Amnesty International (AI) has called for accountability one year after six people were shot at the Gerez community area by Banhine National Park rangers and police.

AI, in a report, said interviewees recounted how rangers and police opened fire on unarmed local residents on a road near Banhine National Park after residents had gathered to peacefully protest the arrests of at least 20 people.

The human rights organisation said it interviewed 26 people, including victims and witnesses of the shooting, community and government officials, and individuals involved in the management of the Banhine National Park.

‘More than a year later, no one has been held accountable and there [has not] been a proper investigation into this senseless shooting. Victims and their families are still waiting for an explanation and justice’, AI’s Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, said.

‘The investigation into this shooting by park rangers and police officers must be thorough, impartial, transparent and effective. Mozambican authorities must prevent the unlawful use of force in the future’.

AI also noted that during the operation, park rangers and police burnt charcoal kilns and arrested more than 20 people. Interviewees, according to AI, said that when villagers heard about the operation, they decided to talk to the rangers immediately.

‘To stop the vehicles of park rangers and police, the villagers blocked the road just outside of the park with large log’, AI said in a statement

‘Interviewees said that when the rangers and police stopped their vehicles, four men from the community walked toward them with their empty hands held high. They said that rangers and police officers suddenly opened fire, hitting six men’.

‘No one carried a machete, gun, axe, knife or stick. The representatives raised their hands as soon as they saw the park rangers to show they wanted to have a peaceful conversation. But the rangers [did not] want to hear anything – they started shooting’, AI quoted one witness as saying.

AI said it verified photos of the injuries and reviewed contemporaneous medical reports that indicated the victims had been shot.

Banhine National Park is co-managed by the international conservation organisation Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas.

The PPF said none of the Banhine rangers used any unnecessary force.

‘To the best of our knowledge, none of the Banhine rangers used any unnecessary force. We understand that three BNP rangers in the support vehicles located a distance back from the special police vehicle fired warning shots into the air, which in no way was a threat to any persons, and which was deemed proportional to the threat posed’, AI quoted the PPF as saying.

Source: Amnesty International

Photo source: David Stanley

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