Mozambique: Action Promised Against Police Commander Accused of Child Marriage

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Maputo — The Mozambican Public Prosecutor's Office has promised to take action against a police commander who contracted marriage with a 16 year old girl, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique".

Afonso Dias, the district police commander in Morrumbala, in the central province of Zambezia, married the girl in the presence of several other high ranking figures, the newssheet reported, despite the illegality of such marriages, and the clear government policy against child marriage.

Last year, the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, passed a law making child marriage a criminal offence. An adult who marries a girl under the age of 18 can be jailed for 12 years. Other adults who witnessed or participated in the ceremony can also be jailed.

The Zambezia representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office, Fred Jamal, told reporters, "as the Public Prosecutor, we are also the guardians of minors, and we do not tolerate situations of this sort. We want to assure the public and the organisations working for children's rights that we shall do everything we can to clear up this case".

Criminal proceedings are under way against Dias, he added, and some people allegedly involved in the illicit marriage have already been interviewed.

The Human Rights Commission of the Mozambican Bar Association (OAM) issued a statement condemning the police commander's behaviour. It said that Mozambican laws should protect citizens against illicit acts or threats, and the laws should be made effective through an effective system for the administration of justice.

But the Zambezia Provincial Police Command has sprung to the defence of Dias. The spokesperson for the Zambezia police, Sidner Lonzo, gave a press conference in the provincial capital, Quelimane, on Tuesday, to deny reports of the child marriage, that were first made public by reputable NGOs, including the Civil Society Forum for Children's Rights (ROSC) and the Network Against Child Abuse.

Lonzer flatly denied that Dias had been involved with a 16 year old girl. He said the provincial police command had set up a commission of inquiry "which went to Morrumbala district, and we found no evidence of any involvement of the commander with this minor".

But "O Pais" says that, according to the paper's sources, the affair dates back two years, to a time when the girl was only 14 years old. The illicit marriage received the consent of the girl's family, and she has given birth to the commander's son.

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