In Namibia, the National Society for Human Rights has criticized the ruling SWAPO party for rejecting a motion to address war crimes issues. The opposition Congress of Democrats party had called for an investigation into atrocities committed by both sides during the war for independence between 1966 and 1989.
Phil ya Nangoloh is executive director of the human rights group. From Windhoek, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service Joe De Capua about why the atrocities should be investigated.
“There are hundreds of Namibians, who because of anxiety, not knowing what happened to their relatives, are subjected to psychological torture. Others are civic reasons. For example, if a woman was married to one of those people who have disappeared, she cannot remarry, she cannot divorce, she cannot do anything because the law here requires that there must be positive proof that a husband has died or deserted, such that the woman can get remarried,” he says.
SWAPO says looking into the atrocities issues would “turn the clock back,” and that the constitution prohibits looking into war issues prior to the start of UN resolution 435.
Ya Nangoloh says, “The constitution says nothing about what is stated by the ruling SWAPO Party that things that took place prior to Namibian independence should not be looked into. That is totally inaccurate. As a matter of fact, the atrocities that took place were already prohibited under general principles of international law that pre-existed the constitution. And mind you, that Chapter Three of the constitution is entirely based upon the Universal declaration of Human Rights.”
He also discounts an amnesty issued by the last apartheid administrator of Namibia Louis Pienaar. The human rights leader says the matter should be taken to the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc UN tribunal.