HRW calls for Mozambique to investigate police use of teargas at funeral procession News
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HRW calls for Mozambique to investigate police use of teargas at funeral procession

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Thursday called for Mozambican authorities to “promptly and impartially” investigate police use of teargas at the March 14 funeral procession of rapper and prominent government critic Edson da Luz, also known as “Azagaia,” in in Maputo. Azagaia died on March 9 from complications from a sudden illness.

“Mozambique police responsible for safety and security at funeral processions or other public gatherings should always abide by human rights standards for the use of force,” said said Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, Deputy Africa Airector at Human Rights Watch. “An impartial investigation is needed to determine whether officials unnecessarily rushed to use teargas and to hold them accountable.”

HRW’s report noted that Provision 15 of  the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials prohibits the use of force unless “strictly necessary.” In 2020, the UN issued further Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement, which states that tear gas are a “measure of last resort” and should never be used on non-violent demonstrations.

“We wanted to take the casket to Michafutene [cemetery] and they [the police] never told us why we couldn’t,” said a 22-year-old man. “Instead, they were nervously screaming at us and showing us their guns.”

Thousands of people gathered to join the funeral convoy of the popular rapper, whose death was mourned throughout the Portuguese-speaking world. When the crowd approached the area near the presidential palace, large armored vehicles and heavily-armed riot police blocked their way. The police ordered the procession to change course, then used teargas without warning. The crowd dispersed in a mass panic.

“I left my house to pay homage to Azagaia,” said one 26-year old woman. “Not to fight with police.”