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Cablegate: Three Police Officers Sentenced to Long Prison

VZCZCXRO0921
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHTO #0777 2271309
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141309Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9221
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0213

UNCLAS MAPUTO 000777

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL MZ
SUBJECT: THREE POLICE OFFICERS SENTENCED TO LONG PRISON
TERMS FOR EXECUTING PRISONERS

REF: 2007 MOZAMBIQUE HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

1. (U) SUMMARY: On July 31, the Maputo City Court sentenced
three police officers to 21 years' imprisonment each and
ordered the officers to pay $25,000 to the families of three
prisoners executed by the officers in April 2007. The
conviction is the result of an independent investigation
conducted by the Attorney General's office and is a rare
example of police officers being punished for unlawful
killings of civilians. While it is unlikely that the
conviction will have an immediate effect on police behavior,
it is nevertheless a victory for the Mozambican justice
system.

--------------------------
POLICE: KILLINGS JUSTIFIED
--------------------------

2. (U) In April 2007, three police officers shot three
prisoners on a soccer field just outside of Maputo (Ref).
The case only became public after residents of the suburb
complained to the press and the NGO Human Rights League (LDH)
about the incident. Over a period of several weeks, the
press provided widespread coverage to the case, speculating
that the police had summarily executed the prisoners. The
police and the Attorney General's office initiated separate
investigations. The police investigation concluded that the
prisoners were shot while trying to escape the police car
that was transporting them. Despite the gravity of the
incident and the public outcry for justice, the only evidence
collected in this investigation was the statements from the
officers involved in the shooting.

-----------------------------------------
ATTORNEY GENERAL: PRISONERS WERE EXECUTED
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) The Attorney General's office conducted a thorough
investigation that included autopsy results from the slain
prisoners, evidence from the killing site, and statements
from the neighborhood residents and the police officers. The
autopsy report showed that the prisoners had been shot at
point blank range and therefore could not have been running
away. It also demonstrated the number of shots fired was
excessive, particularly if the intent of the shots was merely
to prevent escape. As a result of the evidence, the Attorney
General's investigation concluded that the police summarily
executed the prisoners rather than bring them before the
courts.

-------------------------------
STRONG SENTENCE SENDS A MESSAGE
-------------------------------

4. (U) In the ensuing trial of the three accused police
officers, the Maputo City Court agreed with the Attorney
General's conclusion that the police summarily executed the
prisoners. On July 31, the court sentenced the officers to
21 years' imprisonment each and ordered the officers to pay
approximately $25,000 to the families of the slain prisoners.
NGOs, including the well-respected LDH, considered the
sentence strong and meant to send a message to the police
that such killings will no longer be tolerated.

-----------------------------------------
COMMENT: A VICTORY FOR THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The conviction of the three officers is a victory
of varying degrees on several levels. In a country where
cases concerning unlawful killings by the police are often
doomed to the black hole of endless investigations, the media
deserves praise for their relentless coverage of the case.
The Attorney General's decision to open up a parallel
investigation is also noteworthy and may demonstrate that
blind faith in police investigations will no longer be the
norm. The court also deserves praise for its decision to
quickly consider the evidence presented by the Attorney
General and hand down a stiff penalty. While it is too early
to tell whether such a sentence will affect police behavior,
particularly as officers continue to lack proper salaries,
training, and resources, it is nevertheless an important
victory for the justice system in Mozambique.

Amani

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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