Madam Pauline Dempers of Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWL), a southern Africa human rights institution, said enforced disappearances in Namibia are in most cases politically motivated.
Madam Dampers was presenting a paper during a panel discussion on “Enforced Disappearances in Africa” at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), in Banjul last week.
“Enforced disappearances in Namibia are mostly politically motivated, a crime committed by the liberation movements that is today the ruling party in Namibia. And when addressing the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared you become the enemy of the government,” she said.
“It is imperative that laws are reformed in our different countries. Currently, the Namibian Civil Society is advocating that outdated laws be removed from the roll of the judiciary, because they are use to suppress the voice of the people,” Madam Dampers, who suffered a three-year detention, tortured and forced to make false confessions said.
She said a law of 1939 was used to ban the marches that were organized by the regional civil society organization during the Heads of States Summit in Namibia last year; however, she said the Namibian Court declared the bans as unconstitutional.
She charged that such laws should be reformed and a Freedom of Information Law put in place in order to ease searches for disappeared persons, whose families are subjected to leaving in fear and continuous torture for not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones.
“They live in fear for reprisals if they seek remedy as if they do not have the right to know the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons,” she argued, while challenging civil society organizations to assist, and to mobilize the families and also raised awareness around national, regional and international levels.
Enforced disappearance has a psychological effect on the families because they are continuously tortured by the silence around the disappeared; political intimidation keeps the families in fear, socially - many families are disrupted and community members disassociate themselves from the families of the disappeared. Economically, the victim may have been the breadwinner of the family and as a result the family remains without any income or source of living, marginalized because of the stigma they are branded with.
“It is not by coincidence that I speak on enforced disappearances, I was a freedom fighter within the Liberation Movement, SWAPO, as was known we operated within Namibia as well as from neighboring countries: Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola.
“While in exile in Angola, I was accused of being an enemy agent, arrested and detained for three years. I was tortured and forced to make false confession and striped naked and beaten by five men from the security force,” she said of her account.