Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 12:42 UK

Mozambique police 'kill at will'

A policeman on a street of Mozambique's capital, Maputo, during February's protests over bus fares
The report accuses police of opening fire on protesters

Police in Mozambique have been accused of killing and torturing people with near total impunity.

The human rights group Amnesty International has published a report saying the Mozambique police appear to think they have a licence to kill.

The group says officials have responded to rising crime rates with often lethal force, but that they almost never face criminal proceedings.

Police in the southern African nation denied rogue police went unpunished.

Maputo city police spokesman Arnaldo Chefu admitted the existence of some unlawful police officers in the country's service, who involve themselves in criminal activities, including torture and killing, sometimes of innocent civilians.

He said they faced up to 24 years in jail if convicted.

Changes needed

Amnesty's report was published just a day after Mozambique's League for Human Rights said the country's human rights situation had deteriorated in 2008.

"Police in Mozambique seem to think they have a licence to kill and the weak police accountability system allows for this," said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty's Africa Programme, in the report, entitled "Licence to Kill".

"In almost all cases of human rights violations by police - including unlawful killings - no investigation into the case and no disciplinary action against those responsible has been undertaken, nor has any police officer been prosecuted."

Amnesty's report highlights individual cases including that of Abrantes Afonso Penicela.

Before he died, in August last year, he told his family how he had been left for dead by members of the police.

Mr Penicela said five of them arrived at his home. He said he was grabbed and bundled into a car. He was given a toxic injection, driven to a secluded area and beaten up until he fainted.

He said he was then shot in the back of the neck and set on fire.

The police left him there, but he survived and managed to crawl to a nearby road. Here he was found by local people who took him to a nearby hospital. There he told his story to his family before dying from his injuries.

No police officer has been arrested over Mr Penicela's death.

In February, police opened fire on a group of people protesting in the capital Maputo about increased transport fares, Amnesty's report says.

Three people were killed and around 30 injured in the incident.

Amnesty has recommended urgent changes to police codes to bring them into line with international standards.

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