Conditions of detention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are such that a prison term of one to five years is tantamount to a death sentence, according to the Human Rights Section of the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC.
In a 44-page report titled "Rapport sur la detention en RDC avril 2004", made available to IRIN on Thursday, the human rights section denounced as unacceptable the conditions of detention.
The section reported that torture and other forms of degrading treatment were frequent in jails and that the situation could be worse "in some inaccessible locations outside official control". There were also underground jails with inhumane conditions, it added.
Acute lack of food, poor health care and unhygienic conditions had, it said, turned detention facilities into morgues. In addition, it said, the fundamental rights of detainees were abused. Among these are the right to be released if charges are not brought within 48 hours of arrest, the
right for detainees to be informed within 24 hours the reason for their arrest, and the right to a fair trial within the legal time limits.
Lesotho wants to sign up for the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), according to a New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) communique.
Lesotho's intention was discussed at a recent meeting of the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The mechanism, overseen by the panel, monitors a country's progress towards political and economic reform and was put in place earlier this year. Seventeen African countries have signed up so far.
Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius were the first countries to accede, and the meeting in Johannesburg noted that the review process was at an advanced stage in Ghana.
Six more countries - Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria and Mali - are to be added to the priority list of applicants awaiting the peer review process. (Source: IRIN)
The Namibian Supreme Court has reserved judgment on a government appeal to overrule a High Court decision that freed 13 people accused of treason.
The 13 were part of a group of 120 arrested for allegedly taking part in secessionist violence led by the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), which attacked Katimo Mulilo, the largest town in the northeastern Caprivi region, in August 1999.
The 13 accused, including John Samboma, the alleged commander of the CLA, were released at the end of February following an order by Judge Elton Hoff at the High Court in Grootfontein, 500 km north of Windhoek. He ruled that his court did not have the jurisdiction to try the men because the circumstances under which they had been held were "irregular". The 13 were re-arrested on being released.
After a bench of five judges had heard arguments from both sides during the past two days, Acting Chief Justice Johan Strydom announced that the Supreme Court was going to reserve its judgment.
Government counsel Jeremy Gauntlett argued earlier this week that, since the main Caprivi treason trial was set to resume in the High Court in Grootfontein on 1 June, the Supreme Court's judgment affecting the future of the 13 accused would be desirable before then.
Although the accused were arrested four and a half years ago, the main treason trial only began towards the end of last year. "Before the end of last year, the accused did not even have legal representation," said defence counsel Patrick Kauta.
The Sudanese government has said it is determined to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the country's western Darfur region, where alleged violations of human rights have prompted widespread criticism of the authorities in Khartoum.
A statement issued on Wednesday by the Sudanese foreign ministry said: "The government has reiterated its keenness to achieve a lasting solution to the problem of Darfur, as well as normalisation of the situation and maintaining stability there."
The Sudanese authorities, it added, had "followed the deliberations of the [United Nations] Security Council regarding the issue of Darfur, and agreed with the contents of the reports presented by World Food Programme Executive Director James Morris and acting UN Human Rights Commissioner Bertrand Ramcharan, which stated that the rebels were the first party which instigated the crisis of Darfur".
On 7 May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) urged Sudan to stem human rights abuses in Darfur, where government troops and allied militias have been accused of perpetrating atrocities against civilians during military operations against insurgents.
The UNHCHR said in a report that "a disturbing pattern of disregard for basic principles of human rights and humanitarian law" had occurred in Darfur. The report followed a visit by a UNHCHR team to Darfur and neighbouring Chad in April.
The government of Zimbabwe says the country has produced enough food to meet domestic consumption requirements and will not require international aid, but independent crop forecasts suggest otherwise.
Official news organisation ZIANA and the Herald newspaper quoted the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Paul Mangwana, as saying that "we don't need food aid from outside the country. We generally believe we produced enough for local consumption, and we have told our international partners about this".
Although there were "some areas that would have food deficits, these would be covered through internal food distribution, and not imports", Mangwana was quoted as saying.
The latest announcement follows the cancellation of a planned crop assessment mission by United Nations agencies in Zimbabwe after the government withdrew its participation. The UN assessments are conducted at the invitation and with the participation of the host government.
According to aid agencies, some 5.5 million rural Zimbabweans and 2.5 million people in urban areas were in need of food aid up to the latest harvest, which began in April. (Source: IRIN)