This week, Mozambique’s government appointed members of a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and other rights violations of female inmates by guards at the Ndlavela Women's Prison in Maputo. Minister of Justice Helena Kida also announced the suspension of the prison’s entire management. But government measures need to go further to ensure accountability for those responsible, provide reparations, and determine whether abuses are taking place in other prisons in Mozambique.
A report by the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), a Mozambican anti-corruption organization that first exposed the abuse, alleged that prison guards took women inmates outside the prison and forced them “to have sexual relations with strangers outside the prison.” The report said the guards negotiated payment and pocketed the money. Inmates who refused were allegedly assaulted or left without food.
“I was raped by my jailers,” CIP quoted one prisoner as saying. “I was beaten for refusing to have sexual relations with a duty officer. I ended up in hospital.”
The commission of inquiry, which has a broad membership, including representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the National Criminal Investigation Service, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Mozambican Bar Association, has about 15 days to conclude investigations and make recommendations to the minister of justice.
The allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of inmates highlight not only misconduct by law enforcement officials but also the integrity and security of prisons in Mozambique. Following the CIP report, an online publication claimed that male inmates in a Manica province prison allegedly bribed security guards to allow them to leave the prison to engage in sexual activities.
The Mozambican government should act further by extending the mandate of the commission to include a thorough investigation of prison conditions throughout Mozambique. It should take immediate steps to ensure all survivors of abuse or exploitation receive comprehensive health and psychosocial services and are provided an effective remedy. A clear and loud message should be sent to authorities in charge of detention facilities that the human rights of prisoners must be respected and protected, and those who violate their rights will be held accountable.