Thirteen die in Mozambican police cell

At least 13 people have died while held in custody in an overcrowded police cell in Mozambique.

Amnesty International has urged the country’s authorities to urgently investigate the deaths. The bodies of the deceased detainees were discovered in a cell at the police station in the Mogencual, in the northern province of Nampula on Wednesday.

It was initially reported that 12 detainees had died but the Mozambican Human Rights League [LMDH] has said that at least 13 detainees are known to have died. According to the LMDH, more than 40 detainees were being held in a cell with a capacity for 10.

At least 12 of the 13 deceased detainees were among 29 people detained on suspicion of instigating violence after two Red Cross workers and two policemen were killed in a violent protest over cholera treatment. Violence broke out in the village of Quinga on Saturday 14 March when residents accused the Red Cross workers, who were putting chlorine in wells, of contaminating their water supplies with cholera.  

The district administrator alleged that the deaths may have been as a result of fights amongst the detainees while in custody. However, the causes of the deaths have not yet been established.

Amnesty International has called on the authorities to ensure that a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the causes of the deaths is carried out urgently. The organization is especially concerned about the over-crowded conditions in which the detainees were being held.

“The investigation should determine the precise circumstances in which the deaths occurred and the degree of responsibility of the police authorities at all levels,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.  

“The truth must be uncovered and appropriate remedial action taken, including bringing to justice anyone suspected of responsibility for this grave human rights violation, and ensuring adequate compensation for the victims’ families.”