Bearing in mind that the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads : “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” ;
Recalling that one of the most important uprisings of the whole of the people in our history was sparked off by the death of Kaya in police cells on the 21st of February, 1999;
And remembering that Kaya’s death, unelucidated up to today, is not the first case of suspicious death in police cells. Since independence, there have been about thirty unexplained deaths in detention;
Noting that since the death in police cells of Kaya, there have been a further ten cases of unexplained deaths during arrest and detention, the most recent being those of Lorlène Dumazel in February 2001, Vijay Nancy in June 2001, Josian Bayaram in July 2001 and Clifford David in March 2002;
Bearing in mind all those who have been victim of police violence, of inhuman torture, and sadistic behaviour of police officers, who while on duty, abuse their position of power conferred on them by Law, with impunity;
Recalling that the State of Mauritius is signatory to:
· The 1976 “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” that guarantees the right to liberty and security of each person,
· The 1986 “African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”;
· The 1997 “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” that specifically declares that the “term ‘torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”;
Recalling that Article (3) (a) of the Constitution of Mauritius similarly guarantees “the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law”,
Given that the rule of law renders the State responsible and liable for the actions, omissions, misdemeanours and crimes of its police agents and that, in addition, they must be brought to justice for their breaches of the criminal law or infringements of human rights, as all other citizens;
Aware of the fact that such police officers are in a position of power and abuse this power in their relations with to certain categories of citizens such as youth, the unemployed, people who are poor or otherwise socially oppressed, who do not have the means to defend themselves to ensure that their rights are respected;
Considering that we are all equal before the law, and that every person, without distinction, has the right to equal protection of the law, it is worth noting that every person, charged by police is presumed innocent until proven guilty by an open Court of law in which the person is ensured a proper defence;
Bearing in mind that it is essential that the media, especially the press and journalists, be conscious of their key role in denouncing cases of police violence and promoting and protecting human rights. However, this contribution should be made in a professional and ethical manner. The media must be made aware of its influence on public opinion, and should exert caution in publicizing photographs of a shocking or sensational nature so as to respect the privacy of victims and their families;
Rejecting all attempts by public institutions to cover-up or minimise cases of police violence by accusing victims or their families of exaggeration or of fabricating allegations, so as to renounce their responsibilities or to try to justify such violence by claiming that it is part of “Mauritian culture” and thus accept it with cynicism and doom.
Endorsed by the founding assembly of “Justice – Association Against Police Violence” held on the 5th of July, 2003.
Final version read and approved by the Executive Committee
This 28th of July, 2003
Note:- This document is based on resolutions adopted in the 8th December, 2001 conference against human rights violations by police officers held at the University of Mauritius, with the participation of ex-Chief Justice Rajsoomer Lallah and barristers Michel Ahnee and Jean-Claude Bibi.