A long-running treason trial showed no sign of coming to a conclusion. Women and girls faced systemic discrimination and Indigenous communities continued to live in extreme poverty. Mass graves were found in the north of the country.
Government officials from the ruling South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) repeatedly accused the opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), a political party founded in late 2007, of promoting tribalism. The RDP was the most significant political challenge to SWAPO since Namibia’s independence in 1990.
"Prisons were overcrowded, juveniles were held together with adult offenders..."
Caprivi treason trial
There was no end in sight for the Caprivi treason trial, which started in 2004 following attacks carried out in the Caprivi Strip in 1999 by a secessionist group, the Caprivi Liberation Army. Most of the 117 people on trial spent their ninth year in detention. By the end of 2008, the prosecution had still not closed its case.
None of the police officers accused of torturing suspects detained in the wake of the Caprivi uprising faced any formal charges or disciplinary action. Three civil claims against the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Defence were settled out of court in October. Derick Ndala, Sylvester Ngalaule and Herbert Mutahane said they had been assaulted, tortured and unlawfully detained after attacks at Katima Mulilo on 2 August 1999.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reiterated its concern that aspects of the customary laws of certain ethnic groups discriminated against women and girls, including laws pertaining to marriage and inheritance. It also expressed concern about discrimination in access to education, as well as the high illiteracy rate among marginalized parts of the population. The Committee was also concerned about the extreme poverty of the Indigenous communities.
Prison conditions fell below international standards. Prisons were overcrowded, juveniles were held together with adult offenders, and inmates lacked access to hygiene products and nutritious food. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prisons was estimated to be at least as high as the national rate of 29 per cent. This was attributed to inadequate access to health care, including HIV/AIDS testing and counselling and anti-retroviral treatment. The Namibian Parliament has dismissed several proposals to allow condoms in prisons.
Discovery of mass graves
Mass graves were reportedly discovered in northern Namibia and southern Angola, apparently containing the bodies of people unlawfully killed between 1994 and 2002 by Namibian and Angolan security forces. Suspected supporters of the Angolan armed group the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), were allegedly targeted by the security forces, particularly in the late 1990s and in early 2000.
The existence of the graves was reported in September by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). On 1 October, the Minister of Safety and Security said that the government already knew about the graves. A police investigation launched by the government in October was criticized by the NSHR for its alleged lack of independence and failure to include independent forensic experts.