Mozambique: The Justice System 'Betrays the Trust of the People' - Josina Machel

Maputo — Josina Machel, daughter of Mozambique's first President, Samora Machel, has declared the court verdict acquitting the man accused of blinding her as "a blow against millions of Mozambican women and women throughout the world".

The attack on Josina occurred in October 2015, and was so serious that she lost the sight in her right eye. The man accused of the assault, businessman Rufino Licuco, had been in a relationship with Josina for three years.

The case came to trial in February 2017, and the Maputo City Court found Licuco guilty of assault and of domestic and psychological violence. The court sentenced him to a prison term of three years and four months, suspended for five years - on condition that Licuco pay his victim damages of over 200.6 million meticais (about 2.9 million US dollars at today's exchange rates). Rather than pay up, Licuco appealed, and the verdict of the Higher Appeals Court became known last week.

The appeals judges quashed the sentence of the lower court, which means that Licuco will not have to pay Josina Machel any damages at all. One of the grounds for the appeal was that there were no witnesses to the assault - which is, of course, true for most cases of domestic violence.

In her first public reaction to Licuco's acquittal, taking the form of an open letter published in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", Josina said that she and the Machel family had believed in Mozambican justice.

She had presented evidence she had believed was irrefutable, including a confession, and "recognised experts gave their professional testimony as to the origin of the injury to my face".

"Rufino Licuco knows the absolute truth", she exclaimed. "Many people know, but above all God knows",

Josina added that "when I screamed for the first time, and told the health workers and the police what had just happened to me, I was alone, and I acted for the truth. I didn't know I was crying out on behalf of millions of other women".

Josina does not intend to give up. "To paraphrase my father, 'I have lost a battle, but we have not lost the war'", she said.

She argued that, in the search for justice, "the courage of women in making public their experiences of gender-based violence requires breaking secrecy, shame and stigma, and depositing trust in the protection of the law and the legal system".

But, as her own case had shown, "the criminal justice system often prejudices still further the victims and survivors of domestic violence. The justice system has now shown that it betrays the trust of the people, and encourages the perpetrators to go on beating, mutilating and killing us, covered with impunity".

"This system of power, already has the blood of my father on its hands, and again it has chosen to remain with my blood on its hands", she added.

"For me, as an activist, the struggle continues", Josina declared. "I want to guarantee to millions of women, and particularly the victims and survivors of violence that my determination has been strengthened. This struggle has chosen me, and I shall continue to use my voice and my face to advocate and fight for the eradication of gender-based violence until my last breath".

"Together, and with strength in numbers, we shall challenge and dismantle these systems of oppression. With one eye, I remain a soldier", she concluded.

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