Africa update - A summary of human rights concerns in sub-Saharan Africa, September 1998 - March 1999

AFRICA UPDATE

A summary of human rights concerns in sub-Saharan Africa

September 1998 - March 1999

The first All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference brought together more than 80 human rights defenders and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from over 40 countries in Johannesburg from 2 to 4 November 1998. The participants' fields of work included children and youth, women, legal aid, prisoners, refugees, torture, death penalty, youth, gays and lesbians, prison conditions, legal reform and human rights education.

 The event was the culmination of a series of sub-regional workshops convened by Amnesty International during 1997 and 1998.

Objectives

While the sub-regional workshops explored solutions and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders to be implemented at a local or regional level, the focus of the All-Africa Conference was on international and continent-wide solutions.

The Conference had three key objectives:

·         To devise mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders in Africa;

·         To plan activities to push for the protection of human rights defenders in Africa (with a focus on the roles of Amnesty International, sub-regional NGO networks and African inter-governmental organizations); and

·         To publicize the plight of human rights defenders at risk in Africa and to highlight the legitimacy and importance of their role, through a media strategy targeted at African and other media and through the involvement of key players such as the Organization of African Unity.

Delegates analysed the difficulties that human rights defenders face in the course of their work, such as working under threat, working in armed conflict and working in divided societies. Measures for the protection of human rights defenders were then discussed on three levels: immediate protection; capacity building and networking; and lobbying and legal reform.

Four "Interest Group Meetings" were organized to allow participants to meet and share their experiences. The groups included women's rights activists, journalists, lawyers and Amnesty International members. Each group was encouraged to produce recommendations and to submit them to their professional associations.

Outcome

In the closing session, the delegates adopted a "Declaration of Principles" (known as the Johannesburg Declaration) that recognizes, legitimizes and facilitates the role, the rights and the protection due to human rights defenders. The Declaration was presented to David Johnson, Africa representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who received it on behalf of Mary Robinson United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A Plan of Action was also adopted, aiming to achieve wider and more effective levels of protection for human rights defenders.

At the end of the Conference participants elected a Continuation Committee of two representatives per sub-region (Central, East, North, West and Southern Africa). The Committee is in charge of working towards the implementation of the Plan of Action in conjunction with Amnesty International.

The Conference fed into the first international Human Rights Defenders Summit in Paris, France, co-hosted by Amnesty International, Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), France Libertées - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, and Mouvement International ATD Quart Monde, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Follow-up work

Building on the success of the sub-regional workshops and the All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference, the Africa Program of Amnesty International developed the second phase of the "Defending the Defenders" project; a one year project of follow-up activities that started in December 1998.

The aim of this second phase is to enable the Defending the Defenders Project to implement the recommendations of the Johannesburg Plan of Action, to propose and set up a framework that develops them further and to start their initial implementation.

A report of the Conference, which includes the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Action, is available from Amnesty International sections, structures and the International Secretariat in Arabic, English and French (AI index: AFR 01/10/98).

ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY AND THE AFRICAN COMMISSION

First Ministerial Conference on Human and Peoples' Rights

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) Ministerial Conference on Human and Peoples' Rights was held in Mauritius from 12 to 16 April 1999. It was preceded by a three-day non-governmental organization (NGO) Forum, which took place in Kenya from 7 to 9 April.

The NGO Forum was attended by representatives of national and regional NGOs from more than 27 countries, as well as by international NGOs. Also present were representatives of the OAU and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission), which had delegated organization of the meeting to the International Commission of Jurists.

Amnesty International had two main concerns about arrangements for the meeting. Firstly, the great distance between the NGO Forum and the Ministerial Conference meant that many NGOs could not attend both and were consequently unable to lobby governments directly. Secondly, Amnesty International was concerned that the guidelines on the participation of NGOs at the Forum, drafted by the OAU, suggested that international NGOs would only be able to attend as observers. Many NGOs including Amnesty International, protested against this guidelines. In the end, international NGOs were allowed to attend as full participants.

NGO Forum

Amnesty International delegates contributed to all six of the NGO Forum workshops, which considered the issues on the agenda for the Ministerial Conference and made recommendations accordingly. These were summarized in three statements for presentation to the Ministerial Conference by a delegation of 15 representatives of African-based NGOs.

The statements recommended OAU and government action to combat the root causes of human rights violations, to improve strategies for the protection of human rights, and to ensure the ratification and implementation of human rights instruments. Of particular importance to Amnesty International were recommendations relating to institutional reform of the OAU to integrate human rights throughout its activities; strengthening of the African Commission, including through the formulation of guidelines to ensure the independence and impartiality of its members; and the call to OAU member states to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child by 16 June 1999. Amnesty International regretted the Forum's decision against naming specific country situations in the final statements, and the absence of strategies for collective NGO action in the future.

Exclusion from Ministerial Conference

Although not among the 15 NGO representatives from the Forum, Amnesty International delegates continued on to Mauritius, where 46 delegations of OAU member states were convening for the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Human and Peoples' Rights. Having registered as observers to the Conference, Amnesty International delegates believed they would be able to attend the opening ceremony and public meeting, particularly as others – including journalists – were allowed to attend.

However, by the time the opening ceremony began, Amnesty International delegates had been asked to relinquish their badges, and were thereby officially barred from the Conference. Being the only people outside the Conference hall, the visible exclusion of Amnesty International attracted significant attention. As a result, the OAU sought a compromise by offering observer badges to two members of Amnesty International's Mauritius Section. However, by the time the badges were available for collection, two days of the Conference had already elapsed and the drafting process involving government experts had concluded. When the Conference reconvened late the following day and the Amnesty International Mauritius delegates sought access, they too had their badges removed. This decision was taken because the OAU objected to interviews given by Amnesty International delegates to the Mauritian press.

Conference Declaration

Government ministers arrived for the final two days of the Conference to adopt the "Grand Bay (Mauritius) Declaration and Plan of Action" (the Declaration). Also present were Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the OAU.

As a statement of commitments by governments and the OAU, the Declaration does not expand the boundaries of international or regional human rights law and in some respects is weaker than decisions already taken by the OAU. Nevertheless, it contains some important pledges in relation to the integration of human rights in all activities and programs of the OAU, to an evaluation of the structure and functioning of the African Commission, to the formulation of national plans of action on human rights, and to the ratification and implementation of international and regional human rights treaties. It also calls on the Secretary General to examine possibilities for making a ministerial conference on human rights a regular occurrence.

Amnesty International will encourage member states and the OAU to implement the Declaration, to ensure that the commitments made at the Conference become reality.

THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES GENERAL ASSEMBLY

General Assembly

The World Council of Churches (WCC) General Assembly takes place every seven years and the Eighth Assembly was held from 3-14 December 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The WCC includes some 330 member churches from all regions of the world, and the General Assembly brought together 4,500 participants from member churches, ecumenical groups and non-governmental organizations.

The WCC has a strong commitment to human rights, and over the years has worked closely with Amnesty International and other human rights organisations. The General Assembly, to which Amnesty International was granted observer status, provided a unique forum for raising human rights issues with representatives of the world's principal Protestant denominations. Amnesty International's aim during the General Assembly was to highlight several areas of human rights concern – and in many of these, discussions within the WCC seemed to have made real progress.

For the first time, for example, the WCC spoke out against the use of child soldiers, and called on its member churches to work for an immediate moratorium on the recruitment and participation as soldiers of those aged under 18. Amnesty International has been vocal on the plight of the more than 300,000 children currently forced to engage in armed conflicts – in Africa in particular – and the WCC's stance was warmly welcomed by Amnesty International.

Amnesty international delegates also welcomed the WCC's affirmation that women's rights are human rights, and the attention drawn by the WCC to patterns of violence against women throughout the world. As a direct consequence, of, lobbying by Amnesty International and other groups, the WCC's final statement included an endorsement of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and urged churches "to press their governments for ratification of the Protocol".

Amnesty International delegates attended the General Assembly as part of a joint initiative with Penal Reform International. Together we held workshops on the death penalty, allowing participants to share experiences and providing skills and techniques on how to campaign against the death penalty. During the General Assembly Amnesty International passed on a message from Malawi President Bakili Muluzi to the WCC. In the message, President Muluzi asked African heads of state to join him in declaring a moratorium on executions. (The previous year, following a mission to Malawi by Amnesty International's Secretary General Pierre Sané, President Muluzi had publicly stated that he would refuse to sign any death warrant as long as he was President.) Following lobbying by individuals and organizations including Amnesty International and Penal Reform International, the WCC eventually reiterated its opposition to the death penalty. It stated that "The application of the death penalty against young people is especially to be condemned." Amnesty International and Penal Reform International were particularly pleased to be able to facilitate a number of very popular performances by the "Allelujah Band" from Malawi who performed songs on human rights and the death penalty in particular.

In a significant development, the WCC appeared to make real progress within the ecumenical community in addressing the issue of gay and lesbian rights. This was an issue of particular significance in Zimbabwe, where President Mugabe and senior government officials have made virulent, public anti‑gay statements, and where sexual acts between consenting men remain a criminal offence.

Despite the fact that sexual orientation was not addressed within the formal sessions nor included in any policy statements, the WCC, for the first time, provided space for workshops and discussions on sexual orientation. During the General Assembly many of the pro‑gay lobbying groups were able to develop an informal coalition, and went on to form an international lesbian and gay Christian network. By the end of the Assembly, the WCC had adopted a firm mandate to begin serious program work in the area of human sexuality.


                                  COUNTRY REPORTS

ANGOLA

Full-scale war returned to Angola in December 1998, heaping further suffering on people who have already endured over 35 years of conflict. In February 1999 Amnesty International published Angola: Human rights – the gateway to peace (AI Index: AFR 12/01/99), aiming to stimulate debate about how to best protect human rights in Angola. The report contains recommendations which could offer some protection to the civilian population while new attempts are made to end the war. These include continuing the monitoring and protection of human rights in Angola as a crucial aspect of the search for lasting peace.

The conflict resumes

During 1998 the Angolan peace process unravelled. The União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, had failed to comply with the Lusaka Protocol (1994) requirements to allow the state to extend its authority over UNITA-controlled territory and to stand down and disarm its estimated 20,000 to 30,000 troops. The government had failed to disarm civilians and militia groups, banned under the peace agreement, increased in number.

Fighting between government and UNITA troops increased, particularly in the north and east and in the central highlands, and armed attacks on villages and ambushes occurred in many other parts of the country. In December, government aircraft attacked UNITA's strongholds of Andulo and Bailundo in the central highlands and UNITA attacked the cities of Kuito, Huambo and Malange. As a result of the fighting in December 1998 and early 1999 hundreds of people were killed and over 200,000 displaced.

In August thousands of Angolan troops entered the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in support of President Kabila (see DRC entry). A principal part of the government's strategy was to prevent UNITA and factions of the Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda (FLEC), Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave, using the DRC as a rear base. In early September, UNITA representatives in the Government of National Unity and the National Assembly were suspended. Most were reinstated after some of them formed a breakaway faction called UNITA Renovada (Renewed UNITA), and others, while refusing to join Renewed UNITA, said that they were in favour of peace. The Angolan government recognized Renewed UNITA as its partner in the peace agreement and sought to prevent the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Angola from meeting UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi.

Human rights violations by government police and security forces

The government has taken some steps to increase protection for human rights. Prosecutors have been placed in police stations to ensure that the rights of those arrested are respected. However, there appears to be little real will to end human rights violations. Pervasive corruption enriches senior officials while the meagre salaries of civil servants, police and soldiers remain unpaid for months. The criminal justice system fails to protect citizens. Political activists, trade unionists, journalists and church activists face threats against their physical safety and criminal suspects face ill-treatment and extrajudicial execution. Those responsible for violating human rights persist in their activities in the knowledge that they are unlikely ever to be brought to justice.

In November 1998, the journalists' trade union accused the government of wanting to turn them from reporters into mere propagandists. Journalists, trade union activists and representatives of political parties either practice self-censorship or, if they speak out, face vague or specific threats of harm or even death.

Several journalists have been killed in strange circumstances including two in 1998. Investigation into such cases has been slow and inconclusive. In January 1999 two staff members of a private radio station in Benguela, Radio Morena, were briefly detained. Trade unionists have also faced harassment. Miguel Filho, the Secretary General of the Sindicato Nacional de Professores (SINPROF), National Teachers Union, has frequently received threats against him and his family, most recently in May 1998 when he complained to the police about previous threats.

Five UNITA deputies who had refused to join Renewed UNITA were arrested in January 1999. Three were reported to be ill and one was reportedly on a drip at his home at the time of his arrest.

There have been scores of reports of people dying or being killed in police custody but their deaths are seldom investigated. Four youths, at least one of whom appeared to be a minor, died in a police post on the Ilha do Cabo in late November 1998. According to reports, the four youths had been held in a hot, overcrowded cell full of human waste. An autopsy on one of the bodies reportedly stated that the victim had a cranial fracture, broken ribs and arm and marks on the back and legs indicating that he had been badly beaten.

Both the police force, which operates with the army in contested areas, and the army have carried out abuses in the context of forced recruitment or conscription of young men into paramilitary or military service. Such recruitment drives, which occurred in Luanda and various provinces, were carried out in contravention of the law on military service. Those who resisted risked being shot. Some of those conscripted appeared to be under 20 years of age, the legal age for conscription. In November 1998 parliament approved a resolution for the enrolment of young men approaching military age. However, the authorities appear to have taken no action to stop illegal recruitment.

There have been reports of soldiers throwing hand grenades into crowded markets to scatter vendors so that they can take the merchandise. In October 1998, police arrested two soldiers who detonated a hand grenade in a market in the São Pedro suburb of Huambo, killing one woman and injuring four others.

Two police officers reportedly raped a 12-year-old girl in Quibala district, Kwanza Sul province, in November 1998. According to the report, when the girl refused their request for sexual favours they forced her, at knife point, to lie down on a sack on the ground and both raped her. This incident is said to have occurred in daylight in the view of other children.

Human rights abuses in the conflict

The renewed fighting brought an intensification of human rights abuses. It was often difficult to identify the perpetrators. Humanitarian convoys were ambushed and several international and local staff of the UN and international aid organizations were killed or injured. In one case, after a convoy was attacked by about 40 men in government army uniforms in

Kwanza Norte province in November 1998, three trucks were set on fire and one person was killed.

While UNITA was reportedly responsible for most of the attacks on civilians in contested areas, government forces were also responsible for attacks on civilians and communities where support for UNITA was strong. People suspected of supporting UNITA faced arrest and there were reports of scores of people "disappearing" in custody or being extrajudicially executed. The victims of these violations included UNITA officials, suspected UNITA sympathizers and their relatives. Those responsible were rarely brought to justice.

In fighting in December and early January 1999, which was most intense in Bié, Huambo and Malange provinces, there were reports of indiscriminate bombardment and the laying of new land mines, which sometimes appeared to be aimed solely at civilians. In government-controlled areas there were reports of looting, including by government soldiers and police who were also accused of robbing and ill-treating civilians. Internally displaced persons reported that UNITA troops killed and tortured civilians and burned houses. Both sides are believed to be holding prisoners. It was very difficult to obtain details of reports of human rights abuses and in many cases it was impossible to determine the identity of those responsible.

In mid-December, during fighting in Kunje, about 10km north of Kuito, about 100 civilians, mostly internally displaced people camped at a disused railway station, were reportedly killed in an indiscriminate attack which military authorities attributed to UNITA.

In December 1998, two priests and six nuns were reportedly abducted after UNITA took control of Chinguar, Bié province. On 4 January 1998, a priest and two catequists were reportedly killed in Katchiungo, Huambo Province. According to survivors, an armed group burst into the mission and took the three men a short distance away, made them sit down on the road, shot them and mutilated the bodies.

Following the shooting down of the two UN planes near Huambo on 26 December and 2 January 1999, with the loss of a total of 23 lives, the UN withdrew its staff from areas of conflict. The future of the United Nations Observation Mission in Angola (MONUA) became increasingly uncertain.

BURKINA FASO

The death of Norbert Zongo

Amnesty International called for a full and independent investigation into the deaths on 13 December 1998 of Norbert Zongo and three other men, and for the government to act decisively to establish accountability and end impunity.

The badly burned body of Norbert Zongo, editor‑in‑chief of the independent weekly newspaper L'Indépendant, was found in a vehicle about 100 kilometres from the capital, Ouagadougou. The other victims were his brother, Ernest Zongo, his chauffeur, Ablassé Nikiéma, and Blaise Ilboudo. There appeared to be no evidence that the vehicle had been involved in an accident. Few believed that the deaths were a result of an accident. On 15 December 1998 the government announced that there would be an official inquiry onto the deaths.

Norbert Zongo, who was also President of the Société des éditeurs de la presse privée, Association of Independent Newspaper Editors, was renowned for his fearless criticism of the government. He had vigorously pursued the death in custody of R. David Ouédraogo (see below).

There was widespread outrage at the death of Norbert Zongo both within Burkina Faso and internationally. Dozens of people, including opposition leader Hermann Yaméogo, were held briefly after being arrested during protest demonstrations when the news of his death became known.

Police intervened to disperse a demonstration against impunity in Ouagadougou in early January 1999 organized by a coalition of political parties, journalists' and lawyers' associations, trade unions and human rights groups, headed by the President of the Mouvement burkinabè des droits de l'homme et des peuples (MBDHP), Burkinabè Movement for Human and Peoples' Rights. Police also used tear gas to disperse demonstrators in other towns. Up to 100 people were reported to have been arrested; all were released after a few weeks. Some were reported to have been ill-treated while in custody. There were further demonstrations against impunity in the following weeks in Ouagadougou.

The government modified the composition of the commission of inquiry into Norbert Zongo's death, which officially opened on 7 January 1999, following objections by the coalition. The commission, headed by judge Kassoum Kambou representing the MBDHP, ordered the garde à vue detention of several members of the presidential security force. On 3 April 1999, however, the Public Prosecutor refused to extend the period of garde à vue detention of Marcel Kafando, a high-ranking presidential security officer, who had been arrested three days earlier at the request of the commission.

The commission of inquiry was expected to make its findings public in May 1999. According to reports, its initial findings suggested that Norbert Zongo had been the victim of a politically motivated murder.

The death of David Ouédraogo

David Ouédraogo, the chauffeur of François Compaoré, President Blaise Compaoré's brother and presidential adviser, was arrested in December 1997 and died in January 1998, apparently as a result of torture, while held in the custody of the presidential security force in Ouagadougou. No autopsy was carried out. Official investigations were obstructed by the refusal of François Compaoré to cooperate with the judicial authorities.

François Compaoré was charged on 18 January 1999 with the murder of David Ouédraogo and with harbouring the body (meutre et recel de cadavre). He was not, however, arrested and the charges against him were not made public until 30 March 1999. The following day, after François Compaoré had requested that the charges against him be withdrawn, the Criminal Appeal Court (chambre d'accusation) in Ouagadougou ruled that it was not competent to hear his case and referred it to a military court.

 

Continuing abuses in insurgency

On 19 November 1998, Amnesty International published a report entitled Burundi: Insurgency and counter-insurgency perpetuate human rights abuses (AFR 16/34/98), providing an overview of some of the grave human rights abuses which have taken place in the context of armed conflict in Burundi since December 1997. Large scale killings of unarmed civilians, by both government forces and armed opposition groups, have continued, mainly in areas of armed conflict. Most killings by government soldiers appeared to take place in reprisal for insurgent activity or killings of soldiers or Tutsi civilians by Hutu-dominated armed opposition groups. Scores of other civilians have been killed by government soldiers accusing them of failing to provide information on armed opposition groups, or having in some way protected or colluded with them.

Extrajudicial executions

On 3 November 1998, soldiers are reported to have killed at least 165 people on Rutovo and Busenge collines (administrative unit), Mutambu commune, some 30 kilometres from the capital. Government and military sources initially claimed to be unaware of the massacre. However, on 10 November, the Ministry of Defence issued a public statement in which it acknowledged that around 30 people had been killed by members of the armed forces, during a military operation against two armed opposition groups, the Forces nationales de libération (FNL) and the Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (FDD), and stated that an investigation would be launched. The local administrator of Mutambu commune is reported to have acknowledged that more than 70 people had been killed in Rutuvo. Journalists from the independent radio station Radio Ijambo, and investigators from a Burundian human rights group, ITEKA, who tried to gain access to the area were prevented from doing so by soldiers. However, witnesses, including two people who had lost 17 and 19 relatives in the attack, who had fled to Mutambu town, testified that over 100 people they knew had been killed. Two soldiers were arrested but have yet to be tried.

Four women and seven children were among a group of 19 people from Nyamuzi colline, Mubone zone, Kabezi commune who were extrajudicially executed on 13 December. They had returned to an officially cleared area to look for food. While there, they were seen by soldiers from Mubone military post, who forced them into a house, and killed them. Some survivors claimed that at least 10 other people were killed on the same colline.

Patrice Ngarama, aged 47, Jacques Nderagakura, aged 17, Vincent Ndabatamije, aged 23, Balthazar Ndiwenumuryango aged at least 40, and Fabien Nyakamwe, aged 35, were extrajudicially executed with at least 50 other civilians on 4 January 1999 on Kimina colline, in Mubone commune, Bujumbura rural. The soldiers manning the post initially fled but later returned, and, according to the majority of testimonies, gathered the people they found in the area together, separating the men from the women and children. The men were then killed and their bodies burnt.

Deliberate and arbitrary killings by armed opposition groups

Twenty-three people, including a number of children, were reportedly deliberately and arbitrarily killed on 23 November 1998, in Gihungwe displaced camp, Bubanza Province. The killings are reported to have been carried out by members of the FNL.

On 14 December 1998, approximately 30 people are reported to have been killed by the FDD during an attack on Muyange regroupment camp, Burambi, Bururi province. Amnesty International has received information indicating that the killings were a punishment for the defection of a number of FDD members. The FDD are also reported to have attacked Buruhukiro camp, Rumonge commune on 7 December, deliberately and arbitrarily killing 25 people.

On 13 and 14 January 1999, at least 43 civilians were killed by the FDD, in Mabanda and Kibago communes, Makamba Province. Local officials in Mabanda commune stated that 23 people had been killed in Mabanda commune. Amnesty International believes the figure is higher; in addition to the list of 23 people established by local authorities, it received information on the killings of a further eight people, all apparently killed by the armed groups. At least nine children are reported to have been killed, and a number of older people, including a man aged 75, and another man, Melchior, aged 65. Five civilians are also reported to have been killed in Kayogoro commune. AI also received information on the attempted assassination by the FDD of a man who had been forced to carry weapons for the FDD in Kibago commune, during these attacks.

Arrests and detention without charge

Twenty two people, the majority former soldiers, were arrested in November and accused of threatening state security and of belonging to an armed opposition group, the FNLB. Two of the detainees, Jean de Dieu Ezechiel Bukuru, aged 15, and Abdul Nduwimana, aged 17, were tortured during interrogation in police custody at the Brigade de Kayanza shortly after their arrest in late November before being transferred to Bujumbura.

Some of those arrested have known links with the Parti pour le redressement national (PARENA), the National Recovery Party, or a hardline Tutsi movement, SOJEDEM, including a lawyer, Pacelli Ndikumana, who is also the lawyer for a number of PARENA and SOJEDEM supporters and others who were arrested in March 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to assassinate President Buyoya.

In March 1999 the group members were officially charged, and the case submitted to Bujumbura Court of Appeal. A hearing was scheduled for the month of April.

Long term detention without trial

Senior members of PARENA and other supporters or alleged supporters of Jean-Baptiste Bagaza have been held without trial since March 1997. They are charged with involvement in a plot to assassinate the current head of state, Major Pierre Buyoya. Several members of the Burundian armed forces are among the accused, and the case was submitted to the military court in November 1997. However, defence lawyers questioned whether the court was competent to try the case. Over two years later there is no final decision on which jurisdiction should try the case.

In May 1998, after the State Public Prosecutor intervened, the case was returned to the Military Court of Appeal. However, the Military Court again insisted it was not the competent jurisdiction to try the case, and returned the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has yet to rule.

Death penalty

At least 73 people under sentence of death have now exhausted the limited appeals procedure which is available to them in Burundi. Their only recourse is presidential clemency. Over 260 people are currently under sentence of death in Burundi. The majority were found guilty, after unfair trials, of participation in the massacre of Tutsi civilians which followed the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993.

Thirty-nine of those now awaiting presidential clemency were transferred from Mpimba Central prison in Bujumbura to Rumonge prison in southern Burundi in October 1998. According to official sources the reason for the transfer is to reduce overcrowding in Mpimba central prison, where prisoners under sentence of death are held in three, extremely overcrowded, cells in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Amnesty International raised concern that although Rumonge prison suffers less from overcrowding than other prisons, conditions of detention remain harsh. The prison is particularly difficult to reach because of armed conflict in the surrounding area. Although human rights groups monitoring this and other transfers had been told that prisoners would be transferred to prisons nearer their homes – thus making it easier for their families to visit, potentially bringing much needed additional food and other basic necessities – many prisoners are now further from their families than before.

Lobbying for the right to a full appeal

In November, Amnesty International issued a Memorandum to the Government of Burundi on Appellate Rights, calling for legislation to be amended to ensure that the right to a full appeal – that is the right to have the factual and legal basis for conviction and sentence reviewed – is guaranteed in all cases.

This is a key guarantor of a fair trial, and a crucial component of the fair trial guarantees set out in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Burundi is bound.

Releases

On 28 October 1998 Jean Minani was acquitted of all charges relating to the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Lucien Sakubu, after the defence lawyer successfully argued that statements extracted under torture could not be used as evidence. In court on 28 October, the sole prosecution witness retracted her previous statement, made in 1995, incriminating Jean Minani, claiming she had been threatened and forced to make the statement against him. Previously the defence lawyer had argued that an incriminating statement made under torture by Jean Minani in 1995 shortly after his arrest could not be used in court. He subsequently retracted the statement. Photographs showing evidence of Jean Minani's torture, taken by Amnesty International delegates shortly after his arrest, were shown in court.

Amnesty International visit to Burundi

In February 1999, Amnesty International delegates visited Burundi to carry out research and to hold government talks. The delegates met a number of Burundian authorities, including local government officials and members of the judiciary. The delegates carried out research into extrajudicial executions carried out by the Burundian armed forces and deliberate and arbitrary killings by armed opposition groups.

CAMEROON

Extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" in the north

In December 1998 Amnesty International published a report, Cameroon: Extrajudicial executions in North and Far-North Provinces, describing extrajudicial executions by the security forces in the north of the country after a special unit of the army and gendarmerie was formed in March 1998 to tackle insecurity in the region and in particular armed robbery (coupeurs de route). Scores of criminal suspects were reported to have been extrajudicially executed.

The security forces were reported to go from town to town and village to village in search of armed robbers. Many of those accused of armed robbery were arrested, taken from their homes, summarily executed and their bodies abandoned. Bodies of victims, sometimes unidentifiable, were found on main roads. In some cases there appeared to be no evidence of the victims' involvement in any criminal offence. Individuals were reported to have been denounced by paid informants or in order to settle scores.

There were also several "disappearances". In October 1998, for example, Alioum Aminou, a photographer, "disappeared" after being arrested in Maroua, Far-North Province, apparently because he had distributed photographs of victims of extrajudicial execution.

Amnesty International called for an investigation into these killings and "disappearances" in order to bring to justice those responsible and for urgent measures to be taken to prevent further killings and "disappearances".

Other killings

There were also several reports during 1998 of killings in other parts of the country which appeared to be extrajudicial executions. On 28 December 1998, for example, a student, Guy Hervé Nwafo Diessé, was shot dead by a police inspector in Bafoussam, West Province. According to reports, after a fight between the two men in a shop, the police inspector followed Guy Hervé Nwafo Diessé and shot him near his house.

Anglophone detainees: detention without trial, torture, deaths in custody

Fifty-one people suspected of having participated in armed attacks in March 1997 in North-West Province have been held for up to two years without charge or trial.

In late March 1997 armed groups carried out a series of attacks in several towns in North-West Province. Ten people, including a gendarmerie commander and two other gendarmes, were killed. Following these attacks, between two and three hundred people were arrested. Many were supporters of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), a movement advocating independence for Cameroon's two English-speaking provinces, North-West and South-West Provinces, or the affiliated Southern Cameroons Youth League. Others were supporters of the principal opposition political party, the Social Democratic Front. Most were released during the following weeks, but more than 60 remained held. During 1998, 14 were released without charge.

Since March 1997 at least nine detainees among this group are reported to have died in custody as a result of torture or lack of medical care; the most recent death was that of Lawrence Fai on 31 August 1998. Fears remained for other critically ill prisoners, including Ndifet Zacharias Khan who had toes on both feet amputated as a result of beatings and Ebenezer Akwanga who reportedly suffered paralysis of his lower limbs and impaired vision as a result of torture.

At the end of March 1999, 51 detainees remained held at the Central Prison, Nkondengui, in Yaoundé and at the Principal Prison in Mfou. In both prisons conditions are life-threatening. Prison conditions are extremely harsh throughout Cameroon, with severe overcrowding, inadequate or non-existent sanitary facilities and seriously deficient health care and nutrition.

Five other SCNC supporters remain detained without charge or trial, apparently accused of collecting signatures for a referendum in 1995 on the question of independence.

Amnesty International repeatedly called for these prisoners to be promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence or released, and for all prisoners to be treated humanely and protected from torture.

Attacks on freedom of expression, assembly and association

Journalists

Pius Njawé, director of the independent newspaper Le Messager, was arrested in December 1997 following an article which questioned President Paul Biya's state of health. In January 1998 he was convicted of dissemination of false news and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine. The Court of Appeal reduced the fine and the prison term to one year in April 1998 and the Supreme Court upheld this sentence in September 1998.

There were many calls both within Cameroon and internationally for Pius Njawé's release. He was released on 12 October 1998, before completion of his sentence, after receiving a presidential pardon.

Michel Michaut Moussala, editor of the independent newspaper Aurore Plus, was convicted of defamation in January 1998 and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a fine, following an article accusing a member of the ruling party of corruption and other offences. Although Michel Michaut Moussala was present at the trial and a warrant for his arrest was issued after his conviction, he was not arrested and imprisoned until 3 September 1998. On 4 February 1999 he was conditionally released by the Court of Appeal, having served five months of his sentence.

Patrick Tchouwa, director of the independent newspaper Le Jeune Détective, was arrested by police in early July 1998 following an article which implicated a government minister and member of the National Assembly in misappropriation of government funds. He was charged with dissemination of false news, defamation and contempt of a member of the government. On 20 November 1998 he was convicted and received an eight-month suspended sentence but was not released until 10 days later.

Journalists have also been threatened and assaulted by unidentified individuals, believed to be associated with the security forces. For example, in December 1998 Nyemb Ntoogue, director of the satirical newspaper Le Messager – Popoli, fled the country after receiving death threats.

Amnesty International repeatedly called for an end to harassment, arrest and imprisonment of people solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Political opponents

Nana Koulagna, a former opposition member of the National Assembly, has been detained in Garoua Central Prison, North Province, since May 1997. On 12 May 1997, while conducting an election campaign on behalf of the Union nationale pour la démocratie et le progrès (UNDP), National Union for Democracy and Progress, he and other UNDP members were attacked by the private militia of the traditional ruler, known as the lamido, of Rey Bouba in North Province. Two UNDP members and three members of the militia died in the confrontation. While no member of the militia was arrested, Nana Koulagna and several other UNDP supporters were arrested, apparently suspected of murder.

The judicial authorities in Garoua ordered Nana Koulagna's release in mid-1998 after a criminal investigation, but he remained in administrative detention and in October 1998 he and six other UNDP supporters were charged by a military tribunal with murder, arson, looting, illegal possession of arms and other charges in connection with the events in May 1997. As there is no evidence of Nana Koulagna's individual responsibility for any criminal act, Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Impunity

Most perpetrators of human rights violations have acted with complete impunity. For example, there has been no investigation into the cases of the Anglophone detainees who were reported to have been tortured or into extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" in North and Far-North Provinces since March 1998.

In January 1997 the Cameroon government passed legislation prohibiting torture, and in at least two cases perpetrators of torture have been prosecuted. Two police officers found responsible for the death in November 1997 of a young man in police custody in Yaoundé were sentenced to10 years and six years' imprisonment respectively in June 1998. These sentences were reduced on appeal to eight years and one year in February 1999. Police officers prosecuted in connection with a second death in custody in November 1997 were acquitted. In the case of the killing of Guy Hervé Nwafo Diessé in December 1998, the authorities were reported to have started an investigation and to have arrested two suspects.

CHAD

Prisoners of conscience

Prisoner of conscience Ngarléjy Yorongar le Moïban was released on 5 February 1999, after eight months in detention.

Ngarléjy Yorongar is the leader and sole parliamentary representative of the opposition party, Front d'action pour la République-Fédération (FAR), Action front for the Republic-Federation. He has a high public profile in Chad as a major critic of the government and the president, and has been arrested repeatedly on political grounds.

On 3 June 1998, he was arrested and formally charged with defamation of the President of the Republic and the President of the National Assembly. In an interview with a Chadian newspaper l'Observateur, published on 9 July 1997, Ngarléjy Yorongar accused Wadal Abdelkader Kamougué of accepting 15 million French francs from the Elf oil company to finance his election campaign to become president of the National Assembly. Elf, which has a large operation in the country, is due to start construction of a controversial 1,050 km pipeline through Chad and Cameroon.

Madame Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, director of l'Observateur, and Polycarpe Togamissi, the journalist on the paper who conducted the interview with Ngarléjy Yorongar, were also arrested and charged with complicity in the defamation. They were provisionally released on 12 June 1998 but given two-year suspended sentences and ordered to pay a fine of 1,000,000 CFA (Central African Francs), twice the maximum fine allowed by law for this charge. The prosecution had called for the charges against them to be dropped.

Amnesty International sent a trial observer to Chad to follow this case. The trial of all three defendants was unfair. Lawyers for the defence were denied access to the case files until immediately before the hearing. Even after the hearing was to allow the lawyers access to the files, they were prevented from seeing them. In court, they were not allowed to speak and subsequently withdrew in protest.

On 20 July 1998, Ngarléjy Yorongar was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 CFA. The prison sentence was one year longer than the maximum sentence required by law and longer than the prosecution had requested.

Ngarléjy Yorongar's health in detention gave rise to concern. Prison conditions in Chad are extremely harsh and disease-ridden, amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

On 24 December 1998, the N'Djaména Court of Appeal upheld Ngarléjy Yorongar's sentence, but reduced by half the sentences and fines of Madame Sy Koumbo Singa Gali and Polycarpe Togamissi.

Ngarléjy Yorongar was released on 5 February 1999. His release was announced in a presidential decree, which cited "humanitarian reasons", issued after a meeting between President Idriss Déby and local political representatives from Ngarléjy Yorongar's East Logone region in southwestern Chad. During the meeting, President Déby said to the representatives: "I am releasing him for you, but remember that I have the means to keep him quiet. I am releasing him for you, so it is up to you to keep him quiet."

Following his release, Ngarléjy Yorongar sent the following message of thanks to members of Amnesty International who campaigned on his behalf:

"Your actions, combined with the chain of solidarity of activists all over the world, have led to my release... I do not know how to thank you... Without this chain of solidarity, I would still be in that regrettably well-known prison... I encourage you to continue working on behalf of the prisoners who, all over the world, are rotting in the jails of dictators... my greetings to all the Amnesty International activists who wrote to me, encouraging me to hold out. I can tell you that your letters were confiscated by the security police, and it is only since my release that I have been able to read some letters.... which slipped through the net... my warmest thanks and sincerest gratitude."

In August 1998, Souleymane Abdallah (see Africa Update September 1997 – March 1998, AFR 01/02/98) was released from prolonged detention without charge or trial. He had been detained in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and was tortured repeatedly during his detention. He was arrested again in October 1998, held for several days and again tortured. He was interrogated four times by the President of the Republic, Idriss Déby. He has now left Chad to seek medical treatment for the injuries he sustained as a result of his torture.

Souleymane Abdallah is the founder member of "Alternative 94", a Chadian organization for political debate. He has been accused by the government of collaboration with armed groups because of his non-violent activities with this organization, which have included mediation between the government and armed groups in peace negotiations.

Impunity

No action was taken to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations against civilians. Amnesty International believes that the phenomenon of impunity is one of the main contributing factors to the continuing pattern of human rights violations in Chad.

DJIBOUTI

Prisoner of conscience

On 15 February 1999 Aref Mohamed Aref, a prominent human rights lawyer and non-violent critic of the government, was convicted on a criminal charge and imprisoned for six months with a further 18 months suspended. The trial related to the auction of a cargo of flour in 1994. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action appeal before the trial (AFR 23/01/99), fearing that the real reason for the revival of the case, adjourned since 1997, was political, in the context of the upcoming presidential election. Amnesty International expressed concern to the government that he might be imprisoned as a prisoner of conscience on account of his human rights defence activities. His passport had been confiscated in December 1998 to prevent him from attending the Paris Human Rights Defenders Summit.

Upon his conviction and imprisonment, where he was at first held in very poor conditions, Amnesty International brought its concerns again to the government. The organization is pursuing its inquiries into whether he received a fair trial.

In the April presidential election, Ismail Omar Guelle, the chief of security, was elected to succeed President Hassan Gouled Aptidon his uncle, who had been in power since independence.

War against unarmed civilians

Since 2 August 1998, fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has endangered the lives of millions of civilians. This armed conflict has spread swiftly – both in terms of the number of governments and armed groups involved in the fighting, and in terms of the devastating impact on local populations. Initially sparked by President Laurent-Désiré Kabila's expulsion of Rwandese and other foreign troops, the conflict has rapidly involved other regional governments and armed opposition groups from the DRC and neighbouring countries.

The opposition alliance known as the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (RCD), Congolese Rally for Democracy, receives backing from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Another armed opposition group known as the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), Movement for the Liberation of Congo, joined the fighting in late 1998 with the support of the Ugandan authorities. Military support for the government's Forces armées congolaises (FAC), Congolese Armed Forces, comes from Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia Chad, and reportedly Sudan.

Numerous attempts by the UN, the Organization of African Unity, the Southern African Development Community, the Non-Aligned Movement and various African governments to help negotiate an end to the hostilities had not succeeded by May 1999.

Human rights abuses on a massive scale

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its alarm since August 1998, given the main protagonists' record of massive human rights abuses. Serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including large scale massacres of unarmed civilians, "disappearances" and torture, including rape, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions, have been committed by parties on both sides of the conflict.

Armed members and allies of the FAC and of the RCD are effectively waging war against unarmed and defenceless civilians. Human rights violations have been perpetrated by combatants in reprisal for losses they have suffered from their opponents. These reprisals have mainly targeted unarmed civilians not taking an active part in the conflict. Sexual violence appears to have been used as a weapon of war by the combatants on both sides, as well as massacres of civilians. It has been used by combatants to spread terror among the populations, and to destabilize community identity.

In response to the threat of RCD military gains, some Congolese government officials and media have fuelled a witch hunt against members of the Tutsi ethnic group, which has led to killings of unarmed civilians in Kinshasa, Kisangani, Uvira and other areas in the DRC. Captured combatants have been summarily executed (by the RCD and the FAC) in contravention of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law.

In November 1998, Amnesty International published a report, Democratic Republic of Congo: War against unarmed civilians, (AFR 62/36/98), to bring these violations to the attention of the international community. While the conflict has received some attention by the media and some foreign governments, very little has been said or done about its human rights dimension and the atrocities inflicted on the civilian population. The organization urged the main protagonists, their supporters, as well as the international community, to take immediate and effective action to end these abuses.

Amnesty International believes that although the current situation in the DRC is critical, there is still an opportunity to prevent further abuses against unarmed civilians. Foreign powers and others have provided arms or funds to buy them to parties to the armed conflict in the DRC. None of the countries that have supplied weapons to either side of the conflict have taken any steps to ensure that their weapons would not be used to perpetrate human rights abuses. They have also failed to acknowledge the role that these weapons have played in enabling armed forces in the Great Lakes region to commit human rights abuses.

Killings by government forces and allies

Killings of Tutsi, the mentally ill and people thought to be RCD supporters were reported in August 1998. Others targeted have included persons with red mud (purportedly not found near Kinshasa) on their footwear, and people in sports clothes. Burned bodies were seen by local fishermen floating in the Congo river, and others were thrown into the Ndjili river. People accused of being rebels were reportedly buried alive at Kintambo and Masina districts of Kinshasa. Other killings reportedly took place in Lingwala, Ndjili and Kimbanseke districts.

Zimbabwean and Angolan troops have reportedly killed civilians since August 1998 during indiscriminate shelling and serial bombing of Kinshasa suburbs, in particular in the populous districts of Masina, Kimbanseke, Ndjili, Kingasani and Mikonga. Similar indiscriminate shelling and bombing was also reported in other towns, including Kisangani, causing numerous civilian casualties.

In Kisangani, many unarmed civilians were reportedly killed by the FAC before the RCD took control of the city on 23 August. Most of the victims were apparently forced to wear military uniform before being executed, to make it seem as if the victims were killed in the context of military operations. In early September the RCD announced that it had uncovered the bodies of at least 150 Tutsi civilians killed by the FAC in the days preceding the RCD control of the area. Other sources said that some of the victims were members of the Nande, Hema and other eastern DRC ethnic groups.

During an attack on the town of Goma, the RCD stronghold in North-Kivu, on 12 September, a group of FAC allies reportedly including mai-mai, Rwandese interahamwe and other armed groups reportedly targeted a camp for the internally displaced and killed at least 12 defenceless Tutsi civilians. The victims were among Tutsi who had survived previous killings in Kisangani which took place just before the city fell to the RCD on 23 August.

On 3 September, members of the FAC and civilian youth gangs reportedly captured and burned alive an unspecified number of RCD combatants near a television mast in Kalémie. Many of the victims were reportedly former members the Forces armées zairoises (ex-FAZ), Zairian Armed Forces, of former President Mobutu Sese Seko.

Many of the people suspected of having links with the RCD, arrested by the FAC from August 1998 onwards, have "disappeared". Many people were taken by the FAC from Gombe, Binza, Ma Compagne, Ozone, and Pigeon districts in Kinshasa, as well as the area around the Institut pedagogique national (IPN). It is feared that they were killed.

Abuses by the RCD and their allies

Members of the RCD and their allies, particularly Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers, have carried out deliberate and arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians and executed captured armed opponents. They have abducted and unlawfully detained and ill-treated civilians. Some of the victims are women who have been raped.

A large group of RCD combatants killed more than 850 unarmed civilians at Kasika Roman Catholic parish and neighbouring areas in South-Kivu province in late August. Top RCD leaders announced in September that they would set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the killings in and around Kasika. It remains unclear whether such a commission had been set up and, if so, whether any investigation has taken place.

Around Mboko town, as many as 344 civilians were killed on 1 September 1998 by RCD combatants. On 6 September in Cirunga, Kabare town, as many as 152 civilians were deliberately and arbitrarily killed by the RCD following a mai-mai attack on RCD positions. The remaining civilians reportedly fled the town.

In reprisal for the burning to death of RCD combatants by FAC soldiers and civilian youth gangs the RCD reportedly killed dozens of unarmed civilians in Kalémie town around 4 and 5 September. Some of the victims were reportedly mutilated and left to die. Some entire families are reported to have been killed. Between December 1998 and April 1999, RCD combatants and their allies, carried out massacres at Makobola, Burhinyi, Kamituga and other parts of Southern Kivu province, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians in each incident.

The RCD has also been responsible for a series of abductions in eastern DRC. Many of the victims are reported to be Hutu civilians. Human rights sources in Bukavu reported in October that as many as two dozen people were being abducted daily by the RCD in the town. Those abducted, many of them Congolese Hutu, are reported to include children as young as three years old.

Some women have been killed in particularly heinous ways – such as some of the women murdered around Kasika parish, one of whom was found with a large stick protruding from her genitals. Many women and girls were reportedly raped prior to being murdered, while others were reportedly raped in detention and subsequently released. The bodies of many victims – both women and men – were found stripped naked.

Rape appears to have been used since August by the RCD as a war weapon as it captured Bukavu and other towns in eastern DRC. For example, an RCD commander reportedly ordered his combatants to rape women in the town. Seven cases were reported in Essence, two in Kibonge, including one 14-year-old girl who was attacked by four combatants, and 14 in Kadutu.

On 1 September, a curfew was instituted in Bukavu and the RCD launched a search operation in Kadutu district. At least 57 women and girls were arrested in this operation and taken to a secret location where they were reportedly raped.

On 25 March 1999, Amnesty International published a report, An old generation of leaders in new carnage (AFR 22/01/99), which details a deliberate campaign of killings, "disappearances" and abductions of civilians by government and armed opposition forces. Since August 1998, there has been heavier and more widespread fighting between government and armed opposition forces. Several hundred unarmed civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in the forests or in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Several dozen suspected government opponents, many of whom appear to be prisoners of conscience, have been detained without charge or trial. Cases of torture, ill-treatment and "disappearance" by government forces have also been reported. Some detainees have been extrajudicially executed in custody. During the 1997 civil war, the main prison in Brazzaville was rendered unusable. As a result, all Brazzaville detainees are held in cramped and harsh conditions in police stations in the capital.

Human rights defenders

In November 1998, Amnesty International expressed concern for the safety of Christian Mounzeo, Secretary General of the Observatoire Congolais des droits de l'homme (OCDH), Congolese Observatory of Human Rights, and other human rights activists, following threats and intimidation by government and security officials. Christian Mounzeo was arbitrarily arrested at Pointe-Noire airport on 15 November 1998. The police severely beat and tortured him before releasing him, without charge, the following day. The authorities did not give a reason for his arrest. Other members of the OCDH were threatened by government and security officials after the OCDH published a report on 4 November 1998 denouncing human rights abuses by government forces and armed opposition groups.

Suspected political opponents

Hervé-Ambroise Malonga, a lawyer, was arrested in late November 1998 and is held in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in a Brazzaville police station. His health is deteriorating and he is not being allowed access to proper medical care. He is detained in a small room with no light. He has a cyst on his left eyelid, which has reportedly become infected and swollen, preventing him from seeing with that eye. He appears to be a prisoner of conscience.

Hervé-Ambroise Malonga is President of the Brazzaville Bar Association and former member of the Constitutional Council under former President Lissouba. He was arrested, apparently by order of the Director General of the National Police, on 20 November 1998, released then rearrested the following day by armed members of the security forces and detained at the central police station. On 26 November, he was reportedly interrogated by an examining magistrate and charged with "abuse of authority by prolonging for an indefinite period the presidential mandate of Pascal Lissouba" (forfaiture pour avoir prorogé indéfiniment le mandat présidentiel de Pascal Lissouba). In June 1997 he and his colleagues on the Council had been asked by the government of the time to prolong the President's mandate, because elections due to take place in July and August 1997 could not be held because of the civil war between supporters of the government and those of Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is now President.

Former government officials detained without charge or trial include Henri-Marcellin Dzouma-Nguelet, a former law lecturer, and Colonel Jean-Michel Ebaka, former Prefect of Owando. They are held at the Kouilou regional headquarters of the security service known as the Direction de la surveillance du territoire (DST), Directorate of Territory Surveillance, in Pointe-Noire.

Their conditions of detention amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and they are frequently denied access to proper medical care.

Henri-Marcellin Dzouma-Nguelet, a former senior Ministry of Finance official in President Lissouba's government, was arrested on 25 February 1998 and questioned about his role in the war in October 1997. He denied playing any role in the war, explaining that he had stayed in Pointe-Noire throughout. Jean-Michel Ebaka was arrested on 12 March 1998. In July 1998, he told Amnesty International that he had never been formally informed of the reason for his arrest. A DST official accused him of involvement in genocide and interrogated him about his activities during the war as well as alleged atrocities in late 1997 against supporters of President Sassou.

Several government, security and judicial officials told Amnesty International that Jean-Michel Ebaka had been responsible for atrocities against civilians, claiming that he would soon be brought to trial. The officials failed to explain why he had not been charged with any offence after several months in custody. When Amnesty International delegates inquired about the reasons for their detention, some government officials, including those holding them in Pointe-Noire, claimed that they were being held at their own request for protection, while other officials denied that they were in custody. Other officials said that the detainees, particularly Jean-Michel Ebaka, had been responsible for human rights abuses and were to be prosecuted.

Military detainees

Several dozen members of the security forces believed by the authorities to have remained loyal to former President Lissouba were arrested in late 1997 and early 1998. Some were released in early 1998 and seven were released in November 1998 without charge or trial. At least 15 senior military officers, including Colonel Benjamin Loubaki and Colonel Marcel Mabiala, remain in custody at the Military Academy. Detainees at the Military Academy are reportedly often denied water, and their relatives are sometimes forced to pay money to soldiers to pass food on to them.

One military detainee, Colonel Eugène Mavoungou, was arrested by the Angolan authorities in early 1998 at Tchowa in northern Angola, where he had reportedly gone to see his sick father. Colonel Eugène Mavoungou was reportedly suffering from rheumatism and high blood pressure, for which he was not receiving medical care.

Other military detainees are also reportedly ill. For example, army Colonel Auguste Djoumbi, who before his arrest in June 1997 was the commander of the Mpila Armoured Regiment in Brazzaville, has diabetes.

In January 1999, Amnesty International published a report, Equatorial Guinea: A country subjected to terror and harassment, (AFR 24/01/99), highlighting continuing violations of human rights, including the repression of the Bubi ethnic group, the indigenous population of Bioko Island, unfair political trials and torture and ill-treatment by police and security forces.

Elections

Legislative elections were held on 7 March 1999. According to all reports, including by international electoral monitors, the elections were marked by irregularities, especially in remote areas of the mainland. For instance, people known to be supporters of opposition parties were not allowed to vote, while supporters of the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party, voted twice.

In some areas people were forced publicly to say who they were voting for. In other areas members of opposition parties monitoring the elections were expelled from the voting stations.

The ruling PDGE won the elections, obtaining 75 of the 83 seats in parliament (an increase of seven seats from the previous elections in November 1993). Two opposition parties, the Unión Popular (UP), Popular Union, and the Convergencia para la Democratia Social (CPDS), Convergence for Social Democracy obtained five and three seats respectively. These two parties, and five others contested the results in the Appeal Court (Tribunal de Apelación) which ruled on 10 April 1999 that the elections had been free and fair. They are now appealing to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the electoral law was violated. Both the CPDS and UP have said they will not take up their seats in parliament and are calling for a re-run of the elections.

In the run-up to the elections, more than 10 opposition party candidates were arrested. Amnesty International publicly called for their release, and for investigations into allegations that opposition party supporters had been beaten. They were all released. On the day of the election, at least 11 UP and CDPS election monitors were arrested and held incommunicado for several days.

Unfair trial and death penalty

On 9 September 1998, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo commuted the 15 death sentences passed on 1 June 1998 after a five-day summary military trial in May 1998 that did not meet international standards for fair trial. The 110 defendants were accused of involvement in attacks on military barracks on Bioko Island in January 1998.

An Amnesty International delegation observed the trial, and noted many irregularities rendering it unfair. Detailed observations are reproduced in Amnesty International's January 1999 report on Equatorial Guinea. The concerns raised include: the use of a military court to try civilians; questionable charges; the admittance by the court as evidence of statements manifestly obtained under torture and the court's refusal to order the investigation of allegations of torture; the trial of defendants who had apparently never been charged with an offence; irregularities in arrests which were ignored by the court; irregularities in the pre-trial investigation, including alleged corruption; and the systematic silencing of defence counsel by the court and disregarding of fundamental defence objections.

Prison conditions

Amnesty International remains very concerned about the prison conditions of the 80 members of the Bubi ethnic group sentenced by a military court after an unfair trial in June 1998. Many of them appear to be prisoners of conscience, arrested solely on account of their ethnic origin. They are being held in overcrowded cells in Malabo, the capital of the country, on Bioko Island. Eleven of them, whose death sentences have been commuted, are still held incommunicado and at least two of them are not receiving the medical treatment they need. Some 30 other Bubis were held without charge or trial in the police station in Malabo. They were arrested in late November 1998 on the suspicion they had helped alleged leaders of the January 1998 attacks to flee the country by boat. All were severely tortured during the first days of detention. They were released in March.

Amnesty International has urged the government to improve the prison conditions of these prisoners and to grant them access to an international humanitarian organization such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

ERITREA / ETHIOPIA

The border conflict

Between September 1998 and February 1999, there was little fighting in the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which had started in May 1998. There was sporadic shelling over the border areas towards the end of 1998 but no major clashes were reported until February 1999. Both sides used the period in which fighting had stopped to purchase arms and to prepare for war. It is estimated that up to 250,000 troops were stationed on both sides of the border. Ethiopia continued to deport thousands of people of Eritrean origin to Eritrea, and thousands of Ethiopians living in Eritrea returned to Ethiopia.

An Organization of African Unity (OAU) framework agreement for peace was accepted by Ethiopia in November 1998. This incorporated the main points of a joint United States and Rwandese proposal that called for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Badme area to positions held before 6 May 1998, the date that the conflict had started, and for the reestablishment of the previous civilian administration. This was to be followed by a demarcation of the border on the basis of colonial treaties and international law. Eritrea delayed acceptance of this agreement, seeking clarifications. Other diplomatic initiatives from several African states, the European Union and the United Nations Security Council sought to gain the backing of both countries for the OAU peace plan.

On 6 February 1999, fighting broke out again and quickly spread to the fronts of Badme, Zalembessa and Bure. Thousands of soldiers were killed and both sides claimed that civilians had been deliberately targeted. On 27 February, Eritrea announced that it would accept the OAU peace proposals and on 28 February, Ethiopia announced that it had taken back control of the "Badme triangle". Fighting died down, but by April 1999 neither side had declared a cease-fire and both were disagreeing over the terms of the OAU proposal. The OAU peace plan states that Eritrea should withdraw from "Badme and its environs". Eritrea has interpreted this to mean the Badme triangle, whereas Ethiopia is calling for Eritrea to withdraw from all the disputed areas, pending a cease-fire and negotiations.

Amnesty International representatives visited Ethiopia from in October 1998 and met government officials, representatives of the diplomatic community, international organizations and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The delegation travelled to Tigray and Afar regions to interview Ethiopians who had returned from Eritrea after the conflict started.

Amnesty International visited Eritrea from 11 to 22 January 1999. In Eritrea, the delegation met government officials, representatives of the diplomatic community and international organizations. The delegates also interviewed people of Eritrean origin who had been expelled from Ethiopia since the conflict started. The delegation travelled to Assab and to the border crossing with Ethiopia and was able to meet with people who had been expelled, as they arrived in Eritrea.

Following the visit to Eritrea, Amnesty International issued a news release on 29 January 1999 Amnesty International witnesses cruelty of mass deportations (AFR 25/02/99). This statement reported that Amnesty International had witnessed the arrival of a group of people of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia that took the numbers expelled to over 53,000. Amnesty International said that the mass expulsion of people of Eritrean origin threatened the entire Eritrean community in Ethiopia.

The report also said that there was no evidence to support the Ethiopian government's claim of a systematic policy of expulsion or torture of Ethiopians based in Eritrea.

On 14 February 1999, Ethiopia unexpectedly released 38 students on humanitarian grounds from detention in Bilattein camp. Amnesty International welcomed their release, but asked the Ethiopian authorities to release all those who could not be charged with a criminal offence. Amnesty International also called for both sides to grant full access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

War, peace and human rights

An Amnesty International delegation visited Guinea-Bissau in March 1999 to investigate human rights violations after fighting started on 7 June 1998.

The conflict began with a military revolt over the dismissal of the army chief of staff, Brigadier Ansumane Mané. Troops from Senegal and the Republic of Guinea supported President João Bernardo Vieira. Within weeks, most of Guinea-Bissau's armed forces had joined the self-styled Junta Militar, Military Junta. Despite a truce and cease-fire agreement in July and August, fighting broke out again in October and by the end of the month the Junta Militar controlled most of the country. A peace agreement was signed in Abuja, Nigeria, on 1 November 1998. West African ECOMOG peacekeeping troops were slow to arrive and there were four more days of very heavy fighting and shelling from 31 January to 3 February 1999.

By the time Amnesty International delegates arrived on 8 March 1999, 600 ECOMOG peacekeeping troops from Benin, Gambia, Niger and Togo had been deployed and a Government of National Unity had been sworn in on 20 February 1999. The last of the foreign troops reportedly left Bissau on 23 March.

Amnesty International delegates obtained further information about human rights violations over the previous nine months. Forces loyal to President Vieira had detained scores of civilians and soldiers whom they suspected of supporting the Junta Militar. There were also some reports of abuses by the Junta Militar. What remains unclear is what happened to soldiers who were captured by either side during the conflict.

Some of those arrested by personnel loyal to President Vieira were tortured and most were held in very harsh conditions. Periods of detention ranged from several hours to over six months. Some detainees were prisoners of conscience, arrested solely because they were caught listening to Radio Junta Militar or heard criticizing government policies.

Torture usually consisted of beatings at the time of their arrest. Victims were punched, kicked, lashed with a heavy military belt or given ‘coronhadas' - blows with the end of a gun butt. Cells were overcrowded and insanitary and conditions amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. At least three prisoners died in the Amura cells from wounds or illnesses. The cells in the navy headquarters reportedly flooded at high tide or after heavy rain and prisoners were forced to stand for long periods in water containing human waste.

Human rights violations by foreign soldiers

Senegalese troops were reported to have arrested, tortured and killed people they suspected of supporting the Junta Militar. Francisco Donga Sá was stabbed in the head with a bayonet when he tried to stop Senegalese troops harassing young girls in a Bissau street in September 1998. Soldiers harassed and ill-treated civilians at check-points: one young man stopped and questioned at a check point on the road to Prabis in September 1998 was reportedly whipped four or five times with a steel cable, which drew blood, and then made to carry 20kg building blocks.

Senegalese troops had a base in an area of Bissau known as Little Moscow, where they reportedly interrogated and sometimes tortured detainees. Feliciano Júlio Sami, was reportedly taken to Little Moscow in October after striking a Senegalese officer who wanted to site artillery in his yard. His body was found on 23 March 1999 in an abandoned building site not far from Little Moscow: his hands had been bound and his head was disfigured, possibly by a heavy blow.

Soldiers from the Republic of Guinea reportedly tortured detainees in Bafatá. Ana Maria Barbosa, a woman traffic police officer, three other police officers, a soldier and a civilian were accused of passing information to the Junta Militar, arrested and taken to a military barracks where they were reportedly tortured by Republic of Guinea soldiers. According to victims' reports, the soldiers tied their elbows tightly behind their backs with nylon cord and beat them severely. Guinea-Bissau officers then reportedly threatened to execute them. Those interviewed said that they were taken to a military barracks in the town of Gabu, in the east, and held for two days, still tied up and without food or water, while soldiers discussed their fate. They were released after the Junta Militar took control of Gabu in October 1998.

Rape and sexual abuse

There were several reports that Senegalese troops at check-points sexually assaulted women by touching them in sensitive areas. There were also some reports of rape by Senegalese soldiers.

Maria Helena was reportedly beaten and repeatedly raped by Guinea-Bissau police in the Second Squadron police station in Bissau in August. She showed Amnesty International's delegates scars and described how she was beaten on the head, arms and spine before being raped by several police officers. She was reportedly raped again on other occasions. She escaped after about five weeks in custody.

Human rights abuses by members of the Junta Militar

Amnesty International's delegates asked Junta Militar officials about reports of beatings and ill-treatment of foreign nationals arrested at the start of the war. The officials denied these reports and said that Brigadier Ansumane Mané had given orders that there should be no torture and no killings of prisoners.

Amnesty International remains concerned by reports that during the fighting some foreign nationals were held for short periods and beaten. Several civilians were reportedly arrested in Bafatá in December 1998 and January 1999 and questioned by Junta Militar personnel.

Can there be a new era for human rights in Guinea-Bissau?

In a public statement on 23 March 1999, Amnesty International said that it was encouraged by Prime Minister Francisco Fadul's assurances that the new Government of National Unity was committed to upholding human rights. The organization urged the international community to assist the country to promote a new culture of accountability and respect for human rights.

Amnesty International had previously called on the UN to deploy human rights officers in Guinea-Bissau and it welcomed the UN Security Council decision of 6 April 1999 to establish a UN office in Guinea-Bissau, to be known as UNOGBIS, which would specialize in the promotion and monitoring of human rights.

The Government of National Unity, which consists of appointees of both President Vieira and the Junta Militar, announced its program for the transitional period on 12 April 1999. It includes key changes which, if implemented in accordance with international human rights standards, will greatly increase protection for human rights in Guinea-Bissau. According to this program, the security police is to be replaced by a State information service which will have no powers to arrest or interrogate suspects; the Public Order Police is to be reformed and retrained and an ombuds office will be set up to receive any complaints about police behaviour. The method of appointing senior magistrates is to be changed to protect the independence of the judiciary and the government has undertaken to accede to international human rights treaties.

Constitutional reform stalled

Kenya's long awaited constitutional review process is currently stalled as political parties argue over their representation on the Review Commission. The Constitution of Kenya Review Commission Act was signed into law in December 1998 by President Moi, but it is unclear about the allocation of seats on the Commission to political parties, civil society groups and NGOs. The Review Commission is to make recommendations on all aspects of governance.

The current political stalemate plays into the hands of the government. There is also widespread unease about the scope of the Constitutional Review and the role that President Moi and KANU (Kenya African National Union – the ruling party) are playing. Opposition parties, churches and NGOs are split between backing a flawed process in order to see changes before the 2002 elections and waiting until President Moi's (probable) departure after the elections. The promise of Constitutional Reform is now delaying all other law reform, and some politicians are reinforcing ethnic tensions by calling for a federalist model for Kenya – which would be biased towards the majority ethnic group in each region.

For Amnesty International, constitutional change is an opportunity to support local NGOs and to raise specific human rights concerns – namely the death penalty, gender issues, torture by police and accountability for human rights violations.

It is also an opportunity to ensure that Kenya's international human rights obligations are enshrined in domestic law.

Violent repression of freedom of expression and assembly

The Constitutional Review provides for a nationwide program of civic education for Kenyans. Only the church, KANU and possibly one or two NGOs have the capacity to do this, although many NGOs can provide local civic education. President Moi has made statements throughout February 1999 criticizing NGOs as troublemakers and accusing them of being in the hands of foreign agents.

In recent months, police have violently attacked opposition MPs attending peacefull demonstrations opposed to governement policies. Some opposition groups believe that the orders for such activities by police must be coming from very senior level within the Kenyan government.

On 27 February 1999, three opposition members of parliament (MPs) were beaten by police in full riot gear, apparently at the command of the officer present, when they arrived to attend a meeting about farmers' problems in Eldoret and Rift Valley Province. The organizers of the meeting had informed the police that the meeting was going to take place, as they are required to do under reforms brokered before the 1997 general elections (which removed the requirement to obtain a police licence to hold meetings ).

The three MPs – Tabitha Seii, George Kapten and Elias Shill – approached the police inside the stadium to ask for information. A group of at least 10 police officers, in full riot gear with batons drawn, beat them until they fled.

The police then fired teargas into the crowd and neighbouring market areas and released police dogs. Stalls and goods were destroyed and many injuries were reported. A police spokesperson accused press reporters of inciting the violence and also denied that the incident took place.

In another incident on 13 April 1999, outspoken opposition MP James Orengo of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD – Kenya), was beaten by more than 40 riot police who shot into the air and fired tear gas in the local market at Ugunja, Nyanza province. Some of his supporters were reportedly seriously injured.

Throughout the night of 13 April, James Orengo was taken to a succession of police stations and a local chief's camp, without being allowed to communicate either with a lawyer or his family.

The next morning he was taken before a magistrate's court in Kisumu where he was charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer, two counts of malicious damage to property and two counts of inciting member of the public to violence, allegedly for acts undertaken during their earlier demonstration. Five of his supporters were also charged with creating a disturbance. They pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

James Orengo had earlier been involved in demonstrations about land allocation at Karura Forest in Nairobi, after which he was charged with similar offences.

Political rallies held on 24 April 1999 were violently disrupted by police and others. Two people, one a plainclothes police officer, were seriously injured during fighting in Ugunja town at a harambee (fundraising meeting) organized by Raila Odinga MP, leader of the National Development Party (NDP) which has developed close links with KANU. The two were reportedly beaten by NDP youth members, armed with whips, clubs and sling shots. Five people were reportedly arrested.

James Orengo, who had organized a rival political meeting at the same time, was detained by police at a road block about 5km outside Ugunja Town until the harambee ended. Police had declared Mr Orengo's rally illegal that morning to try to prevent it from going ahead. On reaching Ugunja town, Mr Orengo and his supporters addressed a crowd of approximately 3,000.

The police were are reported to have clubbed people indiscriminately as they ran for cover. It is also reported that the police beat two journalists covering the rally and smashed their car windscreens. Riot police charged at other journalists as they attempted to file their stories from nearby phone booths.

Elsewhere that same day, Social Democratic Party leader Charity Ngilu, MP, needed hospital treatment for her injuries after youth wing members of the ruling party KANU, threw stones at her car in Mutomo (in Nyambene District, eastern Kenya). Charity Ngilu was attending the count at a local by-election, during which KANU supporters allegedly handed out money to voters at the polling station.

Violations during renewed fighting

Tension was high between the government and groups formerly opposed to President Charles G. Taylor during the civil conflict. Such tension resulted in episodes of open fighting, the most serious of which occurred in September 1998.

On 18 September 1998 fighting broke out in Monrovia, when government armed forces entered an area controlled by men, mostly of Krahn ethnic origin loyal to Roosevelt Johnson, a former faction leader during the civil war. According to government sources, the aim of the intervention was to restore law and order and to evict people who were occupying houses illegally. The area was named Camp Johnson Road, and many people claimed to be at risk of rape, theft or attacks by Roosevelt Johnson supporters, who were acting with apparent impunity.

At least 52 people, and possibly several hundred, died as a result of the fighting. Among the casualties were armed supporters of Roosevelt Johnson as well as civilians, including at least two women. The precise number of casualties remains unclear: no official investigation has been carried out despite reports of mass graves.

Some of the victims may have been extrajudicially executed. Men, women and children, mostly of Krahn ethnic origin, were reportedly targeted by government security forces during house-to-house searches in the aftermath of the fighting. Some of the bodies retrieved reportedly had their hands tied behind their backs and bullet wounds. Others were reported to have died after the security forces opened fire on two churches where people had sought refuge. Casualties were also reportedly dragged out of ambulances by government soldiers.

Several people may have been extrajudicially executed in custody. In October 1998 a government spokesperson stated that 11 people had been killed on 22 September in what was described as a "shoot-out" between government soldiers and dissident troops trying to release their supporters from the Post Stockade in Monrovia's Barclay Training Centre. The delay in making public information about the alleged "shoot-out" and the refusal to return bodies to the victims' families raised fears that they may have been extrajudicially executed. At least some of the victims had reportedly been tortured.

Thousands of people, mostly of Krahn ethnic origin, fled to neighbouring countries after the fighting.

Treason trials

At least 34 people were charged with treason following the fighting in September. Nineteen defendants were arrested; five of whom were released after becoming state witnesses. Fourteen were tried while in detention. Amongst them were former political advisor to President Taylor Bai Gbala, former Senator James Chelly, former Presidential Affairs Minister under the transitional government Charles Breeze, former Transport Minister Armah Youlu, former Deputy Justice Minister David Gbala and former commander of the State House under President Samuel Doe, Edward Slanger.

Others were charged in absentia, including Roosevelt Johnson, former faction leader, and subsequently Minister for Rural Development and Ambassador to India in President Taylor's government. Roosevelt Johnson sought refuge in the US Embassy during the fighting in September 1998 and was subsequently flown out of Liberia. He is now believed to be in Nigeria.

On 2 April 1999, 13 of the defendants were convicted of treason, an offence carrying a mandatory sentence of death or life imprisonment. One defendant was acquitted. On 8 April the 13 convicted defendants were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment "without labour and molestation". The judge declared that the lenient sentencing was because of the "need for genuine reconciliation in the country". Leave to appeal was granted to the defence, which claimed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. The prosecution is also to appeal, on the ground that the sentences were illegal. It appears that the trial may have been marred by irregularities, and that some of the prisoners may have been ill-treated or tortured.

Another group of military officers was arrested in September 1998 and charged with treason also in connection with the September fighting. Nine are being tried by a Court Martial Board on charges of sedition.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders have been repeatedly threatened and harassed because of their work. In October 1998, President Taylor publicly criticized the Justice and Peace Commission of Liberia (JPC), a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO), because it called publicly for investigations into violations during the September fighting. President Taylor claimed that such calls damaged the country's international image. Four JPC staff members were summoned for questioning by senior government officials. In March 1999 JPC and FOCUS, a children's rights group, were sued by legislators from Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Kru and Bong counties after publishing a report on child slavery. The lawmakers said reports of forced labour by the JPC and FOCUS damaged the image of their counties, making it difficult to obtain international assistance. The legislators asked for damages of US$ 10 million .

Repression of the independent news media continued. In October 1998 the government prohibited Star Radio, a private radio station operated by a foreign NGO, from posting news bulletins on the Internet and broadcasting on short wave. The ban on Internet publishing was reversed shortly afterwards, but StarRadio's licence to use use short wave frequencies was withdrawn, thus limiting its broadcasts to Monrovia and the immediate vicinity.

Other issues

The security forces have reportedly been responsible for episodes of harassment and violence, including rape. In March 1999, members of the military, reportedly looking for a missing man, detained and beat elders in the village of Dambala, Grand Cape Mount county, near the Sierra Leone border. Villagers complained that the soldiers had raped several women and had looted money and goods. The alleged violations followed several hours of shooting in the village. Military authorities admitted that looting occurred but denied the allegations of violence and rape. They have reportedly set up an investigation in the episode; to this date, however, nobody has been brought to justice.

Liberia was accused of helping Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone in their conflict with the elected civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Liberian combatants are known to be fighting alongside RUF rebels, and arms are transferred through the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. In view of the appalling level of violence against civilians perpetrated by rebel forces in Sierra Leone, Amnesty International has called on all governments, including the Liberian government, to end military assistance to those committing human rights abuses in Sierra Leone. The Liberian government has repeatedly denied its involvement in the Sierra Leone conflict. In recent weeks it has publicly declared that Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone will be brought to justice in Liberia for their participation in RUF activities.

( See also Sierra Leone section.)

Amnesty International has repeatedly called for independent and impartial investigations in allegations of abuses, including extrajudicial executions and the use of torture, and for an end to impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations. Amnesty International has also called for respect for the rights of human rights defenders and the media to work without government interference.

Police and human rights

Amnesty International has welcomed recent developments in increasing protection for human rights in Mozambique, including a project to restructure and retrain the police. It has also urged the authorities to initiate prompt and thorough inquiries into human rights violations by the police and to bring to justice those suspected of carrying them out.

In 1997 the government of Mozambique had agreed a project to restructure and retrain the police coordinated by the United Nations Development Program and including assistance from the governments of Spain and the Netherlands. A major restructuring and retraining project was necessary to turn the police force into a professional, efficient organization capable of both combatting crime and protecting human rights.

Under the terms of the project, members of the Spanish Civil Guard trained 66 police trainers who subsequently trained 1,210 selected trainees, including over 100 women. The syllabus included courses on police ethics and human rights. Originally, the whole police force, estimated at 18,766 officers, was to be retrained over a seven-year period but the project has been scaled down for lack of funding.

Although there is evidence of improvement in police behaviour, especially in Maputo city where detainees are more likely to be brought before a magistrate within the required 48 hours, human rights groups, particularly the Liga Moçambicana de Direitos Humanos (LMDH), Mozambican Human Rights League, continue to receive numerous reports of human rights violations by police.

The case of a journalist, Fernando Quinova, who was detained twice for reporting on the death in police custody of a suspected thief, illustrates the problem. After Fernando Quinova's first detention in Chiure, Cabo Delgado province, in October 1998 police reportedly admitted that he had been detained illegally. Nevertheless he was again detained on 15 February 1999 and accused of slandering the police and "leaking information" and held until 6 March. The Prime Minister, Pascoal Mocumbi, reportedly announced on 9 April that the Ministry of Interior was taking action to remedy the matter and encouraged journalists to continue exposing abuses.

While a practice of carrying out investigations into human rights violations is developing, the process is slow and results are seldom published.

There was apparently no investigation into two reports of beatings by police in Hulene suburb of Maputo. A woman, Argentina Zacarias Valói, was badly beaten in July 1998 after her stepson, whom the police wished to interview, fled from the house. When Chico Camabaco tried to evade arrest in September, two police officers caught and beat him. His brother, Jaime Ernesto Camabaco was reportedly shot in the foot by an officer when he tried to stop the beating. Chico Camabaco and another man were reportedly beaten with whips and truncheons studded with spikes five days later.

Deaths in police custody

Oscar Marrengula, arrested on suspicion of armed robbery, was shot dead by police of the 7th Police Station in Matola, Maputo province, in May 1998. Police said he was shot when he tried to escape. According to reports, criminal investigation police had taken Oscar Marrengula from the police station on the night of his arrest so that he could assist them to gather evidence. They reportedly did not use handcuffs or any other precaution against escape. An investigation was initiated but the LMDH, which followed the case, noted long delays in submitting the reports on the incident to the judicial authorities.

Two people died in police custody in Nampula province in suspicious circumstances. The family of Rojora Mavira, a 65-year-old man who died in police custody in Nampula city in January 1998, reportedly received a death certificate dated 26 February 1998 which failed to state clearly the cause of his death. Ernesto Alberto died in the coastal town of Angoche on 26 May 1998. When his son was told of the death he was also reportedly told that his father's body had already been buried.

Other case taken up include the death of Benedito Luís Mucavel, Omar Ismael Cassamo Julaia and Leovilgildo.

In March 1999 Amnesty International published a report, Nigeria: Releases of political prisoners – questions remain about past human rights violations (AFR 44/01/99), which called on the government to review the cases of remaining political prisoners and release any prisoners of conscience among them; to revoke the State Security Decree and other military decrees which infringe on basic human rights; and to cooperate with appropriate UN officials in the investigation of past human rights violations in order to establish accountability and end impunity.

Following the death of former head of state General Sani Abacha in mid-1998, the new military government headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar has gradually released more than 140 political prisoners. Under a new "transition to civil rule" process, elections have been held and a civilian government is due to take power in May 1999.

Releases of political prisoners

In March 1999 the government announced the release of most remaining political prisoners. They included at least 39 prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience held in connection with alleged coup plots. At least three political prisoners are believed to remain in prison, two of them held since 1990.

The prisoners released in March 1999 had been imprisoned following secret and grossly unfair trials by Special Military Tribunals, appointed directly by the military head of state. Presided over by members of the military government, they denied defendants most rights of defence: defendants were detained incommunicado, in harsh conditions, without access to lawyers until the start of the trial; they were not allowed defence lawyers of their choice but only military lawyers; the trials were conducted almost entirely in camera; and there was no right of appeal to a higher or independent court.

1998 treason trial

The government ordered the release on 4 March 1999 of eight armed forces officers and six civilians convicted by a Special Military Tribunal in April 1998 in connection with an alleged coup plot. Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya, deputy head of state to General Abacha, said that he had been deliberately entrapped by the authorities. A week before the arrests, he had been the target of a failed assassination attempt, ordered by the government according to former security officials. Death sentences imposed on General Diya and five others were commuted following the death of General Abacha in June 1998.

Among those released was newspaper editor Niran Malaolu, who was held in solitary confinement throughout his 15-month imprisonment and reported being routinely beaten and kicked in custody. Also on the list of those released, marked "posthumous", was the name of Lieutenant-Colonel Olu Akinyode, who died in prison in unexplained circumstances in December 1998.

One prisoner from this group remains in detention. An official said Lieutenant-Colonel Ibrahim Yakassai, a medical doctor, was under investigation for giving press interviews from prison. He is reported to have alleged the complicity of former government officials in the unexplained death in custody in December 1997 of prisoner of conscience retired Major-General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, deputy head of state from 1976 to 1979 and a leading political figure in northern Nigeria. The legal status of his continued detention is unclear.

1995 treason trials

The remaining 17 prisoners convicted by a Special Military Tribunal in 1995, all armed forces officers, were pardoned and released on 4 March 1999. One of the civilians convicted of treason in 1995 but released earlier was retired army General Olusegun Obasanjo, who won presidential elections on 27 February 1999.

Released prisoners have corroborated reports by former government officials that the alleged coup plot was a government fabrication used to imprison government critics, journalists and other human rights defenders. There has been no official explanation or investigation into the deaths of two prisoners of conscience convicted in these trials, General Yar'Adua and Staff Sergeant Patrick Usikekpo, who died in December 1997, reportedly in a prison typhoid epidemic.

Some former prisoners have described being tortured and ill-treated. Colonel Lawan Gwadabe named police and armed forces officers who reportedly ordered and carried out the torture. He described being suspended by ropes and a pole, in an attempt to coerce a false confession, which resulted in him being paralysed for nearly two months. Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Azuka Igwe reported after his release that he continued to suffer partial paralysis as a result of torture and that his health had been damaged by serving three-and-a-half years in an overcrowded cell.

1990 treason trials

Following the releases on 4 March 1999, there were protests from local human rights groups at the continued imprisonment of 10 prisoners in connection with a coup attempt in 1990, after which 69 armed forces officers were executed. On 23 March 1999 the authorities announced the release of eight of the 10 former officers. Six had been sentenced to death, their sentences later commuted to life imprisonment, and two had been acquitted but re-detained.

However, not released were two retired armed forces officers whose sentences of life imprisonment had been commuted to 10 years' imprisonment: retired Trooper Innocent Ofem Anang and retired Lance Corporal Lucky Iviero.

These 10 officers were tried and acquitted twice on charges of treason or concealment of treason before being convicted in October 1991 after a third trial. In March 1992 the government reportedly pardoned them all, but they were not released. In July 1997 the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered seven of them to be released but the orders were ignored. In October 1998 Turner Ochuko Ogboru, a civilian relative of one of the alleged organizers of the coup attempt, was released; a 1994 High Court order for his release had previously been ignored.

The 1984 State Security Decree

The government has not revoked the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree, No. 2 of 1984, which allows indefinite detention without charge or trial of those deemed to have threatened the security or the economy of the state. It has justified this on the grounds that the decree is not currently being used. On 20 March 1999 the Minister of Justice said that no-one was currently detained under the Decree, and that detained bank officials, some held without trial since 1996, were detained under the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Decree, No. 18 of 1994. He said this decree would be amended to allow release on bail.

Past human rights violations

Victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders in Nigeria have called for investigations into the deaths in custody of political prisoners and political killings. Two journalists who disappeared in 1996 are also feared to have been extrajudicially executed.

Senior security officials arrested following the death of General Abacha are reported to have told an internal military inquiry in 1998 about their involvement in human rights violations. These included the establishment of a hit squad to kill government opponents, the extrajudicial executions of leading opposition critics, in particular Alfred Rewane in October 1995 and Kudirat Abiola in June 1996, and the framing of defendants in the 1995 and 1998 treason trials.

However, no charges have been brought against any of the officials identified during the inquiry and the government has said that there will no independent investigations into past human rights violations.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

The first rulings of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) set a historic precedent. For the first time, an international court had applied the Genocide Convention of 1948, sending a message to the international community that genocide will not be tolerated.

On 4 September 1998, Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister of the interim government in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

On 2 September, Jean‑Paul Akayesu, former mayor of Taba commune, was found guilty of nine of the 15 counts for which he was indicted, including genocide, incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity (including extermination, murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts). He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 2 October 1998. His conviction broke new ground in recognizing rape and sexual violence as capable of constituting genocide if committed with the specific intent of destroying a particular targeted group.

On 5 February 1999, Omar Serushago, leader of the interahamwe militia in Gisenyi préfecture during the genocide, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

Amnesty International publicly welcomed these first rulings of the ICTR, established in response to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, in which as many as one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. However, while noting the complexity of these cases, Amnesty International expressed regret that it had taken the ICTR so long to issue its first judgment, and stressed the enormity of the remaining task ahead ‑ both for the ICTR and for trials currently underway in Rwanda.

Within Rwanda itself, more than 130,000 detainees are awaiting trial by the national courts on charges relating to the 1994 genocide. Most are detained in appalling conditions, often amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Several hundred have been tried by these courts, and 22 of those sentenced to death were executed in April 1998.

Arrest of two opposition politicians

Two opposition politicians, members of the Mouvement démocratique républicain, (MDR), Democratic Republican Movement, have been arrested in early 1999. Both men have openly voiced their disagreement with certain government policies, notably during discussions on reconciliation and elections.

Bonaventure Ubalijoro, the former president of the MDR and an official under previous governments, was arrested on 27 February 1999 and detained at the brigade (gendarmerie detention centre) at Remera, a district of Kigali. A prominent critic of the current government, he faces various accusations, including sympathizing with armed opposition groups in Rwanda and involvement in massacres of Tutsi in the 1960s. He was transferred to Kimironko Prison in Kigali on 6 April 1999.

Eustache Nkerinka , an MDR member of parliament, was dismissed from the parliament, the Transitional National Assembly, on 9 March 1999, after sustained pressure from the Prime Minister (who is also a member of the MDR). Two other MDR parlementarians were also dismissed. Eustache Nkerinka has been under house arrest since 22 March; initially he was not allowed to speak to any visitors. The restriction was later lifted but he remains under house arrest and his house guarded by soldiers. He is facing various accusations included forgery, collaboration with armed opposition groups and involvement in massacres in the 1960s. Eustache Nkerinka escaped an apparent assassination attempt in Kigali in June 1997, and his home has been attacked and searched on several occasions since 1995.

Neither Bonaventure Ubalijoro nor Eustache Nkerinka is known to have been formally charged with any criminal offence. On 7 April 1999, however, during a public speech to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, President Pasteur Bizimungu is said to have accused Bonaventure Ubalijoro of being responsible for massacres in the 1960s.           

The MDR is one of several political parties that sit in the Transitional National Assembly, which was put in place after the current government came to power in Rwanda in July 1994. The MDR is effectively split into two factions, one of which has been critical of the government and gradually marginalised, while the other, led by Prime Minister Pierre-Célestin Rwigema, broadly supports the policies of the government.

Arrest of journalist

John Mugabi was arrested on 26 February 1998 in Kigali in connection with an article he had written in the newspaper The Newsline. In the article, the Secretary‑General in the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant‑Colonel Frank Rusagara, was accused of being involved in financial dealings, including possible misappropriation of funds. Frank Rusagara subsequently took legal action against John Mugabi, and the prosecutor ordered his arrest.

John Mugabi is currently detained at Kimironko prison in Kigali and has been charged with libel and obstruction of justice. It appears that John Mugabi is detained because of criticism of a government official, and because he refused to disclose confidential sources. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has written to the Minister of Defence expressing concern about this case.

In November 1998 Amnesty International published a report, Sierra Leone: 1998 – a year of atrocities against civilians (AFR 51/22/98), which detailed human rights abuses, in particular by rebel forces of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The report made specific recommendations to rebel forces, the government and the international community for ending human rights abuses and ensuring the protection of human rights in the future.

Rebel incursion into Freetown

By the end of 1998 rebel forces had advanced towards the capital, Freetown. Despite resistance by West African ECOMOG forces, on 6 January 1999 rebel forces invaded Freetown and took control of the centre of the city. In the weeks which followed, rebel forces repeated in Freetown the atrocities which they had inflicted on civilians in the east and north of the country during 1998: deliberate and arbitrary killing, mutilation, rape and abduction. On 14 January 1999 Amnesty International publicly called on rebel forces to respect international humanitarian law and to end gross human rights abuses against civilians. There was extensive destruction of property, particularly in the east of Freetown. Up to 200,000 people became homeless in and around Freetown.

Thousands of civilians sought to flee as rebel forces advanced towards Freetown, many travelling by boat to Conakry in Guinea. On 5 January 1999 a boat carrying some 200 people was prevented from docking in Conakry and returned to Sierra Leone. Amnesty International called on the Guinean government not to forcibly return Sierra Leoneans who were in danger of gross human rights abuses.

Although rebel forces were subsequently forced from Freetown by ECOMOG forces, fighting continued in the north and east of the country. Some towns, such as Makeni in Northern Province, remained under the control of rebel forces although ECOMOG forces were reported to have retaken control of key towns as Koidu and Segbwema in Eastern Province.

When they entered Freetown, rebel forces stormed the Central Prison in Pademba Road and released all prisoners, including the 53 civilians awaiting hearings of their appeals against death sentences imposed in 1998. Most released prisoners gave themselves up or were recaptured by ECOMOG forces. Among those who remained free, however, were former President Joseph Saidu Momoh and journalist Hilton Fyle.

Deliberate and arbitrary killing of civilians

The United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) estimated that up to 5,000 people, at least 2,000 of them civilians, were killed in Freetown. Medical authorities subsequently put the figure of those killed at over 6,000 .

Many civilians were killed while being used by rebel forces as human shields or because they refused to demonstrate in support of rebel forces. Others died trying to protect family members from death or rape. Many civilians were burnt to death when their homes were set alight.

Although many killings appeared to be arbitrary and carried out under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some of those killed were deliberately targeted. More than 200 police officers were killed, including 11 policemen stabbed to death in the centre of Freetown. Rebel forces arrived in Freetown with lists of those to be sought and killed; they included prominent members of the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights and the Sierra Leone Council of Churches. Lawyers, including the Solicitor General, journalists, government ministers and Nigerian nationals were also targeted. When the mother of a lawyer refused to tell rebel forces where her son was, she was shot.

Mutilation and rape

Many hundred civilians, including women and children, suffered amputation of their limbs or other forms of mutilation. In February 1999 medical staff at hospitals in Freetown were reported to be treating some 500 victims of amputation and mutilation. It was likely that many others died before reaching medical assistance.

Rape and other forms of sexual abuse against women and girls were systematic and widespread. Young women and girls were deliberately rounded up and gang-raped by rebel forces. According to a witness who had been abducted by rebel forces, women and girls held captive were told to submit to rape or otherwise be killed.

Abduction

Rebel forces abducted large numbers of civilians, including children, from Freetown. Some were selected for training as fighters, others used as porters to carry looted goods. Women and girls were used for sexual purposes. By mid-February1999, some 1,750 children were reported missing by their families; most were believed to have been abducted by rebel forces.

Several prominent Sierra Leonean figures, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Freetown, and foreign nationals, who included Roman Catholic priests and nuns, were abducted by rebel forces from Kissy in the east of Freetown. Though most managed to escape, at least eight foreign nationals were killed and two seriously injured.

Human rights violations by ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Forces (CDF)

ECOMOG forces, together the civilian militia which supports President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the Civil Defences Forces (CDF), also committed human rights violations although on a much smaller scale than rebel forces. Amnesty International called on both ECOMOG forces and the CDF to respect international humanitarian law.

After the rebel incursion there were many reports of extrajudicial executions by ECOMOG forces of captured rebels or suspected rebels, often after the most cursory interrogation. One reported victim was an eight-year-old boy found in possession of a pistol. ECOMOG forces were reported to have summarily executed 22 captives on Aberdeen Bridge on 13 January 1999. Shortly afer rebel forces entered Freetown the CDF summarily executed six alleged rebels at Kingtom.

Ill-treatment, including by being beaten, whipped, tied extremely tightly and subjected to various forms of public humiliation, was common at ECOMOG and CDF checkpoints in Freetown.

At least 10 Sierra Leonean staff of humanitarian aid organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were arrested and detained by ECOMOG forces, accused, without any evidence, of cooperating with rebel forces. Most were beaten. Humanitarian organizations' communications equipment was confiscated. Amnesty International called for humanitarian agencies to be allowed to assist civilians in Freetown in safety.

The United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL)

UNOMSIL evacuated to Conakry following the rebel incursion into Freetown. Less than two weeks later, as atrocities reached unprecedented levels in the capital, reports were received of plans to significantly reduce the number of UNOMSIL human rights officers. Amnesty International issued a news release on 22 January 1999 – Sierra Leone: UN human rights presence reduced as abuses worsen (AFR 51/03/99)- saying that it was more urgent than ever to monitor and report human rights abuses in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General reported on UNOMSIL to the Security Council on 5 March 1999, detailing human rights abuses by rebel forces. The Security Council agreed to extend UNOMSIL's mandate for three months to June 1999 and to maintain three human rights officers. In March 1999 UNOMSIL staff returned to Freetown.

External support for rebel forces

Liberia was widely accused of providing arms, ammunition and combatants to rebel forces in Sierra Leone, including by the United Kingdom and the USA. ECOMOG commanders also repeatedly accused both Liberia and Burkina Faso of being involved in the conflict. President Charles Taylor of Liberia denied that his government was providing support to rebel forces and the government of Burkina Faso also denied any involvement.

Following a visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia in December 1998 a senior UN official said that arms and ammunition were crossing into Sierra Leone from neighbouring countries, including Liberia, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1171 (1998) of 5 June 1998.

Following the rebel incursion into Freetown, Amnesty International repeated its call on all governments to take all possible measures to end military assistance to those committing human rights abuses in Sierra Leone.

Moves towards peace

The rebel incursion into Freetown in January 1999 added urgency to seeking a political solution to the conflict and intensive diplomatic activity within West Africa ensued. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sierra Leone was involved in a series of diplomatic efforts aimed at strengthening ECOMOG while also opening up dialogue with rebel forces. The government agreed to allow the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, sentenced to death in October 1998 for treason, to meet other leaders of the RUF in April 1999 in Lomé, Togo.

In early April 1999 the government organized a national consultative conference on the peace process, bringing together some 100 participants from different sectors of society. The conference concluded there should be no power-sharing with rebel forces before the next elections.

The Abidjan peace accord, signed by the government and the RUF in November 1996, was suggested as a basis for renewed negotiations. This agreement, however, granted a blanket amnesty to rebel forces. Amnesty International called for human rights to be at the centre of any peace process and for the imperative to end the fighting not to be at the expense of establishing accountability for human rights abuses and bringing those responsible to justice.

Preserving human rights gains

On 19 March 1999, two days prior to South Africa's Human Rights Day celebrations, Amnesty International issued a public statement calling on the government, members of parliament and opposition party leaders to continue searching for solutions to criminal and political violence within the framework of the rights entrenched in the Constitution and in the important international treaties which South Africa has ratified.[1]

The statement reflected Amnesty International's concern that many South Africans are calling for the return of the death penalty and other solutions such as corporal punishment which conflict with human rights, in response to disturbingly high levels of criminal violence and its traumatic effect on victims and whole communities. The organization reiterated its oppositon to the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation of the right to life and as a cruel and inhuman punishment.

Amnesty International has called on the government, opposition leaders, and all sectors of the justice system, with the support of the international community, to undertake urgent reforms of the criminal justice system. Most vital is the reform of the South African Police Service (SAPS) through retraining, providing new equipment and improving salaries for its members. These steps are essential to restoring public faith in the rule of law and increasing respect for human rights.

According to the Constitutional Court, the South African Human Rights Commission and civil society organizations, crime can be most effectively addressed through improving the criminal justice system by giving its personnel adequate resources and proper professional training. In its 1995 ruling on the death penalty the Constitutional Court emphasized that: "[T]he greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended, convicted and punished. It is that which is presently lacking in [South Africa's] criminal justice system; and it is at this level and through addressing the causes of crime that the State must seek to combat lawlessness".

Political violence

In its March statement Amnesty International also expressed concern at the rising level of politically motivated violence, some of which is connected to the forthcoming general elections in June 1999, and at the failure of the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. Some government and political leaders have appealed in recent months to local communities to accept that everyone has the right to enjoy peaceful political activity and expression of their political views without fear of intimidation and violence.

It is necessary at the same time for the government to increase its efforts to ensure the effective and independent investigation of politically motivated killings and other violence, particularly in KwaZulu Natal and the Cape Town area, and to bring those responsible to justice.

Amnesty International has supported efforts to improve the standard of police investigations through the establishment of specialised units of police investigators working in close coordination with lawyers from the Prosecution Service (see, for instance, SOUTH AFRICA The criminal justice system and the protection of human rights: the role of the prosecution service, February 1998, AFR 53/01/98). It therefore welcomed the 1998 appointment of investigative directorates on political violence and organized crime, under the authority of the national Director of Public Prosecutions. In the present context, strengthening the capacity of these directorates and similar units, along with improving witness protection programs and the resources and training provided to the SAPS, for instance, needs to be widely supported.

In Amnesty International's view these steps would provide some means of addressing the problems of political violence within the framework of the Constitution. Publicly debated alternatives have included resorting to drastic measures such as provisions for detention without trial in an anti‑terrorism law. This method of investigation is closely associated with past patterns of systematic torture and ill‑treatment, as documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The return to such methods would put South Africa in breach of its obligations under international human rights law. It would also undermine existing efforts at transforming the police service into an agency capable of successfully investigating crime without resorting to violence.

The importance of maintaining commitment to the rights entrenched in the Constitution is underscored by continuing credible allegations of direct and indirect involvement of police, military or intelligence agents in politically motivated killings, beatings, torture, bomb attacks and other violence. On 20 April, in reaction to a BBC broadcast of filmed evidence of police abuses in South Africa, Amnesty International issued a statement noting that the abuses documented in the film were consistent with corroborated information received by the organization, some of which was gathered during a visit to Gauteng, ZwaZulu Natal and Western Cape provinces in April 1999.[2] Amnesty's information concerned incidents which implicated specialised police units and members of the South African National defence Force (SANDF). The alleged abuses include the use of lethal force against individuals who had surrended or were not posing a threat to life, beatings during raids on homes or after arrest, and the infliction of cigarette burns, electric shocks and suffocation torture on detained suspects and the indiscriminate use of police dogs to inflict serious injuries on arrested or fleeing suspects.

Some of these abuses were associated with the withholding of information on the wherabouts of the arrested person, apparently to hinder family, medical and legal access to the detainee. As Amnesty International noted in its statement, these practises reflect a survival of past habits, a reliance upon coercive methods in crime investigation which can only contribute to failures in the prosecution of crime through the courts.

Amnesty International called on the government to ensure that incidents of human rights abuses by the security forces are vigorously investigated. Where the allegations are well‑founded, suspected perpetrators must be suspended from duty in order to protect the integrity of investigations and the safety of witnesses. If convicted they must be barred from any positions of authority over persons in custody and from the use of force or firearms.

At the same time the government should fully support police or military officers who undertake their duties in a professional manner consistent with the law and the Constitution, or who speak out against unlawful activities by their colleagues. Amnesty International is also concerned that the government should ensure the safety of those members of civil society working to expose illegal activities by security force members or officials.

Comments:
Africa Update provides a snapshot of Amnesty International's main concerns in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published every six months: this report covers the period September 1998 - March 1999. Not every country features in each of the Updates; rather each Update provides an overview of the actions which Amnesty International has taken to document and publicise human rights abuses over the period. This edition of Africa Update also provides an overview of our work on a number of topics. In this issue, the emphasis is on our work with human rights defenders and with the Organization of African Unity and the African Commission. Work with the World Council of Churches is also featured.

This 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.