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LALIT Communique on the Situation in Prison


Lalit calls for the immediate setting up of an "Independent Commission" to meet in public to investigate into the violent exactions that were perpetrated in the Beau Bassin Central Prison on Friday night last week, against prisoners who were sitting on the ground, waiting for their medication. The guards, using their batons and boots, injured many prisoners, including four or five so badly they needed hospitalization, and one of whom Wendy Lafleur was so badly injured he was in a coma and on a ventilator for a week.

Such an "Independent Commission" chaired by a Human Rights expert can then lead directly to criminal proceedings being filed against those Prison Security Squad staff who acted violently, and against those who at a "tres haute niveau" of the State, gave the orders for the exactions.

We also call for an immediate person-by-person check in the Beau Bassin Central Prison, and in La Bastille where certain prisoners have since been transferred, to check that the authorities are not hiding any other injured prisoners, and denying them medical treatment, as was the case of Dimitri Ramphul.

In order to decrease the over-crowding, which is one of the main problems in the prisons, Lalit urges Government at once to organize that Magistrates can release all remand prisoners (not on charges involving violence, nor drug dealers) on their own cognizance, and not keep them in prison prior to their case, just because they do not have the bail money. Lalit also urges Government at once, and as a sign of good will, to grant reprieves or amnesties to all prisoners found guilty of crimes against property involving less than a certain sum of money. This is essential in the present climate when everyone knows that white-collar criminals who have stolen Rs880,000,000 at the MCB and Rs 85,000,000 at Rogers and Air Mauritius, are roaming around free. Lalit, once again calls for all those who do no more than use marihuana not to be locked up in jails in future, whether the traditional weed is used in bhang or in cigarette form.

We support PILS in its demands for all HIV-Positive prisoners and those ill with AIDS or Hepatitis-C to be given all the medical and other care they need. We support their call for the elementary measure of providing syringes to those who are already addicted to hard drugs (so that syringes are not shared) to prevent the spread of AIDS both inside and outside the prison, and distributing condoms.

The impunity of officers of the State who have custody over people cannot go on.

We once again call on the new Prime Minister to heed the calls of the women's movement, and to give clear signals that Criminal Proceedings be laid against the three officers in whose charge Kaya was when he was found dead. That is to say, Officers Ramdin, Anne-Marie and Nepaul.

Lalit expresses its compassionate sympathy for the prisoners who suffered this attack last Friday and their families, with special thoughts those who are ill.

We call on Prison Guards to continue to organize both for their own rights as employees, and for the right to unionize (which the Government continues to deny them), and to take the bold step of speaking up for the rights of the prisoners who are in their charge.

WE call for the disbanding of the Prison Security Squad. Repression is never a solution to a social problem. It engenders problems that are even more difficult to solve, like the impunity of violent, uniformed guards.

Michel Chiffonne, 4 October, 2003