News and Information

Namibia's human rights record under scrutiny
July 22, 2004


THE United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about women and children's rights, domestic violence, pre-trial detention and legal aid, cases of disappearances, anti-discrimination measures, homosexuality and HIV-AIDS in Namibia.

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

Uutoni Nujoma, Namibia's Co-ordinator of Human Rights, accompanied by a representative of the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented the report.

He said the report gave the country the opportunity to contribute to the international community's efforts to institutionalise a culture of respect for human rights internationally while also providing a "yardstick" against which Namibia could measure its own efforts to promote such a culture.

"Despite its limited financial and technical resources, Namibia would endeavour to fulfil its obligations under the Covenant," Nujoma was quoted as having told the Committee.

In preliminary remarks, Committee Chairperson Abdelfattah Amor expressed satisfaction that the death penalty in Namibia had been abolished and that Government had been engaging in a dialogue with civil society.

However, he wondered whether Namibia had done enough to deal with domestic and Police violence.

"In this context, many efforts needed to be made, particularly for battered women and children; action must also be taken at the education level," a preliminary report about the meeting quoted Amor as saying.

The meeting started on July 5 and will end next week.

Formal and written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Namibia will be issued on July 30.

It said other committee experts raised questions on women and children's rights, domestic violence, pre-trial detention and legal aid, cases of disappearances, anti-discrimination measures, homosexuality and HIV-AIDS.

The report said fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual were placed at centre stage in the legal system and persons alleging human rights violations were able to seek redress in the courts of law or at the Office of the Ombudsman.

It said the number of women in decision-making positions was still very low.

"However there was slight improvement," the delegation said.

They cited as examples the 24 per cent of women that occupy a senior management level position in the public service and 44 per cent amongst local councillors.

When quizzed about arrest, detention and legal assistance, the delegation said every accused person was entitled to apply for bail.

The Namibian delegation attributed delays in the Caprivi treason case to "the intransigence and unco-operative attitude of the accused persons".

On a question dealing with homosexuality, the delegation stated that the Government did not intend to take any special measures now or in the future to specifically protect homosexuals any more than it intended to take special measures to protect heterosexuals.

"Homosexuality in Namibia was not prohibited, however, most Namibians were Christian and many of them found homosexual behaviour offensive.

No legislation existed which prevented acts of homosexuality," the Namibian delegation informed the meeting.

The delegation added that there were no cases of discrimination against homosexuals in Namibia and that no persons could be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.


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