13 March 2018

Namibia: Likoro Fights On Against Rape Verdict

Former ministerial adviser Vincent Likoro has asked two judges of the Windhoek High Court to allow him to appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction on a rape charge.

It cannot be concluded that an appeal by Likoro against his rape conviction would have no prospects of succeeding, defence counsel Louis Botes argued yesterday during the hearing of an application by Likoro to be given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Most of Botes' address to judge Dinnah Usiku and acting judge Johanna Salionga focused on Likoro's legal representation during his trial in the Katima Mulilo Regional Court, with Botes arguing that Likoro did not have proper representation. The issue of effective legal representation was a constitutional question that would be a new development in Namibian law, and in the absence of jurisprudence on the issue one could not conclude that the Supreme Court would not make a finding that Likoro did not have effective legal representation during his trial, Botes said. Judge Usiku and acting judge Salionga reserved their judgement after hearing oral arguments from Botes and deputy prosecutor general Dominic Lisulo.

Likoro was prosecuted on two counts of rape following an incident at a lodge in the Zambezi region during the night of 6 to 7 July 2013. According to Likoro, he had consensual sex with a colleague that night, while the complainant said he raped her. The incident happened while Likoro, a former Swapo coordinator in the Kavango region who at that stage was an adviser to the then minister of lands and resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, was on a working visit to the Zambezi with the complainant, other colleagues and !Naruseb.

Likoro denied guilt on the two charges during his trial, but was found guilty on one charge and acquitted on the other in January 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment at the end of his trial.

After lodging an appeal against the verdict, Likoro was granted bail in May 2016 while awaiting the outcome of his appeal. He remained free on bail until his appeal against his conviction was dismissed in the Windhoek High Court in December last year, and has been in prison since then.

Botes also argued yesterday that the two judges who heard Likoro's appeal in November last year made an error by finding that the way Likoro's defence was conducted by his lawyer during his trial did not amount to an irregularity. He further argued that Likoro's defence - that he and the complainant had consensual sex - should have been raised at the beginning of his trial, and should have been put to the prosecution's witnesses during the trial. It was because of a lack of experience and knowledge on the part of Likoro's former lawyer that his defence was not revealed from the start of the trial and put to state witnesses when they were cross-examined, Botes said.

Lisulo reminded the two judges that judges Usiku and Christie Liebenberg, who heard Likoro's appeal in the High Court four months ago, found that complaints about Likoro's former defence lawyer fell short of an irregularity that would invalidate Likoro's conviction. It was only after Likoro had been found guilty that complaints about his legal representation surfaced, Lisulo added, arguing that another court would not come to a different conclusion than the judges who heard his appeal last year.

Jan Wessels has been representing Likoro with Botes during the appeal process.


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