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Amnesty International Report 2008 - Namibia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Namibia, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
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.


Head of state and government: Hifikepunye Pohamba
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 2.1 million
Life expectancy: 51.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 75/68 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 85 per cent

President Sam Nujoma of the ruling South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) retired from active politics at the end of 2007; he was Namibia's first President, serving from 1990 to 2005. An attempt to seek the prosecution of former President Sam Nujoma at the International Criminal Court (ICC) caused a political furore about responsibility for past human rights abuses.

International justice – ICC submission

The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) requested that the ICC investigate human rights abuses carried out in SWAPO camps in exile prior to independence in 1990, and in the north-east of the country in the 1990s. The NSHR cited Sam Nujoma and retired army Lieutenant General Solomon Hawala as responsible for the detention, torture and enforced disappearance of thousands of SWAPO members in Angola in the 1980s. The submission to the ICC also sought the prosecution of former Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtima for the torture of separatist suspects in Caprivi in 1999 and army Colonel Thomas Shuuya for operating an alleged shoot-to-kill policy in the Kavango region in the 1990s. The NSHR's submission was strongly condemned by the ruling party as a threat to the policy of national reconciliation.

The ICC does not have jurisdiction for crimes committed prior to July 2002 and therefore the NSHR's submission would not be admissible.

Caprivi treason trial

There was no end in sight for the Caprivi treason trial, which started in 2004. Most of the 117 people on trial in connection with a separatist uprising in the Caprivi region in 1999 spent their eighth year in detention. The prosecution was not expected to close its case until late 2008.

In a second parallel treason trial, 10 men were convicted of high treason in August 2007. They were sentenced to between 30 and 32 years' imprisonment. Two suspects were acquitted for lack of evidence. Police officers accused of torturing suspects detained in the wake of the uprising had not faced any formal charges or disciplinary action by the end of the year.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Namibia Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga called on police officers to respect human rights following a series of media reports about assaults against suspects and deaths in custody. The NSHR reported three deaths in police custody and six cases of police torture of suspects during 2007. There were no independent investigations.

Violence against women and girls

The number of reported rapes in Namibia doubled between 1991 and 2005 – rising from 564 cases to 1,184, according to a study by the Legal Assistance Centre. The study found that the conviction rate for rapists was 16 per cent, while one third of rape cases were withdrawn by the complainant before coming to trial. Police statistics indicated that just over one third of rape victims were under the age of 18.

Freedom of expression under attack

The SWAPO Party Congress passed a resolution calling on the government to set up a body to regulate the media because of the "misuse of the media contrary to national reconciliation and the maintenance of peace and stability". During 2007, SWAPO accused the print media of publishing highly critical articles and letters concerning former President Sam Nujoma.

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