16 January 2014

Mozambique: Authorities Exhume Bodies of Alleged Oppositionists Shot By Police

Photo: DW
Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo.

After the summary execution of four alleged Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) armed men by Rapid Intervention Force (FIR) officers, resulting in three dead and one seriously wounded survivor, in the bush around the Nthipuehi hamlet, in the Gazuzo administrative post, Murrupula, the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) lodged criminal proceedings against the Mozambican state.

In view of this situation, the Nampula Provincial Prosecutor's Office ordered the exhumation of the bodies buried in a mass grave in the area.

Although there was an order form the Nampula Provincial Prosecutor's Office, it was not easy to convince the Nthipuehi residents to agree to the exhumation of the remains of the three victims of a barbaric act by FIR, carried out because they allegedly belonged to Renamo. The problems were due to the fact that the residents said that this was a situat! ion beyond the norm in the area.

To exhume the bodies, the Nampula Provincial Prosecutor's Office had to create a cross-sector commission led by the Public Prosecutor's Office magistrate Cristovao Mondlane, and comprising his assistant, two LDH lawyers from the northern regional delegation, a doctor, and a nurse.

According to information in our possession, when the team arrived in Gazuzo it visited the office of the local chief to present its remit, whose main objective was to go to Nthipuehi where the remains of the victims of the shooting were located. Strangely, the local chief distanced himself from the summary executions, alleging that he was not aware of such a macabre act in his area of jurisdiction.

"We requested the presence of the police and the local chief, but they declined saying that they did not receive authorization from the Murrupula district administrator. Despite this we travelled to the site without them," one of the team members said a! sking for anonymity.

In Nthipuehi, the team faced a series of obstacles raised by the population, supposedly linked to regional traditions and customs. "We had to make a payment, which according to local custom is called a xirove, worth 2,000 meticals [about 67 dollars] to four men. With the help of the assistant and the medical examiner, the bodies in the mass grave were exhumed," the source recounted. The team was not welcomed by the locals who have bad memories of 5 December.

It has not been possible to provide details about the ongoing investigation allegedly because it is still in its preliminary stages, but in due course all the details of the macabre assassination will be disclosed. Verdade also learned that relatives of one of the victims were invited to witness the exhumation, but this was not possible for financial reasons, as they do not live in the Mogovolas district.

LDH asks police for names of victims for identification by relatives

Tarcisio Abibo, the LDH's northern region delegate, said that once the relatives of one of the dead are identified, the LDH will persuade the government to authorize the Mozambican National Police (PRM) in Nampula to release the names of the other victims in the next few days so that their families can be located. On the other hand, Abibo said that even if premature, the LDH will lodge civil and administrative proceedings against the state so that the victims' families can be compensated.

"As they were adult men, they were bread winners and leave children, wives, and other dependents at a loss. The Mozambican state violated point one of Article 56 of the Constitution and thus should ensure that these dependents have a better life," Abibo said.

More Renamo men possibly shot

In 2013, the PRM refused a LDH visit requested in writing, ref 273/CPRM/NPL/2013, stating the following: "We are aware of the mission and the LDH's work to safeguard man's dignity and respect and to guarantee his human rights and basic freedoms under the Constitution. The cells wishing to be visited house former Renamo guerrillas and other perpetrators of military crimes of killing defenceless civilians and looting on the Rapale-Cuambe road. As can be ascertained, these macabre actions cease to be common crimes and become military crimes, so we advise the LDH to wait for a better time bearing in mind the investigations and searches underway.= "

Verdade also learned, after a December meeting between the Renamo delegation, led by Secretary General Manuel Bissopo, the PRM provincial commander, and the Nampula chief prosecutor, that out of 45 alleged Renamo men in custody, at least 21 saw their detention formalized, although the! y are still held in the PRM's command cells, and seven were released due to lack of proof. The whereabouts of another 17 people is unknown, and it is speculated that they may have been shot.

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