U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Mozambique
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Mozambique, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6410.html [accessed 29 March 2015]|
|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.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
MOZAMBIQUEMozambique has a constitutional government headed by President Joaquim Chissano who was elected in the country's first multiparty elections in October 1994. President Chissano and the leadership of his party, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which has ruled the country since independence in 1975, control policymaking and implementation. The National Assembly is the only multiparty body besides the defense force, and it continued to provide useful debate on national policy issues and began to generate proposals independently. Further, the Assembly's FRELIMO majority began to exert some authority with the executive with regard to policymaking. Although the foundations of democracy remain fragile, Mozambique's political transition continued to be largely successful and reintegration of areas controlled by the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) during the war continued, with tensions limited to only a few districts. The judiciary, on occasion, openly discussed its weaknesses, but it remained unable to implement constitutional provisions safeguarding individual human rights or to provide an effective check on the executive branch. The lack of resources and political will has hampered the development of a nonpartisan professional military. There are several forces responsible for internal security under the Minister of Interior--the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), the Mozambican National Police (PRM) and the Rapid Reaction Police (PIR). The State Information and Security Service (SISE) reports directly to the President. These ill-trained and ill-disciplined units continued to be the focus of much controversy. Members of the security forces committed numerous human rights abuses. Approximately 80 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, mostly on a subsistence level. Major exports are shrimp, sugar, cotton, and cashew nuts. The pace of transition to a market economy quickened. Privatization of state-owned enterprises continued to advance. The gross domestic product grew 6.4 percent in 1996 and was forecast to grow at a similar rate in 1997. Inflation fell to 16.6 percent in 1996, down from 51 percent in 1995. Inflation through July was 5.3 percent. Although the general economic outlook improved with good rains and a good harvest, the economy and the Government's budget remained heavily dependent on foreign aid; the economy had a $575 million trade deficit in 1996, down from a $613 million trade deficit in 1995. Extensive corruption at all levels of the Government continued to be a problem. The annual per capita income of around $93 remains very low, and unemployment and underemployment are high. While the status of political and civil liberties improved, the Government's overall human rights record continued to be marred by a pattern of abusive behavior by the security forces and an ineffective judicial system that is only nominally independent from the FRELIMO-controlled executive. Poorly trained and undisciplined police forces and local officials continued to commit human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and arbitrary detention. Security forces and police routinely beat, tortured, or otherwise abused detainees, including street children. Extremely harsh prison conditions resulted in the deaths of dozens of inmates. Arbitrary arrests and lengthy detentions without fair and expeditious trials remained problems. The judiciary lacks qualified staff and resources, is inefficient, does not ensure due process, and is subject to executive domination. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government continued to restrict press freedom; the media remained largely owned by the Government and state enterprises and manipulated by factions within the ruling party, but there was a greater criticism of government policies and an increase in the number of independent media sources. Also, with increased press and nongovernmental organization (NGO) scrutiny, even more abuses by security forces came to light than in previous years, and in some instances the Government investigated and punished those responsible. However, in view of the common perception that the police force is unreliable and corrupt, many citizens resorted to mob justice. The Government limited freedom of assembly, and the law imposes some limits on freedom of association. Early in December, the Minister of the Interior announced that new measures to improve the training and living standards of police personnel, the creation of a digitized national identity card, and greater participation by Mozambique in international police conferences would begin in 1998. These measures, if implemented, would begin to fulfill the Government's longstanding promise to reform the police. A U.N. Development Program (UNDP) project to reform the police, which included training by the Spanish Guardia Civil, was suspended after an incident in which police shot and killed a Spanish doctor (see Section 1.a.). The program was reinstituted later, and police retraining was expected to begin early in 1998. Societal discrimination and violence against women, and violence against children remain problems.