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Namibia: Crime situation; police and state response including effectiveness; availability of witness protection

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 8 August 2012
Citation / Document Symbol NAM104145.E
Related Document Namibie : information sur la criminalité; les mesures prises par la police et l'État, y compris leur efficacité; la disponibilité de mesures de protection des témoins
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Namibia: Crime situation; police and state response including effectiveness; availability of witness protection, 8 August 2012, NAM104145.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/505332842.html [accessed 29 December 2014]
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.

1. Overview of Crime Situation

Sources express concern over crime in Namibia (LAC 20 July 2012; NamRights 18 July 2012; US 28 Mar. 2012), stating that crime rates are "very high" (NamRights 18 July 2012) and "a problem" (LAC 20 July 2012). The United States Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) 2012 report for Namibia states that "crime is a serious concern in Windhoek and other areas throughout Namibia," noting the country has been identified as a "critical crime threat location" by the US State Department since April 2008 (US 28 Mar. 2012). The 2011 Global Study on Homicide produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicates that according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2008, the homicide rate in Namibia was 27.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (UN 2011, 105). In comparison, the Global Study on Homicide indicates that in 40 percent of the countries surveyed in 2010, the homicide rate was below 3 per 100,000 inhabitants (UN 2011, 9).

The Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a Namibian human rights NGO whose areas of work include public interest law, legal information and advice as well as research (LAC n.d.), stated in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate that "[a] large percentage of [Namibia's] violent crime is linked to alcohol and domestic violence" (LAC 20 July 2012). The LAC director added that "housebreakings", in particular, were at "unacceptable levels," while noting that "violence was not always apparent" during these crimes as they often occurred when home owners were away (ibid.). However, the Director explained that the situation was different in farming communities since families are usually found on their farms (ibid.).

Sources report that the types of crimes which are of particular concern in the country include human trafficking (NamRights 22 Mar. 2012, 5; US 24 May 2012, executive summary; Freedom House 2012), gender-based violence (ibid.; NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 13), rape, infanticide, murder (NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 13), robberies (ibid.; US 28 Mar. 2012), muggings and thefts (ibid.). Daily newspaper the Namibian reports that crimes which are particularly problematic in Windhoek include "property-related crimes, domestic violence, assault and theft" (29 June 2011).

According to sources, the crime rate in the country is increasing (NamRights 22 Mar. 2012, 5; Namibian Sun 12 Apr. 2012; ibid. 4 Nov. 2011). The Namibian Sun, a daily newspaper, reports that according to the Namibian police data, there was a 2.6 percent rise in the crime rate in 2009/2010, compared to the previous year (4 Nov. 2011). An annual report for 2010 produced by NamRights, a Namibian NGO which monitors human rights in the country (NamRights n.d.), likewise states that, according to the State Secretary for the Namibian Ministry of Safety and Security, there was a 2.6 percent increase in crimes during that year (NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 14).

According to the State Secretary, the Namibian Police (NAMPOL)'s Criminal Investigations Department registered more than 235,000 crimes in 2010, with more than 36,400 of these considered to be "serious" (NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 14). According to NamRights' annual report for 2011, there were over 98,000 crimes reported to the Namibian police through to October 2011 (NamRights 22 Mar. 2012, 5). The Namibian reports that around 3,000 robberies, 5,966 burglaries and almost 7,500 thefts were reported in Windhoek in 2010 (29 June 2011).

2. Police and State Response

The LAC director notes that although the state has enacted legislation and policies to curb crime, it has not effectively implemented these policies (LAC 20 July 2012).

2.1 Namibian Police

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 indicates that NAMPOL is responsible for internal security in the country alongside the Namibian Defence Force (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). Country Reports 2011 notes that the police force is "highly centralised," with regional commanders reporting directly to NAMPOL's Inspector General (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2011, about half of the police force is part of the Special Field Force (SFF), "a paramilitary unit composed primarily of combatants from the former People's Liberation Army of Namibia," whose members are responsible for maintaining public order, manning checkpoints, and providing guard duty (ibid.). NAMPOL employs approximately 12,000 (ibid.) to 13,000 people (Namibian Sun 6 Sept. 2011).

According to the Executive Director of NamRights, the police "is not really effective, in either preventing or detecting crime" (NamRights 18 July 2012). Sources report that the police force lacks resources (LAC 20 July 2012; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). The OSAC report specifies that the police lack "the resources, training, and personnel to effectively deter street crime, and to fully respond and investigate reported crimes" (US 28 Mar. 2012).

Sources indicate that NAMPOL is understaffed (Namibian Sun 4 Nov. 2011; NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 14). The Namibian Sun reports that in 2009/2010 the police force was only at 50 percent of its complement due to problems with retention (Namibian Sun 4 Nov. 2011). In its human rights report for 2010, NamRights indicates that, according to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Safety and Security, NAMPOL's Criminal Investigations Department was understaffed by 66 percent, which resulted in some crime scenes not being inspected until two or three days after the crimes occurred (NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 14). The State Secretary reportedly also indicated that some "satellite" police stations needed to be closed "temporarily" because of shortages in personnel (ibid.).

Some sources note that a lack of access to vehicles also impeded police work (LAC 20 July 2012; UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 19). The LAC director stated that there were reportedly delays in police response due to the unavailability of vehicles (LAC 20 July 2012).

Country Reports 2011 indicates that there is "poor communication between police stations" (US 24 May 2012, Sec.6). A Namibian Sun article reports that there are no existing formalities regarding the reporting of regional activities to NAMPOL's head office although there were efforts to improve procedures (6 Sept. 2011). In its human rights report for 2010, NamRights indicates that according to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Safety and Security, NAMPOL's Criminal Investigations Department resolved 37 percent of all crime cases in 2010 and 35 percent of "serious" crimes, leaving a backlog of 148,050 unresolved crimes in total and 12,740 serious crimes (NamRights 10 Dec. 2010, 14).

In addition, sources report that there are concerns over the use of excessive force by police (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 22; US 24 May 2012, executive summary; LAC 2011, 16). According to the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, as reported by the Namibian Press Agency (NAMPA), his office frequently received complaints of "bad behaviour" by police officers (NAMPA 18 July 2012). Sources also express concern over the impunity of police officers (US 24 May 2012, Sec.1d; NAMPA 8 Apr. 2011).

However, Country Reports 2011 also notes that the police and its leadership has cooperated and helped in corruption and human rights violations investigations (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 4, 5). Police officers reportedly take part in human rights awareness training (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 22; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 5). According to a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council report prepared for Namibia's Universal Periodic Review, the police have also embarked on awareness campaigns and training on the use of minimum force during arrests (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 22).

Sources indicate that there is illiteracy among the ranks of the police (NamRights 18 July 2012; Namibian Sun 6 Sept. 2011; New Era 29 Aug. 2011). According to the Executive Director of NamRights "perhaps 70 percent of Namibia's police officers are functionally illiterate" (18 July 2012). Citing a survey conducted by NAMPOL, the Namibian Sun reports that "over 1100 police officers have difficulty reading and writing" (6 Sept. 2011). Media sources note that NAMPOL has organized at least one literacy workshop for some of its officers (ibid.; New Era 29 Aug. 2012). The Namibian Sun indicates that the workshop was offered to improve its officers' abilities to keep records and take statements (6 Sept. 2011).

2.1.1 Police Corruption and Misconduct

Sources express concern over corruption within the police force (LAC 20 July 2012; NamRights 18 July 2012; NAMPA 18 July 2012; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). According to the NAMPA, the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security of Namibia stated in July 2012 that over 160 police officers had been discharged between January and July 2012; some of the fired officers reportedly collaborated with criminals or were "involved with crime syndicates" (NAMPA 18 July 2012). In addition, NAMPA reports that according to the Deputy Minister, 25 other officers were on suspension for "indiscipline" (NAMPA 18 July 2012). In a 2011 interview with NAMPA, the Police Chief Inspector of Namibia indicated that since 2007, 105 officers had been suspended from the police and 9 had been dismissed due to various offenses, including "corruption, pointing of firearms, rape, extortion, murder, attempting to defeat the course of justice, fraud and theft of exhibit money" (NAMPA 8 Apr. 2011). NamRights also noted that more than 100 police officers had been discharged or suspended for various offences in 2011 (NamRights 22 Mar. 2012, 6).

2.2 Windhoek City Police

Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, has its own police force, the City Police (LAC 20 July 2012; Namibian Sun 13 July 2012; The Namibian 29 Oct. 2004; City of Windhoek n.d.). According to the LAC director, "[the City Police] have been shown to be more visible and are therefore a deterrent" (20 July 2012).

The City of Windhoek's website indicates that the City Police's role "is to complement the Namibian Police" in areas such as crime prevention and law enforcement, but it does not have the power to investigate (City of Windhoek n.d.). However, the Namibian Sun reports that there have been accusations of a lack of cooperation between the City Police and NAMPOL, with both sides having allegedly accused the other of colluding with criminals (13 July 2012).

3. Judicial System

Sources report Namibia's judicial system is inefficient and is subject to long delays (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d; Namibia 28 June 2010, 3; The Namibian 22 Jan. 2010). According to a report by the Ombudsman of Namibia submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council for Namibia's Universal Periodic Review, it may take up to four years before criminal cases go to trial (Namibia 28 June 2010, 3). According to Country Reports 2011, "the lack of qualified magistrates and other court officials, high cost of legal aid, slow or incomplete police investigations, and continued postponement of cases resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases and delays of years between arrest and trial" (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). The Namibian ombudsman adds that "[t]he right to appeal or review is seriously affected through delays in producing the transcripts of trials and unduly delays in preparing the appeal/review records of proceedings by clerks" (Namibia 28 June 2010, 3).

3.1 Detention Conditions

Detention centers are reportedly in poor condition and overcrowded (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1c; New Era 27 Oct. 2011; UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 25). According to New Era, a news source owned by the government of Namibia (New Era n.d.), "[t]he situation is so bad in Erongo [region] that only suspects with serious cases are detained" (27 Oct. 2011). In addition, according to Country Reports 2011,"lengthy pretrial detention remained a significant problem. In 2010 approximately 8 percent of the general prison population was awaiting trial" (US 24 May 2012, Sec. 1d). However, Country Reports 2011 also indicated that "the government continued to make significant improvements" in expanding and renovating its detention centres (ibid., Sec. 1c).

4. Witness and Victim Protection

Sources indicate that witness protection measures exist in Namibia (NamRights 18 July 2012; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). The Criminal Procedure Act was amended in 2003 to include provisions for vulnerable witnesses (Namibia 2003; LAC 2005, 59). According to a guide prepared by the LAC for service providers who assist victims of rape, vulnerable witnesses include anyone under the age of 18, any victim of a sexual offence, an individual who has a mental or physical disability if it "creates special needs or may lead to undue stress," any individual "who may suffer undue stress while testifying" and any individual "who needs special arrangements to give full and proper evidence" (LAC 2005, 59).

The guide produced by the LAC, which has contributed to the development of related laws in Namibia (LAC n.d.), adds that an individual "who may be intimidated by the accused or any other person such as a case involving family members, or members of a criminal gang" is also considered to be a vulnerable witness (ibid. 2005, 59).

Sources indicate that some courtrooms had measures to protect vulnerable witnesses during testimony, including cubicles made of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms (LAC 2005, 60; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). Other measures include the possibility of changing the venue for providing testimony and the possibility of the witness being accompanied by a support person (LAC 2005, 50-61).

According to NamRights' executive director,

[t]here are legal and administrative mechanisms to protect state witnesses in Namibia. However, the effectiveness of such protection is not always guaranteed owing to police negligence or even ignorance for that matter. This is especially the case in cases of witnesses in corruption matters in which not even legal mechanisms exist. (18 July 2012)

For additional information on protection measures available to victims of domestic violence, please see Response to Information Request NAM104141 of 3 August 2012.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

City of Winhoek. N.d. "City Police Division." [Accessed 23 July 2012]

Freedom House. 2012. "Namibia." Freedom in the World. [Accessed 20 July 2012]

Legal Assistance Centre (LAC). 20 July 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Director.

_____. 2011. 2010 Annual Report. [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. 2005. Guidelines for Service Providers on the Combating of Rape Act of Namibia. [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. N.d. "About." [Accessd 24 July 2012]

Namibia. 28 June 2010. The Ombudsman: Namibia. "Submission to the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism." [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. 2003. Criminal Procedure Amendment Act. [Accessed 11 July 2012]

Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA). 18 July 2012. "Over 160 Police Officers Fired." [Accessed 20 July 2012]

_____. 8 April 2011. "105 Police Officers Suspended, 9 Discharged." [Accessed 20 July 2012]

The Namibian [Windhoek]. 29 June 2011. Jana-Mari Smith. "City Police have an Eye on Crime." (Factiva)

_____. 22 January 2010. "On the Slow Pace of Namibian Justice." [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. 29 October 2004. "City Police Could Start Next Month." [Accessed 20 July 2012]

Namibian Sun [Windhoek]. 13 July 2012. "Warfare! Top Cops on Colision Course." [Accessed 20 July 2012]

_____. 12 April 2012. "Police Still Buckling Under Rising Crime." [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. 4 November 2011. "NAMPOL Buckling Under Rising Crime." [Accessed 11 July 2012]

_____. 6 September 2011. Meja Ileka. "Nampol Develops Skills Through Literacy Programme." [Accessed 19 July 2012]

NamRights. 18 July 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by the Executive Director.

_____. 22 March 2012. Human Rights Report 2011. [Accessed 19 July 2012]

_____. 10 December 2010. Human Rights Report 2010 Ad Interim. [Accessed 24 July 2012]

____. N.d. "Mission and Vision." [Accessed 24 July 2012]

New Era. 27 October 2011. Desie Heita. "Depression Haunts Police." [Accessed 12 July 2012]

_____. 29 August 2011. Francis Xoagub. "Police Hold Skills Workshop." [Accessed 19 July 2012]

_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2012]

United Nations (UN). 24 March 2011. Human Rights Council. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. (A/HRC/17/14) [Accessed 10 July 2012]

_____. 2011. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Global Study on Homicide 2011. [Accessed 24 July 2012]

United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Namibia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 6 July 2012]

_____. 28 March 2012. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Namibia 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report. [Accessed 6 June 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Institute for Public Policy Research, the Namibia Institute for Democracy, and a professor of law at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa did not have information for this Response. The Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response. Attempts to contact representatives of the Namibian Police and the Windhoek City Police, a professor of law and the Director of the Human Rights and Documentation Centre at the University of Namibia, a representative of the Legal Research and Development Trust of Namibia and the head of the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the Polytechnic University of Namibia were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; European Country of Origin Information Network; Factiva, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada; Human Rights and Documentation Centre; Human Rights Watch; Institute for Public Policy Research; Interpol; Konrad Adenauer Foundation; Namibia — Government of Namibia; Anti-Corruption Commission, Superior Courts, Namibian Police, Parliament of Namibia; United Kingdom — Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Home Office; United Nations — Integrated Regional Information Networks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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