For the first time in history there have been charges laid by the DPP against officers of the State under the relatively new torture law (2003). Four officers of the MCIT who were on trial were found not guilty by two Intermediate Court Magistrates, Ms. Shameen Hamuth-Laulloo and Ms. M.J. Lau Yuk Poon, on 29 May, 2009. On 19 June, the DPP lodged an Appeal against the judgment on the basis of some 19 points.
The officers accused are Jagdawoo, Madarbux, Levasseur and Potie who were working under the notorious MCIT boss, the late Chief Inspector Raddhoa. The four men were being tried for torture and for a conspiracy to cover-up torture, under the new Section 77 of the Criminal Code, following the death in custody in January 2006 of Rajesh Ramlogun, a civil servant working in the Agriculture Ministry. He was arrested, the police said, because they were not satisfied with his explanation as to his whereabouts at the time of a hideous double-murder committed in his neighbourhood a week earlier. CI Raddhoa often described Mr. Ramlogun on radio as a "prime witness" rather than a suspect. (This double-murder case has still, it should be mentioned, three years on, not yet come before the Assise, though the accused, a young nephew of the late Mr. Ramlogun, has murder charges against him.)
LALIT members, together with JUSTICE members and women from MLF in the women's movement, have been supporting the widow in her struggle for the truth about the death of her husband.
The not-guilty verdict came as a shock to the widow and her three children. The previous Judicial Enquiry into Mr. Ramlogun's death had come up with a "foul play" verdict, and even the very timid National Human Rights Commission had said there were "suspicious circumstances". The police had already previously put murder charges on these four men and three of their colleagues in the MCIT. In addition, the State had made a settlement for Rs7,000,000 as damages to the widow and chidren, thus acknowledging responsibility. So, many people expected a different verdict.
However, in LALIT we are well aware that the kind of enquiry that police officers hold when their colleague police officers stand accused tends to produce one of the most difficult kinds of raw material a DPP can have from the point of view of obtaining a conviction. What in LALIT we deplore about the judgment is that it fails to acknowledge the existence of the torture clearly pointed to by the autopsy doctor. The beating on the soles of the feet is not clearly identified in the judgment as the hallmark of torture that it is. The judgment is also very unclear about the death blow that the autopsy doctor said was delivered between 24 and 48 hours prior to Mr. Ramlogun's death. Once the autopsy doctor so clearly established the death blow during his testimony before the Intermediate Court, then all the evidence about the injuries on the left side of Mr. Ramlogun's face take on a totally different weight. Somehow the judgement seems to have failed to start with the death blow and work backwards until when it was, according to the evidence, first seen. In fact, the judgment does not even clarify important moments in time i.e. Mr. Ramlogun's time of being taken in and time of death. He actually died around 48 hours after his being taken in by the Police.
In LALIT, we have also run a long campaign, together with other organizations, for the family of those arrested to be informed of their arrest and their precise location. The judgment does not draw attention to the way in which the widow was prevented from knowing where her husband was.
LALIT believes that the fight against violence by officers of the State is important in the struggle for socialism, not only to put a stop to the practice itself in the here and now, but also to draw attention to the constantly potentially violent nature of the bourgeois State in a practical way. The cover-ups of torture and police brutality within the State apparatus have been eloquent. It is only in the past 10 years since the death in custody of Kaya and the nation-wide uprising by young people against the police, that LALIT, the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, the Movement pour le Progres de Roche Bois, Amnesty (Mauritius), and concerned lawyers set up JUSTICE, THE ASSOCIATION AGAINST VIOLENCE BY OFFICERS OF THE STATE that the situation has begun to change. We are all still calling for proper "protocols" to be issued by the professional bodies for doctors, lawyers, magistrates and the press as to how their members can avoid being part of the cover-up.
To give two examples: In this case, doctors who saw Mr. Ramlogun the first time he was taken to hospital, while he was slowly dying of a brain haemorrage as we now know, were not even called as witnesses. We realize that their failure to diagnose Mr. Ramlogun accurately poses professional problems for them if it comes out in the public once again, but we do think they should have been called as witnesses by the DPP. This could have begun to establish how doctors should act when police officers bring in those in their custody who might, in fact, be ill because of torture.
The second example is that the press coverage on this torture trial was very seldom called "the torture case". It was called something like "abuse of power", referring to the definition of torture as being perpetrated as part of an abuse of power. Even the conspiracy to cover-up the torture, was referred to just as "conspiracy". We believe that this happens because the police and clerks in the judiciary routinely help journalists get access to where cases are, what the charges are, an early copy of the judgment, etc etc, as part of a kind of "give-and-take" arrangement, and that in return they do the odd cover-up story. In this case, the police and court officials somehow convince journalists, who convince their editors, and then the whole population that the charges were to do with something vague and unimportant like "abuse of power", whatever that might be. This means that for two years the torture case was never publicly called a torture case. How's that for a cover-up?