Campaign to Free Caprivian Political Detainees
| The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and NGOs continue to document violations of human rights of the Caprivian people by the Namibian colonial regime. Human rights abuses, indeed, are increasing in number and severity since the August 1999 popular armed rebellion against Namibian colonial occupation. The pattern of these human rights violations is so pervasive and persistent as to demand immediate international condemnation and action.
Three years after the August 1999 popular armed rebellion against Namibian colonial occupation and the subsequent repression across the Caprivi Strip, hundreds of Caprivian citizens remain in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association, including the right to hold and express divergent opinions and above all the right to self-determination for the Caprivi Strip.
We have the names of 130 individuals who are held in Grootfontein Prison in the central Namibian town of Grootfontein alone. Their only crime consisted in standing up for democracy and human rights and freedom for their country. Caprivian political detainees do not have the right to counsel, the right to a fair hearing or the right to have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed by a competent and impartial judicial authority.
The international community should join the oppressed people of the Caprivi Strip in pressing for the immediate and unconditional release of all of the hundreds of Caprivian political detainees and prisoners of conscience in Namibia.
When dealing with the communications from governments and international human rights organizations, Namibian colonial officials' replies are too often inaccurate, in blatant contradiction with the information provided by victims of rights abuses themselves or by their families. The Namibian colonial regime's replies to these communications should be timely and respect the facts.
While we present the most detailed account currently available of the issue of political imprisonment in the Caprivi Strip, no report on this subject can be comprehensive due to Namibia's efforts to prevent human rights information reaching the outside world. Information on political imprisonment in the Caprivi Strip is generally treated as "state secrets", and therefore any attempt to pass on that information without official permission is regarded as "espionage".
The Namibian colonial authorities in the Caprivi Strip allow virtually no space for independent, public advocacy on social, political, environmental, economic and religious issues. Tight restrictions are imposed on sensitive or critical media reporting, on free expression more generally and on freedom of association and assembly. Dissent and any activity perceived as a threat to the established political [colonial] order continues to be repressed. Torture and ill-treatment are common during arrest and in police stations, detention centres, and prisons, sometimes resulting in the death of the victims.
In recent months, some of the more brutal repressive practices by the Namibian colonial regime during their first years of their occupation have been replaced by subtler genocidal practices. These newer, less obvious genocidal practices include the deliberate policy of encouraging massive Owambo population transfers into the Caprivi Strip. This cultural genocide has the goal of making Caprivians a minority within their own country while at the same time working to destroy Caprivian culture. The Namibian colonial regime recently raised their population transfer campaign by pouring money and resources into their controversial Trans-Caprivi Highway project; the new 1,500 km road which is earmarked for Katima Mulilo, the Caprivian capitol, is opposed by many Caprivian activists partly because it will greatly facilitate the policy of transferring large numbers of native Owambo into the Caprivi Strip.
The Namibian colonial regime has also focused on attacking Caprivian culture through language and education. Owambo has now become the predominant language in government, commerce, administration, education and daily life in the Caprivi Strip, In the public school system in the Caprivi Strip, Caprivian history is no longer taught and Caprivian culture is portrayed as inferior and not suited to the 'Namibian' way.
In response to the repressive policies of the occupying government, many Caprivians have chosen to leave, feeling their only option is to brave on foot the dangerous exit routes over the borders into Botswana and Zambia, According to the Caprivian Council for Justice and Peace, 16,485 Caprivians fled the Caprivi Strip in the period 1998-2001, including 1,115 children.
Arbitrary arrest and detention
The number of political detainees and prisoners of conscience in the Caprivi Strip has increased steadily since 1998. The number of current detainees confirmed by Caprivi Information Network (CIN) is 550 (at least 27 of whom are children), but is undoubtedly higher because of efforts by Namibian colonial authorities to make information unavailable. Other recent estimates (e.g., by Caprivian Council for Justice and Peace) put the number of political detainees at over 1,000. Moreover, more Caprivians in the areas of Namibia outside what Namibia has designated the Caprivi Region are being arrested for political offences.
Article 1 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Namibia is a State Party, outlaws any kind of torture. However, there are no independent reports of improvement in the treatment of Caprivian political prisoners since then. Torture remains common in detention centres and prisons, and new methods of abuse, such as "forced exertion", - are becoming more common, in addition to usual methods such as shocking with electric batons; electric cattle prods applied to private parts; beatings; branding with red-hot shovels; painful shackling, scalding with boiling water; hanging upside down or by the thumbs; kicking; attacking with dogs; exposing to extreme temperatures; depriving of sleep, food and water, prolonged periods of solitary confinement; denial of medical care; urinating in the victim's mouth; forcing victims to watch torture videos; keeping victims standing for long periods of time; sexual violence; and threats of torture and death.
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