Mozambique

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous credible reports by media and international human rights organizations that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Most reports named security forces, particularly the Armed Forces of Mozambique (FADM) operating in Cabo Delgado Province, while others identified National Police (PRM) and the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) members as perpetrators. The Attorney General’s Office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of security force killings deemed unjustifiable; however, the government failed to investigate many reports of abuses.

There were numerous abuses similar to the following examples. Although a lack of access to Cabo Delgado Province impeded verification by media and human rights organizations, media reported security forces shot and killed between 18 and 48 civilians on small boats in the vicinity of Ibo Island between April 12 and 21. On April 12, individuals wearing FADM uniforms reportedly shot and killed 12 fishermen and merchants and looted their ships’ cargo. On April 23, the president stated security forces in Cabo Delgado Province might have “unintentionally” violated human rights in combatting violent extremists. On September 14, a video emerged on social media showing armed, uniformed men walking on a paved road in a rural area following a naked woman and yelling “Shabaab,” the local name for ISIS-Mozambique. She was beaten with a stick and shot several times. The president and senior officials claimed that the terrorist groups in Cabo Delgado Province had created the video as part of a misinformation campaign and that an investigation had been opened. No details or results of an investigation had been released by year’s end.

Police were accused of arbitrary and sometimes violent enforcement of the COVID-19 state of emergency orders issued by the president on April 1. For example, on April 21, in Sofala Province, media reported that two PRM officers beat a resident to death for threatening to film them playing soccer after they broke up a match in which players had violated social distancing rules. On April 23, the officers involved were arrested, and the PRM announced it would investigate the incident and apply disciplinary measures if warranted. The PRM had not released further information on the case by year’s end.

On June 17, six police officers of the Gaza Province UIR and the Gaza Special Operations Unit were convicted of murder for the October 2019 killing of civil society leader Anastacio and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 24 years.

Human rights organizations and the government stated violent extremists in Cabo Delgado Province committed human rights abuses against civilians that included beheadings, kidnappings, and use of child soldiers. From January to November, there were an estimated 1,484 fatalities in Cabo Delgado Province, of which 602 resulted from targeted extremist violence against civilians and 109 resulted from security force violence against civilians. Extremists also abducted civilians during village raids. Security force responses to this violence was often heavy handed, including arbitrary arrest and detention and extrajudicial killings of suspected violent extremists and civilians.

There were numerous abuses reported by media similar to the following example. On September 30, extremists beheaded seven persons, shot and killed another seven, and tortured others during a two-week period. Extremists also posted videos depicting the mutilation of corpses of security force members.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of civilian or military authorities.

According to media, in March activist Roberto Abdala, who worked for the land rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Centro Terra Viva (the Living Earth Center) disappeared in the northern city of Palma. Abdala remained missing at year’s end.

On April 9, independent online newspaper Carta de Mocambique reported that military members abducted independent journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco in Cabo Delgado Province. On April 7, Mbaruco’s last communication was a text message stating he was surrounded by military members. On April 27, Augusto Guta, police public relations head in Cabo Delgado Province, stated police were searching for Mbaruco and requested the public’s help locating him. Mbaruco’s whereabouts remained unknown at year’s end.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but international and domestic human rights groups reported mistreatment of detainees, specifically those detained in Cabo Delgado Province as a result of counterterrorism operations. At least two videos surfaced that showed security forces physically abusing terrorist suspects. For example, in August a video appeared showing alleged government security force members caning three terrorist suspects; one suspect appeared to have been caned to death. In September the government stated it had opened an investigation into the matter. No additional information was available by year’s end.

According to human rights activists, impunity was a significant problem within the security forces, particularly forces operating in Cabo Delgado Province. A weak judicial system contributed to impunity, including a lack of capacity to investigate cases of abuse and to prosecute and try perpetrators. The Human Rights Commission is mandated to investigate allegations of abuses. The government did not provide widespread or systemic training increase respect for human rights and prevent abuses by security force members.

Prison conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening in most areas due to gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, and limited medical care.

Physical Conditions: Government officials and civil society organizations cited as serious problems overcrowding, poor nutrition, poor hygiene and medical care, the inclusion of juvenile prisoners in adult facilities, and convicted and untried prisoners sharing cells. Almost all prisons dated from the pre-1975 colonial era, and many were in an advanced state of dilapidation. The attorney general’s annual report to parliament issued in May cited overcrowding and degradation of infrastructure as threats to the security, rehabilitation, and human rights of prisoners. The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) acknowledged an acute shortage of prison facilities and that lack of adequate facilities contributed to the abuse of detainees. According to the PGR, prisons were 232 percent above capacity with 19,789 prisoners occupying space for only 8,498.

On April 6, parliament approved an amnesty law in response to COVID-19 that provided for the release of prisoners convicted of minor offenses to ease overcrowding in the National Penitentiary Service. Media reported the release of approximately 5,000 detainees.

Juvenile detainees were held in preventive detention with adult prisoners. Inmates with disabilities often shared cells with other prisoners. No information was available on deaths in prison, jails, pretrial detention, or other detention centers attributed to physical conditions, including on whether authorities took remedial action.

Administration: Although no formal system specific to prisons existed for receiving or tracking complaints, prisoners were free to contact the PGR, the national ombudsman, or NGOs with complaints.

Independent Monitoring: International and domestic human rights groups had access to prisoners at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior, and permission to visit prisoners was generally granted. The Mozambican Human Rights League and the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) had a high degree of access to prisons run by the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements; however, civil society groups reported security forces repeatedly arrested and detained persons, including journalists and civil society activists in northern Cabo Delgado Province on unsubstantiated charges of involvement in extremist violence or property destruction.

Apart from operations countering extremist violence in northern Cabo Delgado Province, authorities generally did not detain suspects without judicial authorization. By law judges or prosecutors must first issue an arrest warrant unless a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime. The maximum length of investigative detention is 48 hours without a warrant or six months with a warrant, during which time a detainee has the right to judicial review of the case. A detainee may be held another 90 days if the National Criminal Investigation Service continues its investigation. A person accused of a crime carrying a potential maximum sentence if convicted of more than eight years’ imprisonment may be detained up to an additional 84 days without being formally charged. A court may approve two additional 84-day periods of detention without charge while police complete their investigation. The detainee must be released if no charges are brought within the prescribed period for investigation. Authorities, however, did not always respect these legal requirements.

The law provides for citizens’ right to access the courts and the right to legal representation, regardless of ability to pay for such services. Indigent defendants, however, frequently received no legal representation due to a shortage of legal professionals willing to work without charge. There were no reports of suspects held incommunicado or under house arrest.

The bail system remained poorly defined.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem due to a lack of judges and prosecutors and poor communication among authorities.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Some civil society groups asserted, however, that the executive branch and ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique Party (Frelimo) exerted influence on an understaffed and inadequately trained judiciary, especially in politically sensitive national security cases where extremist suspects were accused of violent crimes in Cabo Delgado Province.

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. Courts presume accused persons innocent, and defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. By law defendants are entitled to a fair, timely, and public trial, and the right to be present at their trial. Defendants enjoy the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, and the law specifically provides for public defenders for all defendants, although this did not always happen. While defendants have adequate time to prepare a defense, they often do not have adequate facilities to do so. Defendants also have the right to free interpretation as necessary, and authorities generally did not deny persons these rights. Convicted persons may appeal lower court decisions to a higher court.

By law only judges or lawyers may confront or question witnesses. A defendant may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The government generally upheld such rights. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

Persons accused of crimes against the government, including treason or threatening national security, are tried in open civilian courts according to standard criminal judicial procedures. Members of media and the general public attended trials throughout the year; however, a judge may order a trial closed to media in the interest of national security, to protect the privacy of the plaintiff in a sexual assault case, or to prevent interested parties outside the court from destroying evidence.

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses through domestic courts. By law citizens may file lawsuits through the Office of the Ombudsman, the CNDH, and the Mozambican Bar Association seeking cessation of human rights abuses, damages for abuses, or both. The country is a signatory to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Office of the Ombudsman is constitutionally designated as guarantor of citizens’ legal rights in dealings with the government. Citizens may file complaints with the Ombudsman’s Office. Each complaint is reviewed and an investigation initiated if the Ombudsman’s Office judges it legitimate.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, there were reports the government at times failed to respect the privacy of personal communications, particularly those of civil society activists and journalists. There were no reports authorities entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization. Some civil society activists stated government intelligence services and operatives of the ruling party monitored telephone calls and emails without warrants, conducted surveillance of their offices, followed opposition members, used informants, and disrupted opposition party activities in certain areas.

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