Re: The treatment of 122 defendants
To: Theo-Ben Gurirab
From: Heather Nuan, LRWC
I write to respectfully express LWRC’s concerns about the treatment of the 122 defendants standing trial on charges of connection with the secessionist Caprivi uprising of August 1999 in Namibia.
Our particular concerns are as follows:
1. Substantial allegations of torture, which if true, would mean Namibia is in clear breach of its own Constitution as well as international obligations under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 7), and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 2,4) and the African Charter on Human and People’s rights (Article 5) to which it is a party. The prohibition on torture is also found in Article 8 of the Namibian Constitution.
2. Potential breaches of Namibia’s obligations under international and national law to ensure minimum standards of detention and imprisonment. There is fear that prisoners have been kept in unsanitary conditions and have been denied basic medical supplies. Under the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of all form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Article 10 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article four and five of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights Namibia is obliged to ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and held in reasonable conditions.
3. Concern that evidence obtained under duress including torture will be used against the defendants in trial. We respectfully remind you that this would be in breach of Namibia’s international human rights obligation under UN Convention against Torture and other Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
4. Concern that the right to fair hearing has been jeopardized. Under the ‘common purpose’ doctrine the presumption of innocence until proven guilty appears to no longer apply, in breach of Namibia’s international obligations under Article 14 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 7(1)(b) of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights.
5. Serious concerns that the inordinate delay in bringing these individuals to trial will prevent a fair trial.
LWRC requests that the government of Namibia:
a) take steps to ensure that the trials will be expedited and that all the measures to ensure that the defendants are given a fair trial are observed;
b) publicize the government’s investigations into torture, hold the individuals concerned accountable and instigate the proper measures of redress for victims.