The long-running treason trial of Caprivi detainees continued, with most of the men having spent more than 12 years in custody. Members of the ruling South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) continued to enjoy impunity for abuses against their political opponents. Ethnic minorities faced marginalization and exclusion from decision-making processes.
The last of the 379 witnesses in the Caprivi high treason trial gave testimony and the prosecution closed its case in the High Court on 7 February. The 111 men remaining on trial faced a total of 278 charges, including high treason, nine counts of murder and 240 charges of attempted murder in connection with an alleged conspiracy to secede the Caprivi region from Namibia between January 1992 and December 2002. After the closure of the prosecution’s case, one of the suspects, Rodwell Kasika Mukendwa, who was arrested on 26 August 1999, was acquitted on 10 August 2012.
Amnesty International considered that many of the Caprivi detainees were possible prisoners of conscience because they were arrested solely on the basis of their actual or perceived political views, ethnicity or membership of certain organizations. The group was being tried under what is known as the “common purpose” doctrine, which essentially relieves the prosecution of having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that each participant committed conduct which contributed causally to the ultimate unlawful consequence. The doctrine shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendants and undermines the right to presumption of innocence.Top of page
The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were violated by the Namibian police and members of SWAPO.
Most prisons and detention centres remained overcrowded, with some holding more than twice the intended number. Windhoek Central Prison, which was designed to hold 912 inmates, contained approximately 2,000 inmates and pre-trial detainees. Similar conditions prevailed in Ondangwa, Swakopmund, Oshakati and Otjiwarango towns.Top of page
Gender-based violence remained a serious concern. Many women were killed by their partners in domestic disputes.
In September, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples visited Namibia, highlighting the continued marginalization of the country’s minorities. Children of the San and Ovahimba peoples, and other ethnic minorities, face numerous barriers preventing them from accessing education. This is particularly the case in Opuwo among the Ovahimba children, who are forced to cut their hair and to not wear traditional dress to attend public schools.Top of page