Today the ICJ condemned the apparent widespread ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators protesting gender based violence on Saturday 10 October in Windhoek.
The demonstrators were allegedly met with tear gas, and a number of them were subject to serious beatings by police forces.
Some 25 persons, including journalists, were arrested during the demonstrations. They were initially charged with breaching a law forbidding the public gathering of more than 50 people, though the charges were dropped on Monday.
The ICJ is calling for a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the alleged police abuse, in line with Namibian law and the countries international legal obligations.
Officials responsible should be held accountable.
“Instead of taking seriously the demands made by the protestors and to take steps to ensure that gender based violence is addressed in a meaningful and constructive way, the police themselves appeared to have engaged in violent action against those exercising their rights to peacefully assembly and express their view,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ Africa Regional Programme Director.
The ICJ also called on the authorities to protect the right of individuals in the country to peacefully and protest, rights which are protected under Namibia’s Constitution and international law.
The ICJ said that the Public Gatherings Proclamation Act, requiring prior permission for assemblies of more than 50 people in public spaces, should be repealed or revised, as incompatible with its international legal obligations.
The ICJ has also called on Namibia to address the underlying concerns raised by the protests, notably that during the COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence has been exacerbated during lockdown restrictions.
The recent #ShutItAllDown and #ShutitAllDownNamibia movements, spontaneously started on social media after the killing of a young woman, Shannon Wasserfall, have led to a series of protests against government’s failure to adequately address the scourge of gender based violence in Namibia.
The protestors, predominantly young women, last week handed over a petition to government which includes a list of 24 demands. raising concerns about the poor State response to gender-based violence in Namibia.
The protestors allege that Namibian police are “negligent and nonchalant” with investigating violent crime committed against women. They are demanding that government do more to protect women against such violence, including by ensuring that survivors of gender-based violence have access to justice.
The rights to freedom of assembly and expression, freedom from ill-treatment, and prohibitions on arbitrary arrest are guaranteed under the international human rights treaties to which Namibia is a party, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture, as well as the Namibian Constitution.
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director of ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme, c: +27845148039, e: kaajal.keogh(a)icj.org
Nokukhanya Farisè, Legal Adviser, nokukhanya.farise(a)icj.org