This group of lawyers did not go easy in their calls to the Police Commissioner. They demand a complete reform of the Police, the institution of a Presidential Commission in the police force, a special Budget and the amendment of laws necessary for the better functioning of this authority.
The reason why these lawyers are taking to the streets is because they are fed up with the injustices accumulated by this authority. In addition, the treatment received by Mr Yatin Varma, the President of the Mauritius Bar Council, during the deportation of Slovak Peter Uricek lit the fuse and the revelation of these videos of police brutality exploded the news!
Police playing lawyer, magistrate, juror, judge and executioner!
Rouben Mooroongapillay set the tone for the debate. “This is a serious time. The police do not seem to know their limits. The role of the police officer is limited to investigating and not torturing or acting as a Court by playing the role of lawyer, magistrate, juror, judge and executioner,” he said, denouncing the police officers who appear in viral videos on social networks. He opened the questioning on the right of police officers “Do they have the right to use illegal weapons, to walk or sit on detainees, to apply a taser in the intimate parts of a detainee, to beat detainees in places that do not conform to an interrogation, to show no respect for our national anthem or to blaspheme religions in their words?” Mr. Rouben Mooroongapillay returned, among other things, to the facts reported on complaints not taken into account, the Kistnen case, or maneuvers to blame others than the guilty by putting pressure on detainees. “There are 20 police officers involved according to the latest videos. They should no longer be transferred or put on paid suspension. It requires a fast track prosecution. They deserve to be arrested and tried,” he said, noting that the Police has been in possession of a USB stick for over a year containing several clips of torture and police brutality. He also referred to a flaw in the system where such cases are referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) where the files are referred to other police departments and where the cases drag on until they are forgotten! He concluded his intervention on the budget, “we expect an adequate budget for the police force for its better functioning, such as the financing of bodycams to prevent any acts of torture and more advanced technologies for the surveillance of detainees.”
For the law but not against all police officers
Lawyer Shezad Mungroo also made some incriminating statements against the police officers featured in the videos and those adept at torture and brutality. However, he pointed out that “this is not an attack on all policemen, the PC should endorse the policemen, who are doing their job properly and punish the others.” He put forward the subject of “reforming our police system and restoring the image of the police force“. He also vouched for the handing over of the USB stick to the police by Rama Valayden.
Lawyer Akil Bissessur asked for “disciplinary action against all those corrupt under section 35“. He asked the PC to send a strong message to the rogue policemen by citing several examples of the questionable methods of some police officers for questionable confessions.
Lawyer Anoop Goodary drew out Section 7 of our Constitution to argue that acts of torture are against the very foundations of the democratic laws of Mauritius. He also spoke of the Protection from Inhuman Treatment and elaborated that any case of killing of a detainee in a cell, under torture and beating by a police officer, or cases of impunity, is a violation against the laws of the country. “Torture is against the Constitution for the rule of law that we are fighting for,” he said.
Lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry was blunt when he said “a Commission of Enquiry is a waste of money. There is no need for a Commission of Enquiry when the police has concrete evidence.” To follow Lawyer Anoop Goodary highlighted the need for Special Enquiries in cases where a person, under investigation or implicated, has died and also called for Victim’s Rights. “There is a culture of cover-up and impunity in Mauritius… No government has had the will to bring about adequate reforms. No government has had the will to bring about proper reforms. It is the citizens who have taken matters into their own hands,” he concluded. He also spoke of a reform on bail, IOUs and electronic bracelets.
Valayden to Padayachy on budget
Lawyer Rama Valayden, supporting his comrades in the police reform plan, proposed the “establishment of a Presidential Commission in the police force and a reform at all levels of the police. We ask the Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Finances to prepare a special budget for a Presidential Commission, the FSL, the IPCC and to amend the necessary laws in this sense”. In short, an immediate action against corrupt police officers, a fast track instead of a commission of enquiry, the Presidential Commission and the general reform in the Police and especially, to establish a dignified compensation for the victims. He also appealed to the DPP to take a stand to release these victims on non-monetary bail and have the provisional cases removed from them.