Allegations of police brutality inflicted on those in custody have surfaced in Otavi after a series of complaints from those in holding cells.
The latest to complain is Frans Ekandjo who was allegedly assaulted by peace officers while in police custody at Otavi. Ekandjo, who has been arrested on robbery charges, appeared in court last week swollen and with multiple bruises.
“It seems to me that the Otavi police are using underhand and unlawful tactics which include the use of non-state actors to torture people suspected of committing crime,” Ekandjo’s attorney Pombili Shipila, from the Directorate of Legal Aid in the Ministry of Justice, told New Era yesterday.
However, the police spokesperson in Windhoek, Inspector Pendukeni Haikali, told New Era yesterday afternoon that the police are aware of the incident and the persons accused of assaulting Ekandjo are not police officers but police reservists.
Haikali said that even though appointed by the inspector general, police reservists are not officers of the law.
Haikali said a case of assault has been opened against the police reservists. “The matter at hand is still being investigated and charges of assault were laid against police reservists,” said Haikali.
“The police have the duty protect anyone in custody, but they are being negligent, they failed to protect him,” charged Shipila.
According to the lawyer, Ekandjo was taken from the cells last week to a small police office where he was assaulted by a former police officer (name supplied to New Era) from Otjiwarongo. The former police officer currently operates a private investigation company. Also accused of participating in the assult are members of the Otjiwarongo neighbourhood watch.
Shipila also alleges that an investigating officer from the Otavi Criminal Investigation Unit witnessed the assault but “paid no heed and just decided to be a bystander, as his fellow officers and members of the neighbourhood watch took turns battering Ekandjo”.
“It is my hope that media coverage on the issue will save the life of my client as police will know that the world is watching them,” Shipila said of his reason to bring the case to the attention of the media.
He alleges that his client has been assaulted several times while in custody. “They are the ones that facilitated his battering,” he said, alleging that police officers assaulted his client in the hope of extracting more information from him.
Shipila alleges there have been “other cases of a similar nature at Otavi police holding cells. Two victims are currently hospitalised in Otjiwarongo hospital after they were assaulted by white farmers apparently for illegal hunting.”
Shipila said police officers are aware of what is going on at their station. “’Those whites will kill you,’ were the words uttered by Sergeant Martial Walters last week during a court hearing, admitting what she told a victim of assault at the hands of white farmers,” Shipila said.