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Caprivi torture cases settled out of court
October 2, 2008
Caprivi torture cases settled out of court


THREE civil claims against Government in connection with the torture of people who were detained following separatist attacks that were carried out at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999 were settled out of court this week.

The three claims, in which three of the men facing charges in the main Caprivi high treason trial were suing the Ministers of Home Affairs and Defence for a total of N$1,65 million, were scheduled to be the subject of a trial in the High Court in Windhoek this week.

However, on Tuesday, which was set to be the starting date for the trial, Judge President Petrus Damaseb was asked by lawyers George Coleman, representing the two Ministers, and Legal Assistance Centre Director Norman Tjombe, representing the three treason suspects, to remove the three cases from the court roll.

The three claims had been settled out of court, with the terms of the settlements kept under wraps.

Tjombe told The Namibian yesterday that the LAC is trying to finalise all of the still-pending civil claims against Government in connection with human rights violations in the Caprivi Region after the attacks of August 2 1999.

Criminal charges against Police officers who are accused of being responsible for assaults and torture in the Caprivi Region nine years ago are also still pending, though, Tjombe added.

He said he had instructions to bring an application to compel the Prosecutor General to either prosecute the people accused of these violations, or to issue a certificate stating that a prosecution was declined, so that the LAC could then institute private prosecutions against the accused Police officers.

The stance of the Office of the Prosecutor General has so far been that the prosecution of the people facing charges in the two Caprivi high treason trials should be dealt with first, before Police officers accused of committing crimes against the treason suspects might be prosecuted.

In the cases settled this week, treason trial accused Derick Ndala, Sylvester Ngalaule and Herbert Mutahane were each suing the Ministers of Home Affairs and Defence for a total of N$550 000 for allegedly having been assaulted, tortured and unlawfully detained after being arrested in the wake of the attacks at Katima Mulilo more than nine years ago.

Their claims against the Ministers were filed with the High Court in July 2000.

With Ndala, Ngalaule and Mutahane for the most part making similar allegations against members of the Namibian Police and the Namibia Defence Force in their respective claims, almost identical responses to these claims were also filed with the court on behalf of the Ministers who were responsible for the Police and NDF in 1999.

In these responses it was stated on behalf of the Ministers that the claims about having been assaulted, tortured, subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, and then being denied medical treatment, were all denied.

It was also stated that the Ministers did not know how the three men had sustained alleged injuries that they claimed to have received in the assaults on them.

Ndala, Ngalaule and Mutahane all claimed to have been arrested at their homes at villages in the Caprivi Region on August 2 1999.

According to the Ministers, Ndala and Mutahane were arrested in the bush at Katima Mulilo on the morning of August 2 1999, while Ngalaule was arrested at Mpacha military base near the town.

It was claimed on behalf of the Ministers that Ngalaule was arrested while participating in an attack on the military base, while Ndala and Mutahane were arrested because it was suspected that they had participated in an armed insurrection and attacks on that day.

After being detained, they were beaten with sjamboks, all three men claimed.

Ngalaule and Mutahane also claimed that they were tortured through electrical shocks being administered to their private parts and feet, while Ndala and Mutahane further claimed that they were stripped naked and beaten with firearms.

Ndala and Mutahane stated they were detained at the Katima Mulilo Police Station until August 3 1999, when they were transported to the Grootfontein military base.

There they were detained for almost another three weeks, until August 23 1999, before making a first appearance in court at Grootfontein.

It was admitted on behalf of the Ministers that Ngalaule was similarly detained in the same time period.

The three men each claimed N$300 000 for the alleged assaults, torture and other ill-treatment.

They also claimed N$250 000 each for alleged unlawful detention.


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