Woman sues after AK-47 beating by soldier

07 September 2020 | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



A new lawsuit brought by a civilian against the Namibian police and army centres around an alleged savage attack by a soldier who beat a woman with an AK-47 assault rifle until she fainted.

Lenie Margrate Thys says on 2 June 2019 she tried to intervene when a group of police and army officers were aggressively frisking a young man while pointing a firearm at him.

She says she pleaded with them to “refrain from harming the young man”.

In response, an army officer approached her and “beat her in the face with the assault AK-47 rifle he was carrying until she fainted”.

She states the took place on or near Blacket Street in Windhoek, where she lives.

Her legal claim states that when she regained consciousness, all the officers had left the scene.

The officers even failed to take her to the nearest hospital for urgent medical treatment, even though she had fainted as a result of the assault they had perpetrated, court papers state.



Civilian suffering

In court papers drafted with the assistance of lawyers from the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Thys says the assault caused her physical and mental trauma and pain and caused an injury to her left eye.

She says apart from the physical pain and trauma, the unlawful and brutal assault with the firearm resulted in a loss of dignity.





Thys's court papers underline that instead of carrying out their duty to protect citizens, the army and police officials unlawfully and savagely attacked her.

She is asking that the court award her N$90 000 for the pain and suffering she endured and N$10 000 for the impact on her life in the wake of the unlawful assault.

The lawsuit was filed on 14 May this year and cites the government of Namibia, the minister of home affairs and the minister of defence and veteran affairs as defendants.

In a plea filed by the defendants on 17 March, they deny all allegations made by Thys, including that they were frisking another person.

In the dozens of lawsuits filed against the police over the past two years for excessive force against unarmed civilians, the defendants have denied all allegations against them in each case.

On 3 September, High Court judge Nate Ndauendapo issued a court order instructing the parties to attend court-ordered mediation on 27 November and postponed the case to 21 January 2021 for a status hearing.



Inundated

Hard-handed tactics against civilians by the police and army have resulted in dozens of lawsuits demanding several million in combined claims over the past two years.

Luise Taakambadhala Mwanyangapo, a civil society worker and 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, this year filed a N$500 000 lawsuit against the Namibian government, army and police, sparked by a brutal assault on her during an Operation Hornkranz action last year.

Her civil claim alleges that she was beaten with a sjambok or baton at a bar in Katutura on 27 April last year by soldiers linked to Hornkranz, while police officers “stood by idly” without assisting her or stopping the attack.

In May this year the army and government were sued for N$1 million by Taleni Petrus Manja based on a claim that he was attacked by soldiers on New Year's Eve 2018.

Several other lawsuits were also filed this year.



New normal

A 2019 report by the LAC on use of force by law enforcement officials in Namibia warned that excessive force by the police and army have become an “endemic problem” in the country.

The report noted that heavy-handed use of force against unarmed civilians is not confined to crime-fighting operations.

Between 2010 and mid-2016, 118 shooting incidents involving police officers were investigated by the internal investigative unit of the police, the report notes.

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