Namibia - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA

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Head of state and government: Hifikepunye Pohamba
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Civil society organizations expressed alarm at the high level of violence against women and children. The ruling South West African Peoples' Organisation (SWAPO) party refused to discuss abuses committed at its camps before independence. Little progress was made concerning an investigation into several mass graves near the Angolan border. Suspects detained in connection with a separatist attack in the Caprivi region in 1999 spent their seventh year in jail as their trial entered its third year.

Background

A cabinet committee appointed to deal with mass graves from the 1966-89 liberation war had not taken a decision on the matter by end of 2006. An opposition call to debate the imprisonment and torture of hundreds of SWAPO members in SWAPO camps in Angola before independence was rejected by the ruling party in October. SWAPO used its parliamentary majority to dismiss the Congress of Democrats' motion before it could be debated, claiming that such a discussion could undermine the policy of national reconciliation.

Violence against women and children

In October the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) released figures showing that the number of reported rapes more than doubled between independence in 1990 and 2005. Civil society organizations termed the high level of child rapes a "national emergency" and called for increased education and reform of the police and justice system.

Freedom of expression

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote to the government in August requesting clarity about threatening remarks made by the President of SWAPO and Namibia's former President Sam Nujoma in reaction to demands for compensation from former combatants. Human rights activists attending a SWAPO rally in Katutura on 30 July reported that the former President had made death threats against two female war veterans - Ruusa Malulu, chairperson of the National Committee on the Welfare of Ex-Combatants, and Lapaka Ueyulu, a radio announcer.

Action on corruption

The government established an Anti-Corruption Commission in February. Despite criticisms that it was under-resourced, the Commission started to make arrests and several cases involving lower to middle ranking government officials were before the courts.

Caprivi detainees

The trial of 119 people charged with involvement in the 1999 separatist attacks in the Caprivi region entered its third year. Most of the accused had been detained for seven years. Police officers accused of torturing suspects detained in the wake of the attacks had not been subject to any formal charges or disciplinary action.

In September the government outlawed the United Democratic Party, which supports secession for the Caprivi region. The party is the political wing of the Caprivi Liberation Army, which launched the attack on the town of Katima Mulilo in the north-eastern region in 1999.

Access to AIDS treatment

In December 2006 President Pohamba told a World AIDS Day gathering that 22,000 AIDS patients were receiving anti-retroviral drugs, while about 50,000 Namibians were estimated to be in need of anti-retroviral treatment.