Namibia: 'There Should Be No Detention Without Arrest'

Most people in Namibia are arrested and detained without being told why, while their rights to call a lawyer or question the arrest are often thrown out of the window.

Prominent lawyer Sisa Namandje said this in Windhoek on Wednesday at the launch of his booklet titled 'The Law on Liberty, Arrest and Detention in Namibia'.

He said the aim of the booklet is to stress the importance of the right to liberty, and to also teach people about arrest and detention.

"It is not to blame police officers, but also society, civil society, lawyers and activists. What happens is, in most cases, when a politician is arrested, everyone screams they must be arrested, but if it is a young person, it is unfair. There must be a universal standard of arrest," stressed Namandje.

Some arrests would be made on a Thursday, and the person is not charged but kept in custody over the weekend, which is a form of abuse, he added.

Namandje said some people would get arrested without warrants of arrest at odd hours, and some are kept in holding cells with minors, while also denied the right to call their lawyer, or to ask why they were arrested.

"There is a difference between arrest and detention. There can never be detention without arrest, but people find themselves detained without arrest because they submitted themselves to that. The police must inform you immediately why [you are being detained/arrested], or they cannot hold on to you," he explained.

Giving several illustrations, Namandje said arrest is in some cases used by law-enforcement agencies as an anticipatory punishment, and mostly for the police to confirm their own suspicions in instances.

"An officer effecting an arrest is required to inform the person being arrested why he is being arrested. If this is not done, then it would mean unlawful detention," said Namandje, adding that most detentions are done with the aim to confirm suspicions that law-enforcement agencies have.

Some members in the audience said the idea of resisting arrest because the police or law-enforcement agencies are not giving you a reason for the arrest, does not work in real life. Activist Job Amupanda gave a scenario where he was violently threatened by someone who seemed relatively unstable, and he opened a case against him, just in case.

He was later on subpoenaed, but when he could not find the case on the court roll, left. He then almost got arrested for not being present in court.

"How can they want to arrest the victim?" asked Amupanda, who further explained that he had ensured he had evidence in case his absence backfired. Namandje explained that an arrest in such a case is warranted.

Veteran politician Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana, who also attended the launch, described the booklet as a tool that could be used to educate the public on their rights should they get arrested.

"I trust the booklet will be very useful to communities because we are less educated about our rights as citizens. I think it is a timeous release, written by a professional whose knowledge will be essential and useful in educating society," Ivula-Ithana said.

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