A JUSTICE document
The arrest, detention in communicado and
torture of Amila Seewoogoolam:
Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam, a widow of 49 years of age was “arrested” on the 28th February. Three CID officers of the Monvoisin team came to her residence in Pereybere to inform her that her son Goolshan had had an accident, was in hospital and that she needed to come with them immediately.
This was how she and her son, Preetam a university student aged 30 years were “taken” to Quatre-Bornes police station under false pretences and it was there that she was told she was under arrest on a charge of larceny. Her younger son, Goolshan, also a university student was also arrested and taken to Quatre-Bornes police station. They were accused of having taken furniture belonging to their landlord, a Mr. Munbodh when they had left his house (demenaze) they rented in Quatre Bornes a few months back and moved to Pereybere where they now reside. Most disputes about ownership of furniture between landlord and tenant would be considered civil and not criminal disputes. In addition, even if it were considered a case of larceny, the Courts would usually impose a fine, not imprisonment.
When Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam denied the charges (as did her sons) and refused to sign a “confession”, she was assaulted by police offices during the course of the “interrogation”. She was hit on the head, face, her ribs were punched, and her legs beaten. She received a blow on the left part of her body on 28th February when one male officer intentionally hit the chair on which she was sitting and she was sent flying against a wall. (At this stage she could see and hear her sons being assaulted and the sons could equally hear her. Goolshan Seewoogoolam saw officer Api using violence against his mother.)
Unconscious: Mrs. Seewoogoolam admitted to hospital
As a result of these repeated assaults, she fell unconscious and was admitted to Ward 3 of Candos hospital the same day up to the 5th of March. Although there was no police sentry, police called the hospital and enquired about her health on a daily basis and she was referred to as a detainee. CID officers informed doctors and nurses to let them know as soon as she be discharged.
Detention in communicado
When she was discharged from hospital on Tuesday 5th March, three male police officers and Woman Police Constable (WPC) Saddul came to pick her up from the hospital around 10-11 am.
Since she was not allowed any contact with her lawyers despite the requests she made, she was still in detention .
She was brought again to Quatre Bornes police station on the 5th March where she was subjected to violence once again. She was then detained at Sodnac. She was not brought to court the same day. It was only the next day, on the 6th of March that she was brought to court.
Her two sons who had also been arrested on the 28th February were also detained by the police. Preetam was detained in cells at Stanley Police Station and Goolshan was detained at Rose-Hill Police Station. So she had no contact with them during her detention.
CID officers came to pick Mrs. Seewoogoolam up in the morning of 6th of March to take her to Court.
Woman Police Constable (WPC) Nunkoo who works at Sodnac opened the cell and slapped her. Then WPC Saddul and 2 male officers dragged her out from her cell by her hair and put her in the police van where WPC Nunkoo punched her twice on her chest. .
Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam was warned not to tell the Magistrate that she had been beaten up otherwise she would be beaten up again. Despite the warning, she informed the Magistrate (whose initials we believe, are S.P.) what had happened to her. Strangely, the Magistrate did not record her complaint, nor take any steps to ensure that she be protected from violence and that her right to inform her family or to take Counsel of her choice be respected. She still had no lawyer. She was still being held in communicado.
She was assaulted by CID officers of the Monvoisin team on the journey between Rose Hill Court to Quatre Bornes police station. She was then detained at Sodnac and was again refused access to a lawyer.
So she was verbally and physically tortured by PC Mohun, WPC Saddul, and two other male police officers at Quatre-Bornes police station that she can identify but does not know the names of . At Sodnac police station, she was also aggressed by WPC Nunkoo.
Detention no longer in communicado
It was only two days later on Friday 8th of March, on International Women’s Day a week after her arrest and detention, that she was able to get lawyers: Me. Sanjeev Teeluckdharry and Me. Erickson Mooneapillay. When her lawyers saw her, her face was swollen and bruised and she had difficulty walking. She could hardly open her eyes and was still in the same clothes that she wore when she was arrested one week earlier.
The following injuries were formally recorded in the Occurence Book of Sodnac police station:
1. Both eyes lower lids were swollen
2. Right knee: bluish clotted blood. Limp on left leg
3. Middle part back: several scratch marks
Police denies detainee medical treatment
After this at Sodnac police station, the lawyers requested that Mrs. Seewoogoolam be immediately taken to hospital for treatment, and specified that she be taken to the Apollo hospital this time. The police officers said that they would do the necessary. So her lawyers left the police station.
Her lawyers phoned at police station repeatedly to enquire and were told the necessary was being done. Around 7:30 lawyers were told that their client does not want to attend hospital. Her lawyers rushed to Sodnac police station immediately and saw their client, Mrs. Seewoogoolam lying on the floor of the cell. At this stage Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam could not even recognise them and mistook them for police officers as her eyes were so swollen that she could not open them.
To their dismay, the next day the police officers had still not transferred Mrs. Seewoogoolam to any hospital for treatment: they point blank refused to take her to the Apollo hospital, and had not taken her to Candos hospital either.
Lawyers write urgently to Commissioner of Police
On the same day, Saturday 9th March, her lawyers wrote to the Commissioner of Police (Copy sent to the Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs) to demand that Police stop objecting to her release on bail. We quote from their letter:
“We are of the view that first her arrest in the circumstances is arbitrary but most importantly we take the view that the objection for their release on bail is not justified and that your officers are not making a judicious use of their discretion but they are flouting the law besides making an abuse of authority.
We are also of the view that in the remotest event upon conviction for such an offence a fine is usually imposed by the Courts. Furthermore the grounds for objection of release on bail are insufficient in law and also you have failed to consider that stringent conditions may be imposed to reduce any risk.
We regretfully note that your officers are exercising their discretion in the most arbitrary, unfair and unjust manner so as to deliberately flout our client’s constitutional rights to liberty and our client’s constitutional rights to protection against inhuman treatment.”
Disappearance of Mrs. Seewoogoolam’s medical dossier at Candos hospital
On her lawyers’ insistence, she was finally taken to Candos hospital on Saturday 9th March. She explained to the doctors where exactly she had been injured. Surprisingly, she was not admitted and was taken back to Sodnac police station.
On Sunday 10th March when her lawyers applied to have “sight” and copy of her medical dossier from the hospital Superintendant at Candos hospital, they were told that it could not be found. It was mysteriously “lost”. Her lawyers made a complaint at Candos police post around 2:30 pm.
Later on Sunday 10th March, between 21 and 22 hrs, Mrs. Seewoogoolam was so much in pain that she had to be taken to Candos hospital yet again. This time round, she was accompanied by her lawyers and this time she was admitted.
When Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam was treated at Victoria hospital in Candos, she was treated by at least 3 doctors, including doctors Gopal and Gungadeen.
On Monday 11th March, the lawyers applied for a Court order to get Mrs. Seewoogoolam admitted to Apollo Bramwell hospital. They got the order and were able to get her transferred to Apollo Bramwell hospital where she was immediately admitted for treatment.
The Magistrates’ role
A Motion had been made by her lawyers on Saturday 9th March in view of a bail hearing. The clerks at the Bail and Remand Court put the hearing for Wednesday 13th March. Her lawyers went to meet Magistrate Seetohul in Chambers at the Bail and Remand Court and the Magistrate was shown pictures and given explanations as to the circumstances of Mrs. Seewoogoolam’s arrest and detention. Even so, he did not give bail and did not bring forward the next Hearing for the following Monday : he stuck to Wednesday 13th March.
On Wednesday 13th March, Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam’s case was taken at the Rose-Hill Court and not the Bail and Remand Court as she was due, in any case, to be presented at Rose-Hill Court. Her lawyers were informed that the case would be taken at Rose Hill and that her two sons would be presented in front of the magistrate there. Police objected to her release on grounds of:
(i) Interfering with witnesses
(ii) Tampering with evidence
Magistrate Jaulimsingh fixed the hearing for Thursday 14th of March at 13.30hrs.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday 13th March, the police did not object to bail being given to her two sons. They were both released on bail and as witnesses (co-accused) in the case of larceny. There was no impediment or restriction set on them to meet their mother. Therefore ground 1 of the police objection serves no purpose. As for ground 2, police had already secured the alleged stolen articles. Furthemore Amila has a clean record and it is not usually the practice of the police to object to bail when an accused person has a clean record.
On Thursday 14th March, her lawyers put forward a motion in front of Magistrate Jaulimsingh-Gayan that another police unit be in charge of the inquiry as Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam could not be put in a position where she would have to give a statement to her torturers. The Magistrate granted the motion and told the prosecution to do the necessary. The police were asked to give reasons for their objection the next day, on Friday 15th March. So Mrs. Seewoogoolam was still not released on bail.
On Friday 15th , Officer Api was present in chambers at the Bail and Remand Court and informed the Court that Quatre Bornes CID team was still enquiring in the matter and informed the court that Amila had not given any statement yet. Her lawyers again rejected any prospect of a statement being recorded by this team. Magistrate Jorai ordered that ASP Monvoisin be summoned to come on Monday 18th and depone as to why another unit cannot take over the investigation and why police is still objecting to Mrs. Seewoogoolam’s release on bail. Her lawyers also informed the magistrate that officer Api was involved in the torture of their client Mrs. Seewoogoolam.
On Monday 18th, Magistrate Santookee at Bail and Remand Court informed defence counsel that he had no power to order an enquiry by another police unit and reserved the ruling for the bail hearing for this coming Thursday 21st March.
In Court, the police “explained” Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam's injuries as being the consequence of her “falling from a chair while in police custody”. The Police continued objecting to bail. Magistrate Santookee stated that there would be a ruling on Thursday 21st March.
Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam is still in detention, but is under medical treatment at Apollo Bramwell hospital. She has still not been released on bail.
Evidence of marks of injuries sustained in detention
There is a short video filmed when Mrs. Seewoogoolam was being transferred to hospital posted on the ledefimedia website in the Webtv section that shows to what extent she suffered visible injuries. (See address: http://webtv.defimedia.info/actualites/anila-seewoogoolam-allegue-avoir-ete-victime-de-brutalites-policieres/)
Association Against Violence
by Officers of the State
20 March, 2013
Addendum: Mrs. Amila Seewoogoolam got bail at BRC today. However the Magistrate has imposed a condition on bail: “Applicant not to approach her two sons within a perimeter of 50 metres; this condition to lapse upon the applicant having given her statement to the police. Which means in this case that she would give her statement to the police officers who she says tortured her. Her two sons are her closest relatives and are the only ones who can make arrangement with her bank to get money for bail. Her identity card is in the possession of the police which they took when she was arrested. The arrangements have got so complicated that her sons are now getting sums of money on loan from friends and relatives to pay their mother's bail.