U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Namibia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||26 February 2001|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Namibia , 26 February 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa9120.html [accessed 28 November 2015]|
|Comments||This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.|
Namibia is a multiparty, multiracial democracy. President Sam Nujoma, leader of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), was reelected in 1999 general elections, which international and domestic observers agreed were free, but included some instances of government harassment of the opposition and unequal access to media coverage and campaign financing. Although the Constitution formerly limited the President to two terms in office, in November 1998, the National Assembly amended the Constitution to permit President Nujoma to run for a third term. In the 1999 elections, President Nujoma won 77 percent of the vote and SWAPO won three-quarters of the seats in the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent.
The police, including the paramilitary Special Field Force (SFF), supervised by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Namibian Defense Force (NDF), supervised by the Ministry of Defense, share responsibility for internal security. The Namibian Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) has responsibility for national security related intelligence inside and outside the country. As a result of crossborder fighting from Angola, there were increased abuses by the security forces in the Kavango and Caprivi regions. NDF soldiers were sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1998 and remained there throughout the year. Members of the police force committed serious human rights abuses. Namibia's modern market sector produces most of its wealth, while a traditional subsistence agricultural sector (mainly in the north) supports most of its labor force. The principal exports are diamonds and other minerals, cattle, and fish. Ranching still is controlled largely by white citizens and foreign interests. In other industries, including the important mining, fishing, and tourism sectors, the participation of indigenous entrepreneurs is being increased to provide opportunities for black citizens. Per capita annual gross domestic product is approximately $1,400. However, there is an extreme disparity between income levels of black citizens and white citizens. Unemployment was nearly 40 percent and affected primarily the black majority.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were serious problems in several areas. Members of the security forces committed several extrajudicial killings while conducting extensive security operations in the Kavango and Caprivi regions along the country's northern border with Angola. After fighting between the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and forces from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) crossed into the country, security forces involved in anti-UNITA security operations killed civilians. The Government did not account for the whereabouts of some persons detained by the security forces. During arrests and detentions, security force members beat citizens and Angolan refugees who were suspected of complicity with UNITA. There were other reports of police mistreatment of suspects in detention, and refugees were denied legal protections during detention. Some security force members who committed abuses were arrested and tried in military courts or the civilian criminal justice system; however, the Government did not take legal or administrative action in many other cases. Prison conditions and conditions in military detention facilities were spartan. Arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention are problems. A large court backlog, due primarily to resource constraints, continued to lead to lengthy delays of trials. High-level government officials continued to respond to criticism of ruling party and government policies with verbal abuse. There continued to be pressure on journalists who worked for government-owned media outlets not to criticize the Government. There continued to be a ban on all public demonstrations that did not have prior police approval, and, on a few occasions, the Government prevented some demonstrations. On occasion the Government restricted freedom of movement. The authorities continued to deport Angolan citizens without review by an immigration tribunal, as required by the law; however, there were no reports of such deportations during the latter half of the year. Violence against women and children, including rape and child abuse, continued to be serious problems; however, the Government took some steps during the year to address these problems. Women continued to experience serious legal and cultural discrimination. Racial and ethnic discrimination and serious disparities in education, health, employment, and working conditions continued. Discrimination against indigenous persons persisted, especially in remote rural areas where indigenous persons often were unaware of their rights. There were reports of forced labor, including by children. The Government took steps to end child labor, and the problem of child labor declined.
Members of the FAA and UNITA involved in the crossborder fighting in the northern part of the country committed extrajudicial killings, beat civilians, and according to local and international human rights groups, committed a number of rapes.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Members of the security forces committed several extrajudicial killings in the Kavango and Caprivi regions along the northern border, where fighting between FAA and UNITA forces crossed over into the country. At times security forces used excessive violence against citizens and Angolan civilians along the northern border of the country, and security forces involved in anti-UNITA operations killed a number of civilians during the year. On January 10, SFF members in Hakusembe fired into a crowd of refugees and shot and killed a 6 year-old girl, Heremine Nyumbu. On January 27, SFF members shot and killed Mpengu Haininga as he tried to escape arrest in Sheghuru village east of Rundu. On March 10, a SFF member shot and killed Mapeu Moroshi in Thipanana Rughongo village. A SFF member was arrested and charged with the killing; however, there was no further information available on the case by year's end. On June 8, NDF soldiers shot and killed Felizberto Toto in the village of Nakazaza west of Rundu.
At times the Government took action against security forces responsible for deaths; however, in many other cases, the Government failed to take action against security force members responsible for killings.
During the early months of the year, senior civilian and military government officials made public statements acknowledging that security forces abused and killed civilians in the Kavango and Caprivi regions during security operations in response to crossborder UNITA attacks in the country, and they publicly called for greater discipline and respect for human rights by the NDF and police forces. The NDF and police forces implemented human rights training with the assistance of UNHCR and the Legal Assistance Center, a domestic nongovernmental organization (NGO).
In November 1999, a police officer in Okahandja beat to death a student who was arrested and in custody for disorderly conduct. The police officer immediately was suspended, charged, and released on bail; his trial was still pending at year's end.
In August 1999, security force officers killed 8 Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) rebels and several civilians, and they beat, arrested and detained suspected CLA rebels and sympathizers during operations against the CLA after an August 1999 CLA attack at Katima Mulilo. No action had been taken against the implicated officers by year's end. Representatives of some international human rights organizations visited the country to investigate the August 1999 killings and abuses, and Amnesty International (AI) released a report during the year (see Section 4).
There was no further information available on the case against a SFF officer who shot and killed James Chilunda, a civilian, in the Caprivi village of Singalamwe in July 1999.
After the Government decided in December 1999 to allow the FAA to launch anti-UNITA attacks from the country's territory, there was extensive crossborder fighting, which resulted in civilian deaths and injuries. On January 9, two civilians were shot and killed during crossborder fighting in Nkonke. In February three civilians were killed and nine houses were burned during crossborder fighting in Shinyungwe village.
FAA soldiers killed a number of civilians during the year. On January 22, an FAA member killed Thadeus Mubili in Mushangara in western Caprivi. On May 27, the FAA killed Thaddeus Vili at Bagani near the Kavango and Caprivi regions. In both cases, the responsible FAA members were arrested immediately after the killings and returned to the FAA for punishment; however, it is not known if the FAA took further action by year's end.
During raids in the Kavango and Caprivi regions, UNITA forces killed civilians.
UNITA used landmines, which resulted in dozens of deaths and numerous injuries of civilians and security force officers. The Government reported that by October 12 persons were killed and 107 were injured by landmines in the Kavango region and the western part of the Caprivi region (see Section 1.c.). There also was some evidence that FAA members used landmines in villages.
On January 3, unknown armed men attacked a family of foreign tourists on the Trans-Caprivi Highway, killing three children and injuring their parents; the incident was under investigation at year's end.
There were no confirmed reports of disappearances perpetrated by the security forces during the year. Although the Government arrested a number of suspected UNITA supporters in the Kavango and Caprivi regions and detained them for several weeks, they all were accounted for by year's end.
During several crossborder attacks into the northern area of the country, UNITA kidnaped Namibian citizens and took them to Angola. There were reports that some of the kidnaped persons were raped or forced to serve as combatants or porters (see Section 6.c.).
There were no further developments on the disappearance of persons detained by SWAPO prior to independence.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution provides that no persons shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; however, in practice, prisoners sometimes were beaten or otherwise mistreated by police, especially by members of the SFF. There were serious abuses in the Kavango and Caprivi regions along the northern border, where fighting between FAA and UNITA forces spilled into the country. During arrests and detentions, security force members beat citizens and Angolan refugees who were suspected of complicity with UNITA.
On January 7, SFF members arrested Erkki Fiderato in a village east of Rundu. The SFF members allegedly beat Fiderato with rifle butts during his arrest and with an iron bar while he was in detention at Utokota SFF base. On January 10, SFF members in Hakusembe shot and wounded Kandepwe Kapama when they fired shots into a crowd of refugees (see Section 1.a.). On January 12, police shot and injured Kathumbi Diyeve in the head as he ran from security forces in the village of Muitjiku in western Caprivi. On January 28, members of the SFF beat Lucas Kavura and his father, Daniel Nyambe, in their home in the Sambyu area and again at a special field force base. On February 3, SFF members arrested Kamungwe Ngondo and held him in detention for 2 weeks at the Rundu airport military base, during which time officers reportedly beat him with rubber whips, called sjamboks. On February 4, members of the SFF shot and wounded Muyeva Thadeus Munango, reportedly while he was fishing in the Kavango River. On February 10, SFF officers arrested Hompa Anton in Sauyemwa near Rundu; they beat him with rifle butts, whipped him, and kicked him during his arrest and detention. He was hospitalized for a broken vertebrae.
SFF members reportedly beat persons whom they stopped for identification checks. For example, on January 24, SFF members arrested Kapindi Mpepo, Haupindi Hamuyera, and Petrus Paulus and beat them with sjamboks when they were unable to produce Namibian identity documents; the three were later found to be citizens and were released.
On September 18, 18 NDF soldiers were convicted by courts-martial of assault for severely beating and pouring hot water on seven persons on August 21 in Sivara, west of Rundu. The soldiers were sentenced to 2 years in prison; however, they remained in the NDF and their sentences were suspended on the condition that they not commit assault within the next 2 years.
In October there were reports that security forces targeted members of the Kxoe minority group for harassment during anti-UNITA operations in the Caprivi region. At times, security force members who committed abuses were arrested and tried in military courts or the civilian criminal justice system; however, in many other cases, the Government did not take any action against those responsible for abuses. In 1999 security forces responded with violence to secessionist attacks. The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) was representing former parliamentarian Geoffrey Mwilima in a civil suit against the Government for damages for their mistreatment by police after the August 1999 CLA attack at Katima Mulilo. Security forces beat Mwilima and other suspected CLA members and sympathizers with sjamboks and rifle butts during arrest and detention. A police spokesman stated publicly on several occasions that the Police Complaints and Discipline Unit was conducting investigations into the abuse of detainees; however, at year's end, the LAC case against the Government had not been heard, and the Government had not taken administrative action against those responsible. Chrispin Sinfua also initiated a civil suit against the Government for the abuse that he suffered in 1999; the trial had not begun by year's end. The LAC reported that 120 civil suits had been filed relating to the 1999 state of emergency in Caprivi.
In 1994 the police instituted a human rights training course designed by the LAC, which was ongoing; during the year, the LAC introduced a police human rights manual. During the March 30 opening of the human rights training facility, the head of the Police Complaints and Discipline Unit, Commissioner Sebastian Ndeitunga, announced that the Inspector General had prohibited the use of sjamboks by police, a directive which became effective immediately. The directive generally was observed by police and resulted in some decrease in reports of police brutality; however, police still are permitted to use batons. There was one report of police use of sjamboks after March 30; it is not known whether disciplinary action was taken against the officer responsible.
Numerous crossborder attacks into the country by UNITA forces, the use of landmines by UNITA, and the abuse of civilians in the northern part of the country by FAA troops resulted in dozens of deaths and many injuries to civilians (see Section 1.a.). The Government reported that by October, 107 persons had been injured by landmines. There were reports that UNITA forces kidnaped female citizens and raped them. There were reports of intimidation and abuse of civilians by the FAA, including sexual harassment, threatening behavior by drunken soldiers, and indiscriminate use of firearms. In August the all-SWAPO region council for Kavango recommended the removal of Angolan Government troops from the country because of their harassment of Namibian civilians.
In September 1999, many detainees exhibited evidence of extensive injuries inflicted by police during their detentions, including detainees Oscar Lupalezwi, Stephan Ntelamo, and Allen Sameja. All three identified their abusers as police sergeant Patrick Liswani and two constables named "Haipa" and "Oupa." During the year, the Prosecutor General requested additional investigations in the criminal case against FAA officers Patrick Liswani, Haipa, and Oupa; there was no further action on the case by year's end.
On January 3, foreign tourists were attacked and injured by unknown armed men on the Trans-Caprivi Highway (see Section 1.a.).
Prison conditions and conditions in military detention facilities are spartan, although the Government continued to focus attention on improving living conditions. Visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and foreign diplomats found conditions in prisons to be clean and orderly. Human rights organizations continued to complain about prison overcrowding. In 1995 the Government created a Ministry of Prisons and Correctional Services, charged with administering the country's prisons and jails. The Government also made efforts to separate youthful offenders from adult criminals, although in many rural areas juveniles continued to be held with adults. There are several pilot programs that provide alternatives to incarceration for juvenile offenders. Female prisoners are held separately from male prisoners. There have been allegations that female prisoners sometimes were abused by prison guards. The Government continued to grant NGO's regular access to prisons and prisoners. The ICRC requested and received prison access, including access to the high security Dorbabis detention facility.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution forbids arbitrary arrest or detention except in situations of national emergency; however, security forces used arbitrary arrest and detention in practice. According to the Constitution, persons who are arrested must be informed of the reason for their arrest and must be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of their detention. Those accused are entitled to defense by legal counsel of their choice, and those who cannot afford a lawyer are entitled to state-provided counsel. However, in practice many accused persons in remote and rural areas are not represented by counsel, primarily due to resource constraints. A trial must take place within "a reasonable time," or the accused must be released. Human rights organizations have criticized the length of time that pretrial detainees were held, which have extended up to 1 year in some cases (see Section 1.e.). Under a state of emergency, the Constitution permits detention without trial, although the names of detainees must be published in the government gazette within 14 days, and their cases must be reviewed within 1 month by an advisory board appointed by the President.
On January 7, SFF members arrested Erkki Fiderato in a village east of Rundu and allegedly beat him while he was in detention at Utokota SFF base (see Section 1.c.). On February 10, SFF officers arrested Hompa Anton in Sauyemwa near Rundu; they beat him with rifle butts, whipped him, and kicked him during his arrest and detention (see Section 1.c.). On February 18, the Central Intelligence Service detained the Katima Mulilo-based head of National Society for Human Rights' (NSHR) Caprivi office, Moses Nasileli, for questioning and they expelled him from the country to Zambia on February 21 (see Section 4). On June 9, a group of Angolan and Congolese refugee musicians were arrested for performing at a Congress of Democrats (COD) rally (see Section 2.d.). The Government returned the musicians to the Osire refugee camp and revoked their permission to live in Windhoek. When some of the musicians later left the camp without government permission, the Government attempted to arrest them. The musicians, represented by the LAC, obtained an injunction against their detention and expulsion from the country. Although the Government initially announced that it would arrest them again, no such action had been taken by year's end. During a security force operation in August, the Government arrested 82 alleged Angolan illegal immigrants in the northern part of the country and detained them under Section 49 of the Immigration Control Act, a provision that gives the Government greater powers to arrest and detain immigrants who may pose a security threat. A majority of the arrested immigrants had lived in the country for many years, and they were detained based on suspicion of involvement in UNITA crossborder attacks. The detainees were held for a month in secrecy before the Government made the arrests and detentions public in September. Although the detainees were interviewed by the ICRC and UNCHR, they were denied legal counsel. The NSHR stated that at least one of the detainees was a citizen and provided his identification card number; however, the Government has disputed the detainee's citizenship, and he continued to be held at Dorbabis detention facility at year's end. The Government stated that it would not forcibly return the detained immigrants to Angola. The detainees remained at Dorbabis at year's end; they had not been charged, and they were not granted access to legal counsel, although ICRC arranged for the Namibian Red Cross to transmit messages to and from their families.
In October there were reports that security forces arrested and detained 3 senior headmen and 10 children from the Kxoe minority group (see Section 1.c.). The children reportedly were later released.
Some traditional leaders reportedly continued to detain and imprison persons accused of minor offenses without recourse to police or judicial review. In response the Government instructed traditional leaders on the legal limits of their authority.
During the August 1999 state of emergency declared in response to CLA attacks in Katima Mulilo, the security forces detained several hundred of suspected CLA members and sympathizers. Most of the detained were held incommunicado for 2 weeks, which the Constitution allows during states of emergency, before the Government provided public notice of the detentions. All of the detained were arraigned on charges, but were denied bail and remained in detention at year's end; their trials were postponed until April 2001. While the majority of detentions during the state of emergency occurred in the Caprivi region, on August 7 and 8, Albert Sibeya and Martin Sichimwa Mutumba were arrested in Ongwediva in the north-central part of the country. The NSHR protested the use of emergency measures to detain suspects outside of the Caprivi region, and the LAC initiated a constitutional case against the arrests. The case had not been heard by year's end.
The Government generally does not use forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice.
The formal court system has three levels: 30 magistrates' courts; the High Court; and the Supreme Court. The latter also serves as the court of appeals and as a constitutional review court.
Most rural citizens first encounter the legal system through the traditional courts, which deal with minor criminal offenses such as petty theft and infractions of local customs among members of the same ethnic group. The Traditional Authorities Act delineates which offenses may be dealt with under the traditional system.
The constitutional right to a fair trial with a presumption of innocence until proven guilty generally is afforded by the judiciary; however, this right is somewhat limited in practice by long delays in hearing cases in the regular courts and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the traditional system.
The lack of qualified magistrates, other court officials, and private attorneys has resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases, which often translated into delays of up to a year or more between arrest and trial, contravening constitutional provisions for the right to a speedy trial. Many of those awaiting trial were treated as convicted criminals.
In July the Minister of Home Affairs criticized foreign judges serving in the judiciary after a High Court issued a restraining order against the Government and threatened to withdraw work permits of foreign judges; however, in August the Minister subsequently apologized (see Section 2.a.).
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides all citizens with the right to privacy and requires arresting officers to secure a judicial warrant before conducting a search, except in situations of national emergency, and government authorities generally respected these rights in practice. In general violations were subject to legal action.
Under the 1997 Namibian Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) Bill, the NCIS is authorized to conduct wiretaps, intercept mail, and engage in other covert activities, both inside and outside the country, to protect national security. However, wiretaps and covert surveillance require the consent of a judge.
In February UNITA forces killed three civilians and burned nine houses in Shinyungwe village (see Section 1.a.).
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, subject to "reasonable restrictions" in situations such as a state of emergency, and the Government generally respected these rights; however, at times high level government officials responded to criticism of the ruling party and government policies with verbal abuse. There also were reports of government pressure on reporters who worked for the government-owned media.
Reporters for independent newspapers continued to criticize the Government openly and do not engage in self-censorship. During the year, high-level government officials sharply and publicly criticized journalists, human rights groups, and opposition politicians in response to perceived criticism of the Government or ruling party (see Section 4). The NSHR issued a report in 1999 citing 20 such incidents. Such verbal attacks do not appear to have had a major impact on the aggressive style of the independent media or the work of human rights groups or opposition political parties. NGO's involved in media issues maintained that reporters working for the government-owned New Era newspaper were subjected to indirect and direct pressure not to report on certain controversial topics, and although the New Era sometimes covered opposition party activities and views that were critical of the Government, the Government exerted increasing control over its news content during the year.
The government-owned NBC operates most radio and television services. Media observers believe that NBC reporters exercised considerable self-censorship on certain controversial issues, although the NBC provided some coverage to opposition parties and viewpoints critical of government policies. However, a newly-appointed NBC Director instituted management changes that were criticized for enforcing ideological compliance with the Government and seeking to diminish government opposition. In September a senior NBC staff member won a court injunction against her reassignment, which was part of the restructuring process, but it was perceived by journalists and legal and human rights groups to be as a response to her critical news coverage of the Government.
There were five private radio stations, one private television station in the town of Rehoboth, and a private cable and satellite television service that broadcasts the Cable News Network, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and a range of South African and international news and entertainment programs. The ruling SWAPO party owns 51 percent of this cable service. There are no restrictions on the private ownership of satellite dishes, and the use of satellite dishes and cable television is growing.
There are no restrictions on Internet access or use. There are growing numbers of domestic web pages, and one of the independent newspapers has a popular website.
In October 1997, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MOIB) issued new regulations for journalists. In March the MOIB was absorbed into a combined Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information and Broadcasting. Regulations require foreign journalists who seek to visit the country to provide a month's advance notice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information and Broadcasting, stating the purpose of their proposed visit. Journalists are required to schedule appointments with government officials through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information and Broadcasting and request permission to visit areas under the control of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Additionally journalists must obtain a temporary work permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Several major conferences in the country attracted large numbers of international journalists.
The Government respects academic freedom. There were no reports of interference with, or harassment of, these activities.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, except in situations of national emergency, and the Government generally has respected this right in practice; however, on a few occasions the Government prevented demonstrations.
Organizers of public meetings were required to obtain prior police approval, but many public gatherings took place without such approval and without interference by the Government. In August the Government prevented two peaceful protest marches from delivering petitions to State House during the summit of heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
On June 8, SWAPO supporters intimidated COD members arriving for a rally in the Gobabis "singles quarters" (used during the apartheid era to house male workers living away from their families). The COD cancelled the rally.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, even in times of national emergency, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these rights, except in situations of national emergency; however, on occasion the Government restricted these rights in practice. SFF members reportedly beat persons whom they stopped for identification checks. For example, on January 24, SFF members arrested three persons and beat them with sjamboks when they were unable to produce Namibian identity documents (see Section 1.c.).
Namibian and Angolan security forces forcibly returned Angolan refugees entering the Kavango region on several occasions during the year. There were allegations that young males were separated from their families, arrested, returned to Angola, or forced into conscription with the Angolan army. UNHCR requested and was granted access to immigration tribunal proceedings. The UNHCR provided training for security and immigration officials in response to a Government request, and there were no reported forced returns during the latter half of the year.
A law containing provisions for dealing with refugees in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol was passed in 1998 and signed into law by the President in March 1999. The Government cooperates with the UNHCR on the granting of refugee status to asylum seekers. The Government's eligibility committee continued to meet on a regular basis to consider asylum requests, and the UNHCR was permitted to intervene in those cases where immigrants would qualify for refugee status. Illegal immigrants continued to be detained for short periods prior to their deportation proceedings. In cases where illegal immigrants are alleged to pose a security threat, they can be detained for longer periods under Section 49 of the Immigration Act.
The Government provided first asylum and continued to permit asylum seekers to enter the country. The UNHCR estimates that approximately 26,000 persons eligible for refugee status are residing within the country. There were approximately 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the Osire camp, 95 percent of whom are from Angola. The remaining refugees are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and other African countries. Government officials interview asylum seekers. Those granted refugee status generally were not permitted to work, live outside the Osire refugee camp, or attend schools. Schools have been established at the Osire refugee camp. The Osire camp, which was designed to accommodate 5,000 refugees, experienced severe overcrowding problems during the year.
During the first few months of the year, the authorities deported some Angolan citizens without review by an immigration tribunal, as required by law. The deportation of military-age Angolan men led the NSHR to accuse the police of assisting the Angolan government in its conscription efforts (see Section 2.d.). After the local UNHCR office provided training for immigration and security force officials beginning in late 1999, the number of such extra-legal deportations declined.
On February 21, the Central Intelligence Service expelled from the country to Zambia the Katima Mulilo-based head of NSHR's Caprivi office, Moses Nasileli. Nasileli was a Zambian national who had lived in the country since 1985, was married to a citizen, and had six citizen children (see Section 4).
In October officials denied foreign Red Cross members access to the Osire refugee camp based on new permit requirements. The Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS) temporarily withdrew from the Osire camp after the incident. In April the Government, UNHCR and the NRCS entered into a tripartite agreement to provide for refugees in the Osire camp; the agreement designates the NRCS as the primarily service provider. As a result, coordination among the parties improved during the year.
In August the Government arrested and detained 82 alleged Angolan illegal immigrants in the northern part of the country based on suspicion of UNITA involvement. The majority of the arrested immigrants had lived in the country for many years. Although the detainees were interviewed by the ICRC and UNHCR, they were denied legal counsel. The Government stated that it would not forcibly return the detained immigrants to Angola (see Section 1.d.). Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens exercised their right to change their government by electing a President and National Assembly for the second time since independence during the November 30 to December 1, 1999, general election, which international and domestic observers agreed was generally free and well-administered despite some irregularities. Observers noted instances of harassment of opposition members during the campaign, and unequal access to media coverage and campaign financing were problems. Nevertheless voter turnout was over 60 percent and the election proceeded peacefully. Sam Nujoma, leader of the ruling party SWAPO, was reelected. Although the Constitution formerly limited the President to two terms in office, in November 1998, the National Assembly amended the Constitution to permit President Nujoma to run for a third term. President Nujoma won 77 percent of the vote and SWAPO won 55 of 72 elected National Assembly seats. Four opposition parties won a total of 17 seats in the National Assembly, including the COD party, which won the largest number of opposition votes, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), the United Democratic Front, and the Monitor Action Group.
The Constitution establishes a bicameral Parliament and provides for general elections every 5 years and regional elections every 6 years.
Opposition parties generally were able to undertake political activity such as advertising and holding party conferences and public rallies. However, prior to the June National Assembly by-election in Gobabis, SWAPO supporters prevented the COD from holding a rally (see Section 2.b.). In July 1998, the Government created an independent electoral commission and named a broad based group of respected individuals to the commission. The Government also named a respected former journalist as the new Director of Elections.
Leaders of the opposition have criticized the ruling party for its decision to amend the Constitution to permit the President to seek a third term. Ambassador Ben Ulenga, the High Commissioner to Great Britain and also a high level ruling party official, resigned in 1998 from his diplomatic post after he was unsuccessful in getting the ruling party to debate the third term issue. In March 1999, Ulenga formed the COD opposition party, and in the general election the COD won approximately 10 percent of the vote and seven seats in the National Assembly.
Members of the National Assembly are elected on a party list system on a proportional basis.
Women remained underrepresented in government and politics. There were 3 female ministers and 4 female deputy ministers of a total of 42 ministerial and deputy ministerial positions. In addition one women held a cabinet-level position as Director of the National Planning Commission. Women served as Ombudswoman and as the Government Attorney. Women held 18 of 98 parliamentary seats in the National Assembly. In 1996 female legislators formed a Women's Caucus in Parliament to review legislation for gender sensitivity.
Historic economic and educational disadvantages have served to limit the participation of the indigenous San ethnic group in politics; however, a member of the San community representing the SWAPO party was elected to the National Assembly in the 1999 general elections. Virtually all of the country's other ethnic minorities were represented in Parliament and in senior positions in the Cabinet. Members of smaller ethnic groups hold the offices of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Speaker of the National Assembly.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
During the year, high-level government officials continued to use harsh language in responding to criticisms of the ruling party and government policies by nongovernmental organizations. For example, government officials publicly stated on numerous occasions during the year that critics were a "fifth column for UNITA" and guilty of "treason." Government officials also have attacked verbally the NSHR and the Breaking of Walls of Silence (BWS) movement, which acts as an advocate for former detainees imprisoned by SWAPO prior to independence. In January a member-elect of the National Assembly from the ruling party stated on a call-in radio show that he supported an earlier caller's threat to "eliminate" the executive director of the NSHR.
On February 18, the Central Intelligence Service detained the Katima Mulilo-based head of NSHR's Caprivi office, Moses Nasileli, for questioning and expelled him from the country to Zambia on February 21. Although the Government justified the deportation based on his alleged support for Caprivi separatists, reportedly he was deported because of his NSHR affiliation. Nasileli was a Zambian national who had lived in the country since 1985, was married to a citizen, and had six citizen children.
However, despite verbal attacks, other local NGO's such as the LAC, the NSHR, the BWS Movement, and those working with indigenous groups continue to criticize government policies freely. Both the NSHR and the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) maintain field offices in the Kavango region. Human rights organizations are generally free to investigate reports of abuses in the region and to release reports.
In addition human rights organizations and academic organizations, such as the Media Institute for Southern Africa, the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, and the Human Rights Documentation Centre, worked openly on a variety of human rights problems affecting the press, women, ethnic minorities, and other groups. For example, in the early part of the year, leaders of the Council of Churches of Namibia (CCN) criticized the Government for the behavior of security forces along the Angolan border. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which is based in Windhoek, periodically issues reports criticizing the Government.
Representatives of international human rights organizations, including AI, visited the country to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including reports of summary executions and the treatment of Caprivi separatists arrested in August 1999 (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.d.). In March AI issued a highly critical report of abuses by security forces along the Angola border.
5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, gender, or religion, and specifically prohibits "the practice and ideology of apartheid." During the year, there was a significant improvement in the attention paid to women's issues and the rights of the disabled.
Violence against women, including beating and rape, is widespread. Traditional attitudes regarding the subordination of women exacerbated problems of sexual and domestic violence. However, there continued to be an improvement in the attention paid to the problems of rape and domestic violence. Government ministers joined in public protests against domestic violence, and the President, members of his Cabinet, and parliamentarians continued to speak out against it. Longer prison sentences were handed down to convicted rapists and abusers in many cases during the year. NGO's expressed concern that the court system does not have mechanisms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony, and the Government worked on establishing judicial procedures to address the problem. Police stated that more women came forward to report cases of rape and domestic violence. On February 22, the National Assembly passed the Combating of Rape Act. In April the act was passed by the National Council and signed by the President. The act defines rape in broad terms, and allows for the prosecution of rape within marriage. In June the police began a special training course on gender sensitivity. Centers for abused women and children in Oshakati, Windhoek, Keetmanshoop, Walvis Bay, and Rehoboth are staffed with specially trained female police officers to assist victims of sexual assaults. Safe houses opened in Mariental, Swakopmund, and Tsumeb. At the end of February, the LAC sponsored a 3-day national conference on violence against women.
The Constitution prohibits discrimination against women, including employment discrimination. The Married Persons Equality Act prohibits discriminatory practices against women married under civil law. Women married in customary (traditional) marriages continued to face legal and cultural discrimination. Traditional practices that permit family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children still existed; however, the frequency of such cases lessened considerably during the year.
In 1996 the President elevated the head of the Department of Women Affairs to cabinet rank, and it became the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Child Development in March. In June 1998, President Nujoma addressed traditional leaders; he made a forceful case for better treatment of women in traditional communities.
There were reports that UNITA forces kidnaped female citizens and raped them (see Sections 1.b. and 1.c.).
The Constitution enumerates children's rights, including those in the area of education and health. During the year, 25 percent of government expenditures were designated for education and 15 percent for health care, a slight decrease from previous years. However, in practice, outmoded policies and laws and an untrained work force led to inadequate attention to child welfare. The Constitution provides children with the right to primary and junior secondary education (grades 1 to 10); however, the numerous fees, which included fees for uniforms, books, hostel costs, and school improvement, placed a burden on students' families. The inability of poorer families to pay the fees, which varied greatly between regions, precluded some children from attending school. In these cases, families were less likely to continue to pay fees for girls, particularly those at the junior secondary level. Many San children do not attend school. It is difficult for the Government to ensure enforcement of national laws against child labor on commercial farms (see Section 6.d.).
Child abuse is a serious and increasingly acknowledged problem. The authorities vigorously prosecuted cases involving crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. The 1960 Children's Act criminalizes and protects children under 18 years from sexual exploitation, child pornography and child prostitution. The age of sexual consent is 16 years. Courts handed down stiffer sentences against child rapists than in previous years, and the Government provided training for police officials to improve the handling of child sex abuse cases. Centers for abused women and children were working actively to reduce the trauma suffered by abused children. The LAC launched a national campaign to revise legislation on child maintenance in 1999. The Child Maintenance Bill was sent to the Cabinet for discussion in 1999; however, by year's end no movement was made towards tabling it in Parliament. The bill would require divorced spouses to provide maintenance allowances for their children.
The Government expanded programs to separate juvenile offenders from adults in the criminal justice system. Separate facilities for child offenders have been established in Windhoek and Mariental (see Section 1.c.).
Overcrowding at the Osire refugee camp has affected children who are residing there. There were approximately 6,000 school-age children at Osire, and there was a shortage of classrooms (see Section 2.d.).
People With Disabilities
While discrimination on the basis of disability is not addressed in the Constitution, the 1992 Labor Act prohibits discrimination against disabled persons in employment; however, enforcement in this area is weak. Although there was no legal discrimination against persons with disabilities, societal discrimination persists. The Government legally does not require special access to public buildings for the disabled, and many ministries remain inaccessible to the disabled. Although some municipal governments have installed ramps and special curbing for the disabled at street crossings, physical access for those with disabilities remained a problem due to resource constraints. Disability issues received greater public attention than in previous years, with wider press coverage of the human rights problems that confront persons with disabilities. In December 1998, the Government launched a campaign to expand economic opportunities for and change attitudes about persons with disabilities.
The Bushmen, also known as the San people, the country's earliest known inhabitants, historically have been exploited by other ethnic groups. The Government has taken a number of measures to end societal discrimination against the San, including seeking their advice about proposed legislation on communally-held lands and increasing their access to primary education; however, many San children do not attend school. In late 1999, a San was nominated by the SWAPO party for the National Assembly and won the election; he was sworn in in March. Reports from the NSHR and in the press claim that civilians from the Mafwe and Kxoe San ethnic groups were targeted for harassment during the police campaign against Caprivi separatists in 1998 and continued throughout the year.
By law all indigenous groups participate equally in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and allocations of natural resources. However, Bushmen and other indigenous citizens have been unable to exercise fully these rights as a result of minimal access to education, limited economic opportunities under colonial rule, and their relative isolation.
In 1997 the Government unilaterally announced plans to expand a prison in the West Caprivi Game Park on land claimed by the Kxoe ethnic group. The expansion would deny access by members of the Kxoe ethnic group to revenues from community-based tourism projects on their lands. The projects are an important mechanism for empowering the Kxoe to benefit from tourism activities in their community. However, there was some question regarding the Kxoe's right to occupy that land. As of year's end, no final decision on the prison expansion had been announced.
The Government plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Kunene River that would flood ancestral graves and grazing areas of the semi-nomadic Himba people. The project was highly controversial. The Government has made repeated efforts to consult with Himba leaders regarding the project, but many of the Himba chiefs remain adamantly opposed to the project. Government leaders have criticized harshly those opposed to the project, terming them "enemies of development."
The 1995 Traditional Authorities Act, defined the role, duties, and powers of traditional leaders. The act provided that customary law is invalid if it is inconsistent with provisions of the Constitution. It enumerated the types of crimes that may be addressed in traditional courts. The act assigned to traditional leaders the role of guardians of culture and tradition, and it also mandated that traditional leaders elected to Parliament choose between their traditional and elected offices before the end of 1996. This provision has not been enforced, and several traditional leaders remain in Parliament.
The Government's authority to confer recognition or withhold it from traditional leaders, even in opposition to local preference, was especially controversial because of the leaders' influence on local events including local police powers. In some cases, the Government has withheld recognition from genuine traditional leaders who have sympathy for the political opposition. This has been especially true in the Khoe San and Mafwe communities in the Caprivi and in the Herero community. Mafwe chief Boniface Mamili fled the country with other Caprivi separatists in late 1998. Despite opposition from the Mafwe community, Minister of Local Government Nicky Iyambo ruled that Mamili had forfeited his position, and in March 1999, the Government installed a rival chief. In June 1998, a number of traditional leaders boycotted the inauguration of the Traditional Leaders' Council, claiming that the installation was illegal, as some of the leaders chosen by the Government did not represent their communities.
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and other factors and specifically prohibits "the practice and ideology of apartheid." In July 1998, Parliament passed amendments to the 1991 Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act that strengthened the act and the penalties for discriminatory practices. The act codified certain protections for those who cite racial discrimination in the course of research (including academic and press reporting) or in trying to reduce racial disharmony. Nevertheless, as a result of more than 70 years of South African administration, societal, racial, and ethnic discrimination persists. There were several reported cases of black farm workers suffering discrimination in remote areas at the hands of white farm owners. Many non-whites continued to complain that the Government was not moving quickly enough in education, health, housing, employment, and access to land.
Some citizens complained that the SWAPO-led government provided more development assistance to the numerically dominant Ovambo ethnic group of the far north than to other groups or regions of the country.
NSHR claimed that members of the Kxoe minority were harassed during security force operations in the Kavango region (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.).
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, including freedom to form and join trade unions, and the Government respects this right in practice. The 1992 Labor Act extended that right to public servants, farm workers, and domestic employees. However, farm workers and domestic servants working on rural and remote farms often were ignorant of their rights, and unions experienced obstacles in attempting to organize these workers; as a result, they suffered abuse by employers. Trade unions had no difficulty registering, and there were no government restrictions on who may serve as a union official. Despite concerns created by a 1999 Ministry of Labor report that questioned a growing number of trade unions, the Government has not taken action to dissolve any trade unions.
Unions are independent of the Government and may form federations. The two principal trade union organizations are the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and the Namibia Federation of Trade Unions (NFTU). Prior to independence, the NUNW was affiliated with SWAPO; despite claims that its affiliation came to an end at independence, the two still are closely linked. The NUNW was invited to nominate candidates for SWAPO's 1999 National Assembly slate, and the NUNW president was nominated by SWAPO and elected to the National Assembly. In 1997 the mine workers union established the Mine Workers Union Investment Company to supplement union dues. The NFTU, launched in October 1998 and made up of several large public service, teachers, mining, and maritime unions, is critical of the Government. Less than 20 percent of full-time wage earners were organized. Trade unions lacked capacity and resources.
Except for workers providing essential services such as jobs related to public health and safety, and workers in the export processing zones (EPZ's), workers enjoy the right to strike once conciliation procedures have been exhausted, and 48-hour notice has been given to the employer and labor commissioner. Under the Labor Act, strike action can be used only in disputes involving specific worker interests, such as pay raises. Disputes over worker rights, including dismissals, must be referred to a labor court for arbitration. The Labor Act protects workers engaged in legal strikes from unfair dismissal. In September there was a strike in the fishing industry.
Unemployment, which is nearly 40 percent, remained a significant problem and affected primarily the black majority.
Trade unions were free to exchange visits with foreign trade unions and to affiliate with international trade union organizations. Unions exercise this right without interference.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The 1992 Labor Act provides employees with the right to bargain individually or collectively. Collective bargaining is not practiced widely outside the mining and construction industries, which have centralized, industry-wide bargaining. Almost all collective bargaining is at the workplace and company level. However, as unions became more active, informal collective bargaining was becoming more common. The Ministry of Labor cited lack of information and basic negotiation skills as factors hampering workers' ability to bargain with employers successfully.
The Labor Act provides a process for employer recognition of trade unions and protection for members and organizers. The law also empowers the Labor Court to remedy unfair labor practices and explicitly forbids unfair dismissals, which may be appealed to the Labor Court.
There are EPZ's at the Walvis Bay and Oshikango industrial parks and a number of single-factory EPZ's outside of these parks. The Labor Act applies to EPZ's, including the one in Walvis Bay; however, workers in EPZ's were prohibited from striking, and employers were prohibited from engaging in lockouts. Some trade unionists continued to challenge the constitutionality of the agreement reached by government and NUNW representatives codified in the 1995 Export Processing Zone Act because it limited the right to strike. Under the agreement, labor-related issues in the EPZ were referred to a special EPZ dispute settlement panel composed of employers and workers for expeditious resolution. If a dispute is not resolved at this level, it is referred to compulsory arbitration. With only a few businesses operating in the Walvis Bay EPZ, the effectiveness of this agreement in securing the rights of workers in the EPZ could not be determined.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by adults and children; however, during the year, there were ongoing reports in the media that farm workers (including some children on family-owned commercial farms) and domestic workers often received inadequate compensation for their labor and were subject to strict control by employers. Ministry of Labor inspectors sometimes encountered problems in gaining access to the country's large, family-owned, commercial farms in order to investigate possible labor code violations.
There were reports that UNITA forces kidnaped citizens and forced them to serve as combatants and porters in Angola (see Section 1.b. and 6.f.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
Under the 1992 Labor Act, the minimum age for employment is 14 years, with higher age requirements for night work and for certain sectors such as mining and construction. Ministry of Labor inspectors generally enforced minimum age regulations, but children below the age of 14 often worked on family-owned commercial farms and in the informal sector. The 1991 census, which reported on the status of children, estimated that 13,800 children under 15 years of age were in the labor force. Of this total, 41 percent were working as unpaid laborers on family-owned, commercial farms. There were also reports that Ministry of Labor inspectors reportedly encountered problems gaining access to family-owned, commercial farms to investigate possible illegal child labor. Since 1991 the Government has taken steps to end abuses, and the child labor problem has declined. There were also reports that Angolan and Zambian children worked on communal and cattle farms in border areas, although such occurrences have been curtailed since late 1999 by the deportation of illegal immigrants.
The 1960 Children's Act criminalizes and protects children under 18 years from sexual exploitation, child pornography and child prostitution. The age of sexual consent is 16 years.
On November 15, the Government ratified ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor, and the worst forms of child labor are not practiced commonly. Criminal penalties and court orders are available to the Government to enforce child labor laws, although there are no specific remedies available to individuals for incidents of the worst forms of child labor.
The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, the media reported that some children worked as farm laborers without adequate compensation (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no statutory minimum wage law. In Windhoek's non-white urban area townships, many workers and their families have difficulty maintaining a minimal standard of living. Black citizens were significantly disadvantaged in standards of living during the apartheid era; however, since 1990 there has been a rapid growth in the living standards of black citizens, and the major economic resources in the country are no longer exclusively controlled by white citizens.
The standard legal workweek is 45 hours, and requires at least one 24-hour rest period per week. An employer may require no more than 10 hours per week of overtime. The law mandates 24 consecutive days of annual leave, at least 30 workdays of sick leave per year, and 3 months of unpaid maternity leave. However, in practice these provisions are not observed or enforced rigorously by the Ministry of Labor. In 1996 two NGO studies – one of farm workers and the other of domestic employees – highlighted the extremely poor conditions that some employees encounter while working in these occupations.
The Government mandates occupational health and safety standards. The Labor Act empowers the President to enforce these standards through inspections and criminal penalties. The law requires employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. It provides employees with the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations; however, some workers do not have this right in practice. For example, on April 13, 1999, workers at the Navachab gold mine near Karibib occupied the control room at the Ore Mill and shut down production to protest the extreme heat and shortage of oxygen in the mine's metallurgy plant. A prior agreement between the mine and the mineworkers union gave workers the right to leave the workplace if they believed that their safety was threatened; however, mine management protested the shutting of the mill as an "illegal industrial action" and threatened to fine the employees involved. On April 22, the workers reached a compromise with management to set up an independent panel of experts to investigate whether there was an unacceptable health risk at the mill. The panel found that health risks existed at the mill, and management withdrew disciplinary measures against the workers. Although the management agreed to improve working conditions in the mill and to address other labor grievances, the company did not pay strikers for the time when they were engaged in the industrial action, penalized workers who occupied the control room by refusing to give them a month's salary, and issued written warnings to other mill workers who joined sympathy strikes.
f. Trafficking in Persons
Although the law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, it does prohibit slavery, kidnaping, forced labor, including forced prostitution, child labor, and alien smuggling; however, there were reports that UNITA forces kidnaped citizens and forced them to serve as combatants and porters in Angola (see Section 1.b. and 6.f.).