Republic of Namibia

Head of state: Dr Samuel Nujoma
Head of government: Hage Geingob
Capital: Windhoek
Population: 1.6 million
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
1999 treaty ratifications/signatures: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

The human rights situation in Namibia deteriorated in 1999. A large number of refugees fled from the northeastern Caprivi province into neighbouring Botswana early in the year. In August the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) attacked several government institutions in Caprivi. The government declared a state of emergency that lasted until late August, and conducted a major police and army operation during which torture and arbitrary arrests were frequently reported. In December Namibia allowed Angolan troops to use Namibian territory for their attacks on the Angolan armed opposition. This destabilized the border area, where beatings, rapes and looting by Angolan forces were reported.


Namibia won independence in 1990 following a long war. The South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), which headed the armed struggle, won the country's first elections with a large majority and SWAPO leader Samuel Nujoma won presidential elections. The country adopted a Constitution with strong human rights guarantees. In 1998 Parliament made the first change to the Constitution, to allow President Nujoma to stand for a third term. After this change several leading members of SWAPO left to form a new opposition party, the Congress of Democrats (COD).

On 30 November and 1 December Namibia held presidential and parliamentary elections, in which President Nujoma and SWAPO were re-elected and SWAPO increased its two-thirds majority in Parliament. There were allegations that opposition supporters had suffered intimidation and violence by SWAPO supporters, and that the police had failed to intervene.

Impact of the Angolan war

From November, large numbers of Angolan refugees entered Namibia following major advances by the Angolan army into territory held by the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) , National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, north of Namibia. In early December the Angolan army launched attacks on all major UNITA-held towns along the Namibian border. Several of the attacks were launched from Namibian territory. (See Angola entry.) The Namibian police and defence forces were reported to have participated in the forcible return of Angolan refugees. At least six young men were reported to have been extrajudicially executed by Angolan forces after being forcibly returned to Angola on 12 December. At least 50 Angolan men "disappeared" after arriving in Namibia, while their wives and children arrived at Namibia's only refugee camp in Osire. Namibian police also increased identity checks in Kavango province to search for illegal immigrants, and there were reports of beatings and torture in connection with these checks.

Torture following secessionist attack

A large number of refugees fled from Caprivi province into neighbouring Botswana between late 1998 and April 1999. The formerly unknown CLA launched an attack on four government institutions in Katima Mulilo, district capital of Caprivi, on 2 August. Following the attack more than 300 people were arrested, many of whom were tortured. By the end of 1999, 35 of those released uncharged had filed complaints seeking compensation. Allegations were made that some people were arrested in order to remove members of the Mafwe tribe from senior positions in Caprivi province. At the end of 1999, 115 men were awaiting trial on charges including high treason, of whom 111 were in detention. Most claimed to have been tortured during interrogation following their arrest. Three police officers repeatedly named in the torture allegations remained on active duty.

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