Mozambique: Watchdog decries killings by police

AP News
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Posted: Nov 15, 2009 7:01 PM

The dancer called police to his home because he feared he was being robbed, only to end up being killed by the officers from whom he had sought help, Amnesty International said, offering one example of deadly police violence in Mozambique.

In a report released Sunday, the international human rights watch dog returned to a stubborn problem in this southeast African country, and called on Mozambique's government to ensure cases of excessive violence by police are investigated and officers are better trained.

Repeated calls by The Associated Press seeking comment from Mozambique's police minister and his deputy went unanswered.

Mozambicans themselves have repeatedly called attention to police violence.

Ramuldine, a Muslim leader who uses only one name and often speaks on human rights issues, told AP he had urged the police ministry to recruit better candidates and give them adequate training.

"It's not the work of the police to torture and kill," said Ramuldine.

Magalhaes Ibrahiogi, leader of the small opposition Mozambican Independence Party, also said training was key, as well as better pay for officers.

"Criminals in Mozambique are ill-treated," he said in an interview. "They are tortured, beaten and in some cases killed by the police. This is unacceptable."

In 2008, five police officers were convicted for the 2007 killing of two suspected gang members linked to the deaths of police officers in a shootout in Maputo. But such cases are rare, Amnesty said in its report. Amnesty compiled a similar report in 2008, and said that in the 14 months between that report and the latest one, only a few officers had been tried for human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings.

In the latest report, Amnesty said victims' relatives seeking justice are intimidated and harassed by police, given little information about investigations and even asked to finance probes.

"The families of victims face almost insurmountable challenges and only the most persistent and well-off have been able to get some small measure of justice," said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International's Africa Program. "Most others are left without any justice for the loss of their loved ones."

In the report, "I Can't Believe in Justice Anymore", Amnesty said at least 46 people were unlawfully killed by police in Mozambique since 2006. The report offers five detailed case studies, including that of dancer and choreographer Augusto Cuvilas.

Amnesty said that when Cuvilas called police in December, 2007 fearing robbers were trying to break into his home, officers told him they had no way to get to his house. He called his ex-wife, who picked up officers and drove to his home. There, police started shooting indiscriminately, killing Cuvilas and a guard. His girlfriend, Chimene Costa, who was two months pregnant, suffered a miscarriage.

Costa filed a case against police, and was told last June that evidence in the case was being collected but given no further details.

"I can't believe in justice any more," Costa told Amnesty. "I am not informed. There is no respect ... They just want us to forget. If you do not have money to pay nothing happens ...."