Mozambique: Video showing killing of naked woman further proof of human rights violations by state armed forces

The authorities in Mozambique must immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into the extrajudicial killing of a defenceless naked woman in Mocímboa da Praia in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, Amnesty International said today, after verifying video footage of the attack which was shared on social media. 

“This horrendous video is yet another gruesome example of the gross human rights violations and merciless killings taking place in Cabo Delgado by the Mozambican security forces,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“The incident is consistent with our recent findings of appalling human rights violations and crimes under international law happening in the area. It demonstrates a repeated and unrelenting pattern of crimes being committed by the Mozambican armed forces.

“Armed forces cannot enjoy free rein to commit crimes under international law and human rights violations, including killings of civilians in the name of fighting armed groups. The Mozambique authorities must investigate these shocking latest crimes, and ensure that all those suspected of criminal responsibility are brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts.”

Woman beaten and shot 36 times

According to analysis by Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab, the unidentified woman was killed at or near coordinates –11.5185, 40.0211 in the middle of the R698 road, outside the electrical substation on the western side of the town of Awasse in Cabo Delgado.

She was attempting to flee north along the road when she was approached by men who appeared to be members of the Mozambique Armed Defense Force (FADM), who were following her. After beating her with a wooden stick, she was shot dead and her naked body was left on the highway. Four different gunmen shot her a total of 36 times with a variety of Kalashnikov rifles and a PKM-style machine gun.

The soldiers were wearing the uniform of the FADM. One soldier has the distinctive yellow-and-black scroll on his left shoulder, as seen in the accompanying image. Most of the soldiers are in full uniforms, but the PKM gunner is wearing a red shirt in place of the standard camouflage one.

All of the soldiers speak Portuguese and refer to the woman as ‘Al-Shabaab’, a local armed group blamed for causing instability in the region since October 2017. At the beginning of the video, they can be heard saying, “This is Al-Shabaab”, and at the end they say, “We’ve just killed Al-Shabaab”. A local military source, who spoke to Amnesty International researchers, provided a bizarre justification for the killing, claiming the woman had cast a spell on the Mozambican Army, and refused to show them the insurgents’ hideout.

The video first appeared on social media on 14 September, but was shared privately on mobile phones on 7 September, the day that it was likely filmed, according to Amnesty International’s sources. That coincides with the government’s “mega-operation” to remove insurgents from Awasse and Diaca, corroborating the presence of FADM fighters in the towns at that time.

Clarification: the original version of this text contained a typographical error in the coordinates of the scene of the shooting. The text failed to include the “-“ before the first set of numerical digits.