Human rights activist and head of NamRights, Phil ya Nangoloh, yesterday informed Judge Elton Hoff that in his view the atrocities committed by the high treason convicts are “justifiable” under international law.
According to Ya Nangoloh, the “Caprivians”, as he called the men accused of treason, acted in self-defence when they launched an attack on the town of Katima Mulilo on August, 2, 1999, in which eight people were killed.
Nangoloh quoted something he called the Castle Doctrine, which he says allows a man to defend his home from intruders. In his view the “Caprivians merely defended their homeland from what they perceived as an unlawful invasion”.
He further said that the crimes they were charged and convicted of are “political in nature” and do not constitute criminal offences. He further said the convicts did not have the “intent” to kill anyone when they launched the attacks.
“There is no element of intent in political crimes,” he said. “The act cannot be criminal if the mindset was not criminal.” He says the 30 men convicted recently for high treason are in fact “political prisoners.”
Judge Hoff found in his judgment that the men he convicted of high treason had “hostile intent towards the State.”
Ya Nangoloh said when Namibia gained Independence many Swapo guerrilla fighters were pardoned for acts of violence they committed while fighting for the independence of the country. This is a similar situation, he said, and called for the release of the high treason convicts.
Ya Nangoloh said the murder and attempted murder charges the men were convicted of do not constitute criminal offences, and as such were justifiable since they were committed under the category of political crimes, according to international laws to which Namibia is a signatory.
In the meantime the judge postponed the matter to November 4 for the lawyers of the 30 men convicted of high treason, amongst other charges, to address the court on the sentences to be imposed after the personal circumstances of the last few were placed on record.
It followed the same trend as the previous ones, with testimonies of financial hardship on their families and loss of family members, as well as missing out on the births and upbringing of their grandchildren.
Judge Hoff called the head of legal services at the Namibia Correctional Services, Commissioner Raphael Malobela, to testify on the ways prisoners are released after serving parts of their sentences. He specifically asked Malobela about the minimum periods a convict must serve before being considered for parole or remission of sentence.
Malobela told the court that currently there two kinds of offences, non-scheduled offences and scheduled offences under which murder, attempted murder and high treason fall. While in the case of non-scheduled offences – which in most cases comprises non-violent offences – a convict must serve at least 50 percent of the sentence before they can be considered for parole.
In the case of scheduled offences a convict must serve at least 75 percent of the imposed sentence. In the case of a convict being sentenced to life in prison the minimum such convict must serve is 25 years before parole is considered, if at all.
Parole is, however, only considered if the parole board is satisfied that the prisoner is no longer a threat to society, Malobela told the court.
He said age does not play a role in determining whether a convict is eligible for parole. A convict may be released on medical parole or on compassionate grounds by the Head of State following a recommendation to that effect from the head of prisons to the minister of safety and security.