News and Information

UN body warns Nam over prison abuse
August 4, 2004

THE United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has called on Namibia to consider establishing an independent body which would be able to visit all places of detention and conduct investigations into violations of rights and abuses in prisons and places of detention, and to investigate acts of police brutality in general.

The Human Rights Committee met in Geneva, Switzerland, last month to consider a report on how Namibia implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Committee heard a presentation by Namibia's Co-ordinator of Human Rights, Uutoni Nujoma, and his team that included a representative of the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The final report issued after the meeting said the Committee welcomed the Married Persons Equality Act, which eliminated discrimination between spouses and took note of the draft Child Status Bill, which sought to enable children born out of wedlock to have the same rights as those born within wedlock.

It also commended Namibian for enacting the Combating of Domestic Violence Act which criminalises domestic violence.

"The Committee nevertheless remained concerned by the high number of customary marriages that continued to be unregistered and about the deprivation of rights that women and children experienced as a consequence, in particular with regard to inheritance and land ownership," the report said.

The Human Rights Committee, chaired by Abdelfattah Amor, told The Namibian delegation that it regretted that, despite wide prevalence of domestic violence, so far only 62 people had been prosecuted and no victims had received compensation while torture was not defined in domestic criminal law and was still considered a common law offence to be charged as assault or crimen injuria.

"The Committee encouraged the State to take effective measures to encourage the registration of customary marriages and to grant the spouses and children of registered customary marriages the same rights as those married under civil law," it said.

The United Nations body called on the Namibian Government to take appropriate steps to prevent threats to and harassment of media personnel and journalists.

It said the Government had to ensure that abuses against journalists were investigated "promptly and with the requisite thoroughness and that suitable action was taken against those responsible".

The report also appealed to Namibia to strengthen the implementation of the legal aid scheme; the provision of legal aid to individuals; the establishment of an appropriate juvenile criminal justice system; to encourage further use by Police of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act; and to set up additional special shelters for domestic violence victims.

The meeting started on July 5 and ended last week.

* See also report entitled "NSHR lists top human rights abusers."


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