‘The American Report’ on Human Rights Practices, Mozambique was criticised for its high levels of corruption and impunity

Human Rights Africa

(2015-06-30) On Thursday (25 June) the ‘2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ was released. In the report, Mozambique was criticised for its high levels of corruption and impunity, despite the fact that the Mozambican government has taken various steps over the years to ensure greater prosecution and conviction rates for guilty officials.

Principal human rights abuses included the government’s failure to protect political rights and freedom of assembly, unlawful killings and abuses by government and opposition-party security forces, and domestic violence.

Other major human rights problems included lengthy pre-trial detention; ruling party influence on an inefficient, understaffed, and inadequately trained judiciary; harsh prison conditions; infringement of political rights of opposition parties; and government pressure on the media.

Societal problems highlighted in the document include: discrimination against women; abuse, exploitation, and forced labour of children; discrimination against persons with disabilities; trafficking in women and children; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and persons with HIV/AIDS.

There were several reports by human rights activists and domestic media sources that the government and/or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Most reports concerned military and police officers. For example, on 25 February (2014), three men were found shot and burned inside a vehicle in Maputo, nine miles from the detention centre where the Criminal Investigative Police (PIC) had arrested and detained them the day before. The police did not announce the reason for the detention.

A PIC spokesperson stated unknown gunmen killed the victims, but the Mozambican League of Human Rights (LDH) stated the deaths appeared to be the result of summary execution. The case remained unresolved at year’s end.

In July, Renamo accused the government of arbitrarily arresting and unlawfully killing Zacarias Madjuta, a high-ranking member of Renamo, who died inside a Gorongosa police station one day after his arrest. The case was also unresolved at year’s end.

There were numerous reports Renamo committed arbitrary or unlawful killings of civilians. From April 2013 through June 2014, the press and the government accused Renamo forces of more than 30 incidents of attacking vehicles traveling on the central highway between the Save River and Muxungué in Sofala Province, resulting in numerous government and civilian deaths.

In April the then attorney general, Augusto Paulino, announced 18 open criminal cases concerning deaths and destruction of property associated with armed clashes between Renamo and government forces. The criminal cases were dropped due to the August general amnesty law enacted following peace negotiations between the government and Renamo.

Despite the fact that the Constitution and law prohibits practises of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and/or punishment, the report found that poorly trained PRM officers frequently used excessive force and harsh physical abuse when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining criminal suspects and prisoners. Human rights advocates and the media reported occurrences of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, physical abuse, and prolonged detention. The LDH reported the level of abuse in prisons declined during the year. Abuses by the PIC in police station jails, however, continued as in the past.

In respect of the conditions of prisons and detention centres, the report found that, despite the fact that there were improvements at some national penitentiaries, prison conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening. Inadequate funding, staffing, and facilities resulted in overcrowding, substandard sanitation, and poor nutrition and health care.

While the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, both practices continued to occur. For example, on April 14 (2014), the PRM detained Jose de Araujo, a member of the MDM, in Inhambane while he was collecting signatures for the party’s presidential candidate for the October elections.

Authorities released de Araujo several hours after the arrest but did not return the signatures collected or the 20 voter identification cards. In April the PGR also highlighted a continuing problem in various provinces of arrest warrants issued without due process.

In respect of corruption within the State institutions, the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and in contrast with 2013, the government more readily implemented the law for minor corruption offences.

For example, in April (2014) the Minister of Public Service, Victoria Dias Diogo, announced disciplinary action against 1,019 government employees for corrupt activities, of whom 126 were terminated, 122 demoted, 226 fined, 374 warned, and 88 publicly reprimanded. The remaining cases are pending.

Infractions included misappropriation of state-owned property and falsification of documents and signatures. Nevertheless, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, because the government did not always enforce the law for high-profile cases.

Some internationally respected organisations, including the World Bank, indicated corruption was a serious problem. Petty corruption by low-level government officials to supplement modest salaries and high-level corruption by politically and economically connected elites continued to be the norm. In some cases high-level bribery was related to narcotics trafficking.

In December the government passed a new penal code law with provisions to combat financial crimes, including corruption, soliciting bribes, fraud, abuse of power for financial gain, and illicit accumulation of wealth. The government must still pass a criminal procedure code to implement the new penal code law effectively.

Corruption, including extortion by police, was widespread in 2014, and impunity remained a serious problem. Police regularly detained individuals for arbitrary reasons and demanded identification documents solely to extort payments. Many crime victims reportedly declined to seek police assistance because of a lack of confidence in the police and their ability and willingness to help.

For the full report refer to

http://maputo.usembassy.gov/moz2014humanrightsreport4.html
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2014&dlid=236386#wrapper
Source: Rhula Mozambique Weekly Media / US Department of State

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