In response to a video being circulated on social media purportedly showing soldiers throwing dead bodies onto a pile of burning household items in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah, said:
“The viral video showing soldiers burning corpses is another horrific event that gives a glimpse of what is going on away from the attention of international media in this forgotten war in Cabo Delgado.
“Tragically it appears that incidents of violence against civilians, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law are still occurring, as previously documented by Amnesty International.”
The video, which Amnesty International reviewed gained traction on social media on 10 January. The incident is believed to have taken place during the month of November 2022 in Cabo Delgado, where the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) regional force, which includes troops from the South African National Defence Force, has been fighting armed rebel groups since 2021 alongside Mozambique government forces.
The video also depicts at least one South African National Defence Force (SANDF) member, who is seen watching and filming the event. The South African National Defence Force released a statement on 10 January in which they acknowledged SANDF member(s) were present.
Tigere Chagutah said: “The burning of what appears to be dead bodies by soldiers is deplorable and is likely a violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the mutilation of corpses and requires that the dead be disposed of in a respectful manner.
“Mozambican authorities and SAMIM must launch a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances of these killings and the burning of the bodies and anyone against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence should be prosecuted in fair trials. Security in Cabo Delgado must not come at the cost of human rights violations.”
Attacks in Cabo Delgado started in October 2017 with killings of civilians by an armed group calling itself Al-Shabaab, which has no known operational relationship with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. SAMIM was established in 2021 to fight Al-Shabaab, and involves personnel from Rwanda, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Amnesty International has previously revealed evidence of extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, attempted beheadings, torture, mutilation, and other ill-treatment of alleged Al-Shabaab fighters who were held, as well as the transfer of a large number of corpses to apparent mass graves in Cabo Delgado.
Source: Amnesty International