Bushman leaders beaten in custody

September 28, 2005

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Bushman leaders arrested on 24 September were beaten in custody by policemen including the superintendent of the district police station, it has emerged today.

They were arrested as they attempted to transport water and food to their relatives in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The Bushmen represent First People of the Kalahari, a grass roots organisation fighting for the rights of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen to return to their ancestral homeland.

A spokesman for the organisation said today, ’Five people were beaten in custody by the police. Four of those work for First People of the Kalahari. It is obvious that the government is targeting us.'

Bushman leader Roy Sesana was one of those beaten, a spokesman reports, ’Sesana was sitting in the car. He put up his hands. They handcuffed him then Ishmael [the police superintendent] punched him on his thighs after he was handcuffed. When he was down they were jumping on him with big boots.'

The police started throwing teargas and firing shots at the Bushmen as they attempted to enter the reserve.

One Bushman was shot in the jaw and is understood to be seriously hurt.

The Bushmen were unarmed.

In total, twenty-eight Bushmen were arrested and spent four days in prison. They were released yesterday on bail.

They face charges of ’unlawful assembly' and if convicted, could be imprisoned for up to one year.

Seven of those detained were children, including a seven-month old baby.

A Bushman spokesman said today, ’No matter what they do to us we will keep on peacefully fighting for our land rights.'

For more information please contact Miriam Ross on +44 20 7687 8731 or email [email protected]