The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN), Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC) and the Southern Africa Christian Initiative (SACHI) have commended Namibia for positive developments in the area of human rights since 2011, while at the same time calling on authorities to strengthen their efforts towards the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
In a joint shadow report for the second cycle of Namibia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the five organisations examine Namibia’s human rights record since its first UPR report in January 2011.
The report takes note of Namibia’s apparent willingness to cooperate with international human rights bodies and mechanisms since the last review period, evidenced by the submission of reports to human rights bodies and facilitation of official visits of three UN Special Rapporteurs. However, the organisations are of the opinion that Namibia needs to do more to ensure legal protection of human rights in the country. They refer to Namibia’s failure to ratify a number of other treaties, including the three it undertook to ratify during the last UPR. They further refer to the omission of a number of human rights protections from the constitution, particularly those related to economic, social and cultural rights. “If Namibia is to adequately protect human rights in the country, it must ratify, domesticate and implement all outstanding human rights treaties. It must also incorporate into its constitution and other national laws, the provisions of human rights treaties it has already ratified. These include provisions for the right to highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to an adequate standard of living, as well as rights of persons with disabilities.” said Miguel Gomes Antonio of SACHI.
Of particular concern for WLC are traditional laws and cultural practices which perpetuate gender inequality, gender-based violence and the perception that women are inferior to men or are the property of men. “Practices such as sexual readiness testing, child marriages, widow cleansing and forced marriages expose girls and women to HIV infection and violate their rights to non-discrimination, health, property and not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Liz Frank of WLC. “Namibia committed to eliminating these practices in the last UPR and the government must take steps to do this including, educating individuals and traditional authorities, on the duty to ensure that customary laws and practices do not violate the rights of women.”
Forced and coerced sterilisation, particularly of women living with HIV, remain a concern for the organisations. “The finding by the Namibian Courts that three HIV-positive women were sterilised without their informed consent in violation of their rights is a positive development.” said Jennifer Gatsi of NWHN, “However, the authorities have not implemented the recommendation accepted in the last UPR to issue clear directives to all health officials prohibiting the sterilisation of women living with HIV without their informed consent. Nor have they put in place guidelines on informed consent. This is particularly concerning where laws in the country, such as the Abortion and Sterilisation Act, are silent about the need for informed consent for both sterilisation and abortion procedures. Furthermore, the authorities have failed to take steps to ensure redress – including reversal of sterilisation where possible – to those women who have been subjected to coerced sterilisation.”
While recognising the positive step taken by the passing of the Correctional Services Act, the organisations write of their concern regarding the failure to separate minors from adults in places of detention, as well as the negative consequences of infants being detained with their mothers in places of detention. They refer to the 2014 killing by a detainee of a four-year-old toddler in a police cell where he was being held with his mother. “Detention must be used only as a last resort. Bail and other forms of conditional release should be used, where possible, in the place of pre-trial detention.” said Corinna Van Wyk of LAC. “There is also a need for the institution and implementation of noncustodial sentences in the country. Where, in the given circumstances, alternatives to the detention of mothers along with their infant children are not possible, such mothers should be held separately from other detainees and prisoners. Minors should also be separated from adults at all times.”
The organisations further raise Namibia’s involvement in the suspension of the SADC Tribunal and the signing of the amended SADC Tribunal Protocol, removing individual access and the human rights jurisdiction of the Tribunal, as a human rights concern. “The 2010 suspension of the SADC Tribunal by the SADC Summit – which includes Namibia – constitutes undue interference in the independence of judges and the judiciary. In addition, by signing the amended SADC Tribunal Protocol, Namibia took a retrogressive step in the promotion and protection of the right of access to justice and an effective remedy guaranteed by Namibia’s national and international human rights laws,” said Muluka Miti-Drummond of SALC. “Namibia must refrain from violating these rights by ensuring it does not ratify the SADC Tribunal Protocol.”
Other concerns covered by the report include failure to extend the grounds for non-discrimination in the Constitution to include sexual orientation and disability; challenges in accessing health care services, particularly for persons with disabilities, sexual minorities and sex workers; obstacles to accessing antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for migrants; restrictive laws related to abortion; and the use of petty offences related to vagrancy, idleness, littering and swearing.
The UPR is a process by which states review the human rights record of other states, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. All 193 states that are members of the UN are reviewed over a period of four-and-a-half years. Civil society organisations are given an opportunity to present a report in writing about six months prior to the UPR session of a country under review. Namibia’s last UPR was in January 2011. It will be reviewed again between January and February 2016.
To read the full report, click here
For more information contact:
Jennifer Gatsi, Executive Director, NWHN,firstname.lastname@example.org, +264 81129 6940
Liz Frank, Programme Manager, WLC, email@example.com, +264 81309 4630
Toni Hancox, Director, LAC, firstname.lastname@example.org, +264 6122 3356
Miguel Gomes Antonio, Executive Director, SACHI, email@example.com, +264 81311 5232
Muluka Miti-Drummond, Regional Advocacy Director, SALC: MulukaM@salc.org.za, +27 (0)10 596 8538