Stone-throwing mischief lands teenagers in hot water

11 February 2021 | Police

Windhoek • [email protected]

A young woman is suing the Namibian police for more than N$500 000 claiming they beat and bullied her when she was 14-years-old during questioning at a police station where she was held overnight.
The lawsuit filed by Salmi Peingombili Joseph in December 2019 when she was 18-years-old, claims she was forced to lie down in a "plank position while being beaten on her buttocks with a stick for over an hour”.
Moreover, she claims to have been forced “to cluck like a hen” and threatened by police officers with weapons to confess to the alleged crime of throwing stones into a neighbour’s yard.
Furthermore, she alleges she was told to walk to an outside area during the night, with her "hands stretched out in front of her with a baton balancing on her hands”.
Joseph, in her civil suit filed at the Windhoek High Court with the help of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), accuses the police of rounding her and a group of minors at Eenhana in September 2016 after a neighbour accused them of throwing stones at his property late at night.
She says the acts of assault and torture were part of a malicious and unlawful detainment.
The lawsuit alleges that Joseph and the other minors were assaulted to “force them to confess to having committed criminal acts”.
She is asking the court to award her damages totalling N$550 000 for the pain and suffering endured during the ordeal five years ago.

Criminals
The police deny all claims related to the alleged ill-treatment of Joseph during her night at the police station. However, they admit that Joseph and other minors were taken to the Eenhana police station for questioning at 22:00 on 30 September 2016, and kept there until the next morning.
They state that Joseph “and the others were taken from their home because they were reasonably suspected of having committed a criminal offence.”
The lawyers acting on behalf of the safety and security ministry and government argue that the group were suspected of having committed “malicious damage to property or attempting to commit such offence by throwing stones at the complainant's yard”.
The plea states they were taken away from their house without Joseph's grandmother coming along, as she, their legal guardian, “flatly refused the police’s invitation for her to accompany the minors to the police station that night”.
Further, that the officers who brought the teenagers to the station, “knocked-off” shortly afterwards as their shift ended at 22:00.
“If the minors were indeed abused overnight as alleged, it was by some other persons and not the officers that brought the minors to the police station,” the initial plea filed by the police states.
They accuse Joseph of bringing the matter to court in an attempt that constitutes an “improper scheme by someone bent on making money from the defendants”.

Out of time
The safety and security ministry and government have meanwhile brought a motion asking for the case to be dismissed as it was filed outside the prescribed timeframe off one year after the incident.
The LAC has countered their argument, noting that Joseph was a minor at the time of the incident, and was only able to file suit when she turned 18 in December 2018. She sued the police one year later, in December 2019.
On 5 February, the case was postponed to 29 March for a pre-trial conference by High Court Judge Herman Oosthuizen. Government attorney Mkhululi Khupe is acting on behalf of the defendants, the government of Namibia and the safety and security ministry.

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