Armed forces humiliate, assault civilians

Incidents alarming

27 April 2020 | Others

Windhoek • [email protected]

Five Namibians hailing from the Erongo and Oshana regions have instituted legal action with the help of lawyer Norman Tjombe against the Namibian police and army alleging violent and degrading assaults, human rights abuses and unlawful arrests during April.

Dozens of civil lawsuits relating to rights violations arose from previous dual police and army operations Kalahari Desert and Hornkranz.

In legal papers, Reinhold Tangeni Uusiku is suing the police and Namibia Defence Force (NDF) after he was forced to roll on the ground in the mud, while a homebrewed drink was poured over him. The shocking scene at Eheke-Etemba village in the Oshana region gained wide-spread public attention earlier this month on social media.

Uusiku’s draft particulars of claim accuse the armed forces present at the scene on 6 April of kicking and punching him. He says he was also whipped with a sjambok. Then he was ordered to lie on the ground and drinks poured over him while they mocked him.

Uusiku writes that he suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma during and after the event. He felt “humiliated, traumatised and degraded.”

He is also suing for the damage to property and the violation of his right to privacy, accusing the armed forces of entering his home without a legal warrant.

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga at the time condemned the incident in strong terms. He said while some uniformed personnel were doing a great job of acting respectfully towards civilians, others behaved unprofessionally and not within the mandate of the police.

Broken

Two days earlier, on 4 April, a group of police and soldiers are accused of violently assaulting Jesaja Nelumbo Hango so severely he fractured his arm and required surgery at a private hospital in Swakopmund.

Hango, a Rössing Uranium mine electrician, states in his draft particulars of claim that the incident left him in physical and psychological pain and he felt “traumatised and degraded”.
The assault took place in full view of the public, aggravating the injuries sustained to his dignity.

Currently, Hango intends to ask the court to award him N$1 million in damages, though this amount may still change.

On the same day of Hango’s assault, Swakopmund police are also accused of attacking Ruben Asser and Simson Simon. In their draft legal papers, the duo say the police “forced [us] to lay down and roll in dusty sand” in the DRC informal settlement of Swakopmund, near the Mondesa police station. They were also kicked and punched beforehand.

This assault was captured on camera and widely shared on social media, their draft particulars of claim state, adding to their humiliation and pain.

Asser and Simon each sustained severe injuries on their bodies, including lacerations, bruises and the assault left them humiliated, degraded and traumatised.

Unjust

Three days later, on 7 April in Henties Bay, Ashley Friedburgh writes in draft particulars of claim that he was unlawfully arrested and detained by police and soldiers near the Henties Bay police station.

Friedburgh says he was “repeatedly hit with a whip on his back” and forced to “do strenuous physical exercises”. He suffered severe injuries, including lacerations and bruising on his back, and sore muscles. The incident also left him humiliated, fearful and degraded.

In none of the cases was it possible to name the culprits who assaulting and degraded the applicants.

Tjombe last week confirmed that his clients' legal cases are underway and that the defendants were given the required written notices of the claims against them. The summonses will be filed in court in mid-May.

This month the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) released a “Your rights in a global pandemic” publication.

They underlined that despite the State of Emergency and the lockdown, security forces “are expected, in carrying out their designated duties, to ensure that no human rights violations occur and to remember that some key constitutional rights cannot be suspended”.

The LAC warned that even during the current conditions, no person may be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. As to the use of physical force, the security forces must “exercise restraint” and should not use the lockdown as a “justification for human rights violations”.

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