Security forces in hot water

Shocking cases of abuse of power have emerged during the ongoing lockdown period and state of emergency.

29 April 2020 | Crime

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



Namibia's coronavirus pandemic has unleashed another spate of lawsuits against security forces accused of inhumane treatment and excessive force against civilians during the state of emergency and lockdown period.

Five Namibians hailing from the Erongo and Oshana regions have instituted legal action, with the help of lawyer Norman Tjombe, against the police and army this month.



Shocking scene

Reinhold Tangeni Uusiku is suing the police and Namibia Defence Force (NDF) after he was forced to roll on the ground in the mud while a homebrewed drink was poured over him.

The shocking scene at Eheke-Etemba village in Oshana gained widespread public attention on social media earlier this month. Uusiku accused the armed forces present on 6 April of kicking and punching him. He said he was also whipped with a sjambok.

Uusiku said in court papers he suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma during and after the event.

He felt “humiliated, traumatised and degraded”, he said.

He is also suing for damage to property and the violation of privacy, accusing the armed forces of entering his home without a legal warrant.

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga at the time condemned the incident.

He said while some uniformed personnel were doing a great job, others behaved unprofessionally and not within the mandate of the police.



Broken

Two days earlier, on 4 April, a group of police and soldiers were accused of violently assaulting Jesaja Nelumbo Hango so severely he fractured his arm and required surgery at a private hospital in Swakopmund.

Hango, a Rössing Uranium electrician, said the incident left him in physical and psychological pain and that he felt “traumatised and degraded”.

The assault took place in full view of the public, aggravating the injury sustained to his dignity.

Hango said he intends to ask the court to award him N$1 million in damages, though this amount may still change.

On the same day of Hango's assault, Swakopmund police are also accused of attacking Ruben Asser and Simson Simon.

In their draft legal papers, the duo said the police “forced [us] to lay down and roll in dusty sand” in the DRC informal settlement near the Mondesa police station.

They were also kicked and punched.

This assault was captured on camera and widely shared on social media, adding to their humiliation and pain, they said.

Asser and Simon sustained severe injuries, including lacerations and bruises, while the assault left them humiliated, degraded and traumatised.



Unjust

Three days later, on 7 April at Henties Bay, Ashley Friedburgh said he was unlawfully arrested and detained by police officers and soldiers near the Henties Bay police station.

Friedburgh said he was “repeatedly hit with a whip on his back” and forced to “do strenuous physical exercises”.

He suffered severe injuries, including lacerations and bruising to his back, as well as sore muscles.

The incident also left him humiliated, fearful and degraded.

Tjombe confirmed that his clients' legal cases are underway and that the defendants were given the required written notices. The summonses will be filed in court in mid-May.

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