of mines was not the measure of the problem. Mozambique clearly has a problem that threatens civilians daily and is curtailing economic reconstruction. A limited number of mines have continued to be planted since the peace accord, by both government and RENAMO forces, in some cases simply to wage local vendettas. Bandit groups, criminals and poachers have also used mines.

President Chissano announced in October 1995 that Mozambique was prepared to head an international campaign against antipersonnel mines, but little concrete action was taken for the next year and one-half as the Mozambican military wanted to retain the option of using landmines. However, as Maputo's hosting in February of the 4th International NGO Conference on Landmines approached, the greatly increased attention to the issue domestically, regionally and internationally spurred a policy decision. On February 26, Mozambique's foreign minister addressed the four-day conference and announced an immediate ban on the use, production, import and export of antipersonnel mines. Destruction of Mozambique's stockpile was not addressed.

Throughout 1997 there were localized incidents of banditry, especially along the Zimbabwean border in the Sussundenga, Mossurize and Barue municipalities. The government announced that between November 1995 and November 1996 its police discovered fifty arms caches, collecting more than 1,000 guns and hundreds of mines and grenades. They also reported that in the same period they "neutralized" 214 bands of robbers and recovered 105 cows and 337 cars. Press reports of the discovery of new arms caches appear weekly. Destroying the arms caches left over from the war became a priority issue for meetings between President Chissano and RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama. Both men were concerned about the dangers of bands of men outside their control carrying landmines. In December 1996 they agreed to set up a working group, with members appointed by the government and RENAMO to deal with the dismantling of arms caches. Clandestine shipments of weapons were also reported to have transited Mozambique in November 1996 through Nacala port to an unknown destination. The Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria witnessed weapons being unloaded there, stored, and then transferred onto South African-registered light aircraft. This arms and contraband pipeline was run by Portuguese businessmen resident in South Africa and appeared to have had links with senior officials in Mozambique. Although the government publicly denied such a trade occurred, Human Rights Watch was told privately by officials that an official investigation is underway.

The Right to Monitor

The Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) was instrumental in bringing a criminal complaint against six police involved in the torture and manslaughter of Frenque Tchembene which resulted in a seven year prison sentence for the six in January. The LDH also played an important role in campaigning for the removal of Interior Minister Manuel António in November 1996. The LDH's work remained mainly Maputo-focused but it attempted to expand its scope to other provinces during the year.

In conjunction with the Commonwealth Non-governmental Office for South Africa and Mozambique, the LDH held a conference in Maputo in April on the role of parliamentarians in the promotion and defense of human rights.

The Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ADDH) visited some prisons in Maputo in 1997 and wrote several letters to the press. The Order of Lawyers of Mozambique (OLM) lobbied for higher standards for the legal profession and a redefinition of the national standards for accreditation as an attorney. In September UNESCO held an international conference in Maputo on the Culture of Peace and Good Governance. The conference attracted widespread media interest especially over the rights of the child and the fate of child combatants.

The Mozambican Campaign to Ban Landmines (CMCM) also obtained a high media profile before and after the Maputo-held 4th International NGO Conference to Ban Landmines in February and presented to President Chissano its petition of over 100,000 signatures in support of a total ban. During the Oslo summit in September, to prepare the Ottawa treaty, the CMCM mobilized 500 people to demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy in Maputo to lobby against the U.S. position for exclusion and exemption clauses to be added to the Ottawa draft treaty.

The Role of the International Community

European Union, United Nations and the World Bank

The World Bank's Consultative Group on Mozambique (the Paris Club) confirmed pledges worth more than U.S.$ 560 million in new loans to the government in July. Although donors raised concerns about the growth of corruption and drug trafficking in Mozambique they remained generally supportive of the post-election government. Crime and police behavior was a major donor pre-occupation. The Swiss government had threatened to cut aid unless the government made serious efforts to cut crime. On November 12, 1996, following the firing of Interior Minister António, the Swiss embassy in Maputo announced that it would not go ahead with aid cuts. The German, Netherlands and Spanish governments pledged over $10 million for a police training program, coordinated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), although by late 1997 this program was not operational.

On February 25, delegations from the World Bank and the European Commission met to discuss issues concerning a collaborative effort in Africa. The European Commission team, headed by the European Commissioner for Development and External relations with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) countries, Professor João de Deus Pinheiro, and the World Bank team, headed by the World Bank regional vice-president for Africa, Mr. Jean-Louis Sarbib, agreed to concentrate their efforts on poverty alleviation and private sector development in three countries: Mozambique, Ethiopia, and in Ivory Coast. They also decided that their upcoming meetings should be held in the three African countries mentioned above to encourage more participation on their part.

United States

Bilateral U.S.-Mozambican relations improved generally. The new U.S. ambassador designate to Maputo, Dean Curran was sworn in on November 7, sixteen months after he was first nominated following the departure of Dennis Jett, but this had little to do with bilateral relations. The departure of Dennis Jett as U.S. ambassador to Mozambique in July 1996 ended the U.S. embassy policy of boosting RENAMO's image, aimed at trying to improve their confidence in the peace process. The State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996 was more balanced.

Total U.S. aid to Mozambique in 1997 was estimated at U.S.$ 51 million making it one of the main international donors. The U.S. also renewed Title 3DO480 food aid worth U.S. $ 4 million after several years suspension because of a diversion scandal (Eritrea, Ethiopia and Haiti were the other recipients of this total package of U.S. $30 million in food aid in 1997).

U.S. administration visits to Mozambique were kept at deputy assistant secretary level and included a visit from the department of the treasury during the year. The Clinton administration demonstrated its continued interest in Mozambique in April by arranging a drop-by meeting by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with President Chissano in Washington during a meeting he had with the deputy-assistant secretary for African Affairs.

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