Mozambique: Justice Minister Concerned At Attacks Against Journalists

Maputo — The Mozambican Justice Minister, Helena Kida, has expressed her concern at the reports of human rights violations and attacks against journalists, following the police violence against reporters who were covering a demonstration a week ago of 300 former members of the now defunct security service, SNASP, outside the United Nations offices in Maputo, demanding money which they claim has been owing to them for the past 20 years.

According to Kida, who was speaking, on Monday, at an International Symposium on Gender in the Judiciary, a three-day event taking place in Maputo, “overall, we are concerned about the situation of human rights violations. But we have to look at each case, individually. In general, of course, we are not in favor. We need more information to comment on the issue’, she said.

The minister believes that there must have been an excess of zeal “because initially it seemed that a journalist had been kidnapped by the police. That’s impossible. The police don’t kidnap. They may have exceeded their powers in maintaining order.’

In fact, there is no doubt that the journalist in question, Sheila Wilson, was kidnapped. For if she was merely detained, she would have faced charges. But, although the police called her an agitator, they did not charge her with any crime. She was kept incomunicado at a police station for four hours, before the police released her without charge.

Wilson, who works for the human rights organisation, the Centre for Development and Democracy (CDD), had been filming, on her mobile phone, the police attack against the demonstration by the former SNASP officers.

When they released her, the police did not give her phone back. They kept it, apparently in the belief that images of police violence would not appear on television screens. But Wilson had been transmitting the scenes at the UN compound live to CDD headquarters, and so her footage had already been distributed.

During the symposium, the minister called on justice professionals to standardize the way in which they look at the gender situation, when making judgments and when dealing with issues concerning women.

“Training and capacity building for the judiciary, with a gender perspective, are crucial to guaranteeing equal access to justice and impartiality in judicial decisions’, she said.

“We have often seen cases in which women consider themselves to have been wronged. This makes us realize that we haven’t yet achieved equality. What we want is to eliminate inequalities in treatment and access to legal services’, she added.

According to Kida, by receiving specific training on gender, police officers, lawyers, magistrates and legal aid officials will be better prepared to understand the complexities of power relations and gender discrimination that can influence judicial processes.

“We have situations in which the same case judged by a male and female judge may not have the same outcome. The sensitivity of a female judge, when judging a rape case, sometimes seems much deeper than when a man is judging’, she said.

Kida believes that the Symposium is the moment when justice operators “will reflect on how to achieve fairer justice by also looking at the women’s component. This favours everyone making fairer and more equitable decisions at any stage of the process.’