Amnesty warns of Mozambican jail crisis

2012-11-22 08:06
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Maputo - Amnesty International claimed on Thursday that thousands of prisoners were languishing in Mozambique's prisons without charge or access to proper legal representation.

In a report, the rights group catalogued a slew of alleged abuses, from detention of minors and prison overcrowding to arbitrary arrests and police torture.

The findings, reached in conjunction with Mozambique's Human Rights League, came from inspections of three prisons in the capital, Maputo, and two in the northern province of Nampula in February this year.

Amnesty claims to have found hundreds of cases of prolonged detention ranging from 12 months to 12 years.

According to Mozambican law people cannot be held on remand for longer than 11 months.

"This is a drop in the ocean and we went to only two cities," Amnesty International's Mozambique Researcher, Maluka-Anne Miti told AFP.

Amnesty said one Mozambican man spent 12 years inside a maximum security prison in the Mozambican capital without ever being told why he had been arrested, or receiving a court hearing.

Police arrested Jose Capitine Cossa while selling crafts by the side of the road in 2001.

Police torture

Authorities released him earlier this year after the Attorney General determined his detention had been "irregular".

"He could not remember where he was from or his address," said Miti.

People arrested in Mozambique do not automatically get the right to a phone call.

"If you don't have a lawyer and if your family does not know where you are you have no way of getting out," she said.

Thirty-three percent of the over 16 000 prisoners in Mozambique's overcrowded jails are awaiting trial, the country's Attorney General, Augusto Paulino told parliament in May.

Amnesty also uncovered instances of arbitrary arrests and cases of police torture in order to extract confessions.

In one case, says the report, police asked the father of a 15-year-old girl if they could beat her to force her to confess to her mother's murder.

Her father refused but she went to prison anyway.

Having already served close to two years in pre-trial detention, she was released, aged 17.

Serious problem

"Sixteen is the age of responsibility here but we saw people who looked younger and said they were younger than that," says Miti explaining that authorities put the onus on detainees to prove their age.

"In Mozambique, people do not have IDs, especially not at that age," she added.

Overcrowding is also said to be a serious problem.

At one prison in the northern Nampula province, inmates were crammed into cells so tightly that they could not lie down and had to sleep in shifts.

"In one cell we saw 192 people with only one toilet," says Miti.

The report comes in the wake of a mass prison break in the north-western province of Tete.

About 46 prisoners broke out of jail on Sunday local media reported. The prison, built to house 80, was housing 500, authorities said.

Prison riots are also common.

In September this year prisoners in the city of Beira rioted over poor food and sanitary conditions.

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  mozambique  |  southern africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Makeover saves dog’s life

Lucky Charlie got a complete make-over that helped him get adopted.



For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.