No SADC update yet on November 2022 body burning in Mozambique

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Last January a gruesome video of bodies being burnt in Mozambique attracted widespread condemnation, but to date no more is known with only the Red Cross responding.

The video clip showed at least one soldier wearing the readily identifiable camouflage work dress of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the burning incident which apparently happened in November 2022. The incident was widely attributed to Southern African Development Community (SADC) force in Mozambique – SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique).

Namibian President Hage Geingob, in his capacity as then chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, said on 12 January last year “investigations” were “instituted” with results – “once completed” to be “shared”. Since then there has been no statement by the regional bloc on the incident.

The Southern African regional office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Pretoria told defenceWeb it was “aware” of the video clip and steps announced by “the SAMIM military hierarchy”. A spokesman, preferring anonymity, added that an investigation was underway and emphasised “the importance of upholding the dignity of and respect for those killed in situations of armed conflict”.

Part of the ICRC mission statement has it the organisation – an independent, neutral one – ensures humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and “other situations of violence”.

Asked by defenceWeb what the ICRC has done, the response was “ICRC dialogue with authorities and arms carriers is bilateral and confidential”. The ICRC aims to ensure international humanitarian law is understood and the rights of civilians respected. Protection of the most vulnerable people, understood to include bodies, affected by armed conflict is a central goal.

“The bodies of people who die during armed conflict or other situations of violence must be treated with respect and their dignity protected. Human remains must be searched for, identified and recovered to help ensure they do not become unaccounted for. Essentially, respect due to a human being does not cease with death,” the response read.