Namibia

Outcry over rape decisions by Namibian magistrate

Decisions by a magistrate based at the Oshakati Regional Court in Namibia have led to strong community protest and concern by anti-rape activists who oppose sentences the judicial officer has passed in rape cases. They are also against him being asked to sentence a rapist in a case where he (the magistrate) had originally acquitted the accused. Now, following the state’s successful appeal against that acquittal, the magistrate must sentence the man whom he was originally sure was not guilty.

Namibian magistrate Leopold Hangalo is at the centre of community concern over his decisions in three unrelated rape matters.

In the most recent, he convicted teacher Itana Sakaria of repeatedly raping a 13-year-old learner in 2014 and fathering a child with her. The magistrate then went on to give the teacher – apparently still working at the same school – a completely suspended sentence, finding that there were compelling grounds for Sakaria to escape the prescribed 15-year sentence for raping a minor.

Transgender victim of police unlawful arrest and assault awarded damages

Police in Namibia have yet again come in for some tough criticisms by the courts of that country. This time because of the unwarranted harassment, unlawful arrest, assault and abuse meted out against a transgender woman who was picked up and forced into a police van, for no good reason.

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What makes this story unusual is that the victim of the police assault was a transgender woman. Otherwise, however, the tale of police brutality, carried out with an apparent firm belief in the aggressor’s impunity, is a story that is becoming increasingly common in the Namibian courts.

Namibian government to appeal in gay fathers' surrogacy case

An important Namibian high court decision, seen as progressive and widely welcomed in the gay and lesbian community, is to be challenged in that country’s highest court. The high court had ordered the government to register a child, born of a surrogacy arrangement in South Africa, as a Namibian citizen by descent.

Twenty years is a lifetime in the law, especially when outdated laws and legal concepts have to be re-considered in the light of modern constitutional principles.

That’s one reason that a notice of appeal, filed by the Namibian government last week, points to a supreme court matter that could prove most interesting.

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