Protesters against sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) under the banner of #ShutItAllDown allege they were unlawfully arrested and detained on Saturday before getting warned and released. Twenty-four of the protesters who are predominantly young women and four journalists are now planning to sue the police for the alleged unlawful arrest.
While journalists were released without being charged, the activists were charged for contravening Section 2 of the Public Gatherings Proclamation Act, for holding a public gathering without having given notice to the police.
They were also charged for contravening the Public and Environment Health Act, for allegedly conducting a gathering of more than 50 people and failing to or refusing to obey police instructions to disburse.
Charges against the protesters were dropped following the prosecutor general’ lengthy discussion with the activists’ legal team.
“We welcome the decision of the prosecutor general for declining to prosecute our clients. We are now taking instructions to institute legal action against the Inspector General of the Namibian Police for unlawful arrest and detention,” said Samson Enkali, one of the lawyers representing the activists.
In a statement, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) condemned the police for using excessive force against the protestors after the police used tear gas to disband the protests.
“The police should only use reasonable and justified measures to avert damage to life or property. The use of tear gas against the protestors is neither reasonable nor justified. In a democratic country we are permitted to raise our voices,” said LAC director Toni Hancox.
She added that SGBV has become a menace in the country and the government’s lack of action prompted the current protest.
“The President and government are called upon to respond to the pain of its people and take the needed action to prevent SGBV urgently. In the meantime, let the people raise their voices without fear,” said Hancox.
In a statement, police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga said the demonstration was unlawful. Ndeitunga claimed four journalists were amongst those that acted outside the law and obstructed law enforcers in executing their duties.
“The police are certainly for a peaceful demonstration, but we are against an unlawful and rowdy protest that impairs the safety and security of our nation. We live in a democracy and would not entertain any manifestations which verge on the rule of the mob,” said Ndeitunga.
Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News