Mozambique: Five years on, Josina Machel still waiting for justice for gender-based violence
Five years after woman human rights defender Josina Machel lost one of her eyes in a brutal gender-based assault, she is yet to see justice as her case continues to drag in Mozambican courts, Amnesty International said today.
It is absolutely a travesty of justice that Josina Machel is still waiting for justice five years after she was brutally assaulted in a clear case of gender-based violence
In June 2020, an appeal court overturned the guilty verdict against Josina Machel’s attacker, Rofino Licuco, who is her ex-partner, on the ground that there were no eyewitnesses to corroborate physical and psychological aggression. The court also ruled that the medical evidence presented could not exclude the possibility of Josina’s injury to be a result of a “simple fall” or “blunt object”. Josina is challenging that decision at the Supreme Court, and the date for the ruling is yet to be set.
“It is absolutely a travesty of justice that Josina Machel is still waiting for justice five years after she was brutally assaulted in a clear case of gender-based violence. The authorities must ensure that this and all other cases of gender-based violence are investigated and tried fairly and without discrimination,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“When the wheels of justice take longer to serve those who are at higher risk of violence and discrimination, including women, it says a lot about that country’s justice system.”
The appeal court’s decision that found Rofino Licuco not guilty of the gender-based violence (GBV) against Josina was a heavy blow to women and those fighting against GBV.
When the wheels of justice take longer to serve those who are at higher risk of violence and discrimination, including women, it says a lot about that country’s justice system
Josina Machel has also been threatened and intimidated to discourage her from speaking up about her experience of abuse. Rofino Licuco’s lawyers sent a letter in August 2020 to Josina warning her to stop referring to her ex-partner and using his name in any electronic or material document, recording or campaigning output in an effort to silence her.
On 17 October 2015, Josina Machel lost her right eye in an assault at the hands of her then-partner. She described receiving three punches, two on her face, which blinded her immediately, and a third to the back of her head. Since the attack, Josina uses a prosthetic eye. While Licuco was initially found guilty for the crimes of physical and psychological violence, a criminal appeal section of the Judicial Court of Maputo City overturned the verdict.
“Women human rights defenders face heightened risks of gender-based violence simply for raising their voices against injustice and challenging traditional gender roles in society,” said Deprose Muchena.
The authorities must ensure that this and all other cases of gender-based violence are investigated and tried fairly and without discrimination
“Authorities must create a safe and enabling environment for Josina Machel and all other women human rights defenders to continue with their vital human rights work, and send a message to other survivors of gender-based violence that it is safe to speak out and seek justice.”
Josina Machel is a well-known woman human rights defender who founded the Kuhluka movement, a pan-African Non-Governmental Organization working to end gender-based violence. Josina is the daughter of Graça Machel, well-known advocate for women and children’s rights, and Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique.
In the aftermath of the 2015 attack, Josina was subjected to a campaign of intimidation, including being followed by unidentified men in Maputo city and receiving threatening calls, including from Rofino Licuco. Rofino is a politically connected and powerful man in Mozambique.