Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Head of government: Pascoal Mocumbi
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: signed

There were reports of human rights violations by police including torture, ill-treatment and at least two extrajudicial executions. Efforts to improve police professionalism were undermined by the continued failure of the authorities to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. The report of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into violent political demonstrations in November 2000 paid little attention to alleged human rights violations by police.


Despite economic improvements, debt reduction and increased expenditure on social welfare, poverty remained widespread. Some 600,000 people were affected by severe food shortages as a result of a drought in the southern and central provinces and floods in the north. Crime levels remained high, particularly in cities.

In his report to parliament in March, the Attorney General severely criticized pervasive corruption, including among senior public officials and within the criminal justice system. He gave examples of police tampering with evidence in cases of fraud, of judges and lawyers taking bribes, and of prison officers allowing inmates to escape.

In a continuing program to collect illegal weapons, Mozambican police, with the cooperation of the Mozambique Christian Council's weapons collection program and technical assistance from their South African counterparts, disposed of tonnes of ordnance, including heavy weapons. Demining continued but over a million anti-personnel mines remained, particularly in rural areas.

Commission of inquiry

The report of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into violent demonstrations in November 2000 by the opposition party coalition Resistência Nacional Moçambicana-União Eleitoral (RENAMO-UE), Mozambican National Resistance-Electoral Union, was brought to parliament in April. The report acknowledged that, of some 500 people detained in connection with the demonstrations, 84 suffocated to death in a grossly overcrowded police cell. It also mentioned instances of police firing on demonstrators, some of whom were killed, but without examining witnesses' allegations of excessive use of force. Nevertheless, it concluded that the police had acted in accordance with the law and in a "prompt, professional and patriotic manner". RENAMO-UE members of parliament refused to allow the report to be tabled in parliament on the grounds that it was biased. The report was published in the press.

Fifteen people tried in Cabo Delgado Provincial Court in November 2001 on charges including armed rebellion and murder in connection with the November 2000 demonstrations were sentenced in January to prison terms ranging from two to eight years. Fourteen other defendants were acquitted.


Police officers suspected of assisting an escape from the Maximum Security Prison in Maputo in September were arrested. The escaped prisoner was one of the group accused of complicity in the killing of journalist Carlos Cardoso in 2000. Carlos Cardoso had been investigating reports of bank fraud and corruption within the judicial system. Under security measures imposed after the escape, prisoners were denied access to their lawyers, family visits and food brought by relatives to supplement their meagre diet. Prisons throughout the country were severely overcrowded and many inmates were held for months beyond the legal limit for pre-trial detention.

Abuses by police

There were attempts to increase police professionalism. A police training program, supported by foreign governments, continued. Dozens of police officers were dismissed for misconduct including corruption and lending their weapons to criminals. Two members of the paramilitary police were officially reported in April to have been dismissed for "acts of gratuitous violence" committed in 2001, which reportedly included the severe beating of a pregnant woman.

A number of police officers were dismissed or detained in connection with human rights abuses, but few were brought to justice.

  • Two police officers were arrested in Maputo after separate incidents in October in which they were respectively alleged to have shot dead two youths, Mário Alfredo and Gabriel Chilene. According to a police spokesman, one of the detained police officers could face homicide charges for using lethal force to end a minor scuffle among a group of youths. Disciplinary and criminal investigations into both cases continued at the end of the year.
There were reports that market traders and others stopped in their cars or in the street in Maputo and other towns were beaten by police, sometimes for refusing to pay bribes. Paramilitary police beat non-violent demonstrators in Maputo in September and November.

A number of criminal suspects were reportedly tortured in police stations, often during interrogation. In at least two cases, police reportedly delayed releasing torture victims, apparently to allow torture injuries to heal.
  • Vasco Juíz, aged 59, his son Virgílio Vasco Nhabinte, aged 29, and two other men were severely beaten in a Maputo police station in October. They had been arrested shortly after three of them witnessed a shooting incident in which one police officer was killed and another injured. Vasco Juíz received bruises and abrasions on his back, buttocks and arms. His son was beaten with sticks and gun butts until he lost consciousness. Vasco Juíz was released without charge after six days. The other three detainees were released without charge three weeks later following the intervention of the Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (LMDH), Mozambique Human Rights League. When Virgílio Vasco Nhabinte handed in his prison uniform his scars were still visible and he was given treatment in the prison clinic. A criminal investigation into a complaint made by one of the victims was continuing at the end of the year.
In February the LMDH announced that it had received dozens of reports of shootings by police, including extrajudicial executions, in 2002 and previous years and said that it was difficult to persuade the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
  • Amir Ali Mahomed was arrested in January on suspicion of car theft. Relatives who visited him in the police station said that he was in handcuffs and had blood on his body. The next day, police said they had transferred him to another police station. The family went to this station and were directed back to the first. A week after the arrest, Amir Ali Mahomed's wife was informed that her husband had been found with gunshot wounds in a Maputo suburb. She and two friends rushed him to hospital, but he received little attention before being taken to the Maximum Security Prison. Police denied that he had been injured in custody and said that he had escaped from prison in December.

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