Namibia: UNHCR concerned over Dordabis detainees

from IRIN
Published on 06 Dec 2001
WINDHOEK, 6 December (IRIN) - The United Nations refugee agency in Namibia has expressed concern over the fact that 80 suspected Angolan UNITA rebels who have been held in Dordabis, about 100 km southeast of the capital Windhoek, have not appeared in court for around 18 months.
A UNHCR spokesperson in Windhoek, David Nthengwe, told IRIN on Wednesday that the agency was supposed to meet officials from the ministry of home affairs this week but that the meeting had to be postponed indefinitely due to other commitments by the government officials.

"It is just a question of finding time. One of the issues to be discussed will be why the people have not appeared before a court. We have raised our concern before but will do it again," Nthengwe said.

He said UNHCR was not the "arresting authority" and thus could not explain why the 80, accused of being UNITA fighters and collaborators, had been detained for so long without trial.

Delmi Cupido from a public law firm called the Legal Assistance Centre said they were approached by one of the detainees and were in the process of visiting the person for consultations. The group have never been charged with committing any crime, despite the government's insistence that they are UNITA bandits and are linked to atrocities carried out in Namibia's northeast region.

Last week, Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Niilo Taapopi said his ministry would recommend that the 80 be given refugee status and moved to a camp other than the main Angolan settlement at Osire. The recommendation followed talks with UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

According to Taapopi, the accused are a security threat to Namibia and Angola. He said they are divided into three groups - those who want to go back to Angola, those who want refugee status, and those who say they have been in Namibia long enough to become citizens. He said their main challenge was to prove that they were not a security threat while the government maintained that they were UNITA collaborators.

At least 82 people were taken to Dordabis after being rounded up in the Kavango region in June and July last year as security forces tried to clamp down on banditry attacks mainly on civilians. Two of those transferred to Dordabis died from illnesses while in custody.


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