Dear Friends and Comrades,
I write in the name of the LALIT movement in Mauritius. Please could you send letters of protest to the Prime Minister of Mauritius (and to us, so that we can make your stand known -- all addresses below) about the CRISIS SITUATION IN THE JAILS.
The repressive prison regime in the overcrowded jails, and the general state of perpetual near-mutiny that this has caused over the past two years, has taken a new serious turn after the segregation by the Prison Authorities of 50 HIV-Positive prisoners at the Beau Bassin Central Prison two weeks ago. They were placed in Block C, the Punishment Block. This led to two weeks of protest from the prisoners.
Then, last Friday evening (26 September) there were exactions carried out by a group of Prison Security Services against the 50 HIV-Positive prisoners. Eighteen prisoners were injured. One of the victims, Mr. Wendy Lafleur, is still in a coma in the Nehru Hospital. He is not expected to live. At least three other prisoners are also still hospitalized, including Steve Foo Souye and a Mauritian whose first name we know is Dmitri.
In response, on Monday, Government announced that the Prisons Commissioner, Mr. Brijmohun, had been removed from his post with immediate effect.
The Authorities announced on Tuesday morning that there had also been two "attempted suicides" in the Prison.
All this is happening, while the new Prime Minister of Mauritius, Paul Bérenger, was sworn in on Tuesday, as part of the power-splitting deal made before the general elections of 2000. In front of Parliament, meanwhile, the women's organization, "Muvman Liberasyon Fam", held a demonstration against deaths in detention. They formed a "chain of women", which walked over the official podium and red carpet, in protest at the failure of Government to bring charges against the three police officers responsible for the famous musician, Kaya, found dead in February, 1999 in Police Cells. His widow, Ms. Veronique Topize was in the "chain of women" too. In their Press Conference they deplored the repressive regime in prisons. The Kaya case is one of symbolic importance, because of the three-day nation-wide rebellion it caused at the time, with barricades on every main traffic artery of the country, and reminding the new Prime Minister that promises of the "truth triumphing" have up till now not been kept.
The new Prime Minister has promised a "thorough inquiry" into the exactions at the prison.
The Mauritian Government is very sensitive to criticism from abroad, and pretends to have a good "human rights record".
JUSTICE, an organization set up about two months ago in order to oppose violence by officers of the State, is holding an urgent meeting on Friday to help co-ordinate support for the prisoners. We in LALIT support JUSTICE.
Some of the emerging demands (from LALIT, from the women's movement, from JUSTICE), which you can, if you think it appropriate, refer to in your letters of protest are:
1. At once stop all the violent and/or extra-judicial exactions.
2. Respect the human rights of all detainees.
3. Change the politics of the segregation of prisoners of HIV-Positive status.
4. In order to at once alleviate prison over-crowding:
a) Organize so that Magistrates can release on their own word that they will be present for their trial, all remand prisoners who are being held just because they haven't got enough money for bail. (Nearly half prisoners are on remand.)
b) Consider granting a Reprieve to each prisoner being held for a non-violent offence involving less than a certain sum of money or drug-use. (At present there are white-collar criminals at large, after disappearance of US$25,000,000 from the Mauritius Commercial Bank out of the workers' National Pension Fund Account and of US$3,000,000 from Air Mauritius and Rogers.)
5. At once re-instate full medical treatment for all HIV-Positive and ill patients.
6. Provide syringes for drug-addicts, outside and inside prisons.
7. Make condoms available in prisons.
8. Restore the right for remand prisoners to receive food from their families and their previous special visiting rights.
9. Put into question the entire "punitive regime" in prisons.
10. Bring Criminal Charges against the officers of the State in whose custody detainees are when found dead in police cells or prisons, including the three on duty when the musician Kaya was found dead, that is to say: Police Officers Ramdin, Anne-Marie and Nepaul.
Send letters to the Prime Minister by e-mail or, better still, by fax, to:
Prime Minister Paul Bérenger: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax no 230 211 7909
Copy to us: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
There are details on the women's demonstration in the NEWS section of our website and photos in the PHOTONEWS section: email@example.com