Woman sues for N$500k after Hornkranz beating
25 June 2020 | Police
One of the latest lawsuits brought by a Namibian citizen who claims she was assaulted by soldiers during Operation Hornkranz last April is also tackling the lawfulness of deploying soldiers to police citizens during peacetime.
Luise Taakambadhala Mwanyangapo, a civil society worker and 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, has filed a civil lawsuit against the defence and police authorities, asking for damages of over N$500 000.
The damages are for pain and suffering, the overall wrongfulness of the assault, and for the costs of medical treatment, loss of valuables during the assault and the costs of a missed flight as a result of the attack.
In addition, her civil claim is taking aim at Section 5 of the Defence Act of 2002, which her legal team argues governs the lawful deployment of soldiers to assist the police.
They argue that it is unconstitutional to deploy soldiers inside the country unless there is a state of emergency and martial law is proclaimed.
Article 115 of the constitution limits the functions of the defence force to the defence of the territory and national interests of Namibia.
The court papers note that law enforcement authorities invoked Section 5 of the Defence Act when soldiers were deployed to assist the police during Operation Hornkranz, but that no state of emergency existed, or any other reason to deploy soldiers lawfully.
Mwanyangapo's assault made news headlines in 2019 after a group of soldiers, in full view of police officers, beat her with a sjambok or baton at Van Wyk's Bar in Katutura on 27 April.
Mwanyangapo's court papers state that she was attacked without provocation.
At one stage, soldiers kicked her, causing her to fall onto the ground, where the abuse continued.
When she tried to get up, she was beaten with a sjambok or baton, the court papers state.
She was hospitalised and treated for a deep laceration to her forehead, an abrasion on her back and bruising over her nasal bridge and left shoulder.
A photo of her bruised and lacerated face was published at the time.
In legal papers sent to the police in the wake of the assault, her legal team wrote that the police “stood by idly” and failed to stop the assault.
In November 2019, the Legal Assistance Centre published a report titled 'Use of force by law enforcement officials in Namibia'.
The report underlined that while the joint police and army crime operations had received praise from some quarters, criticism had swelled following multiple reports of abuse.
During Operation Kalahari Desert, two civilians died at the hands of soldiers, who were both arrested and charged with murder.
The LAC reported further that the problem of excessive force by law enforcement was not confined to these special crime-fighting operations.
Between 2010 and mid-2016, 118 shooting incidents involving police officers were investigated by Nampol's Internal Investigative Unit.
All of these cases resulted in criminal charges, including 34 charges of murder and 84 charges of attempted murder.
“This points to an endemic problem,” the report noted.
The report further investigated the need for law reform to ensure that Namibian security forces are guided by internationally acceptable standards in the use of force during their work.
Namibia Media Holdings has reported on more than a dozen civil lawsuits instituted by people who claim to have been the victims of excessive force during operations Hornkranz and Kalahari Desert.
The damages claimed in these cases amount to more than N$5 million.