The video clips that have been circulating since Saturday last regarding several instances of shockingly crude CID methods are not simply horrific, they are tantamount to unacceptable torture and degradation of suspects in 21st century Mauritius. If investigator brutality serves to extract confessions and provide easy closure for enquiries that are going nowhere, these should be dangerous signals that rogue units continue to operate with impunity inside our most vaunted police investigative structures.
The damages done by what we trust are a minority of perverts, to the Mauritius Police Force, the CCID/MCIT, to the community policing in areas which will feel the anger, to the morale of thousands of decent police officers and investigators, are immense. The international repercussions and our country’s image both among expat residents and in overseas media, cannot be watered down. Some administrative transfers, a couple of necessary arrests and an internal police inquiry are totally inadequate to the circumstances that seem to have continued with impunity over many years.
We cannot kick the can down the road either by some allusion to a future Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Worse, there are allegations that rogue elements use such methods to plant compromising materials on suspects or that others, maybe riding high, drag out an inmate for their pervert activities. Some of the arrested officers are career investigators of ten or twenty years, and there may be legitimate doubts on their past or current cases which could raise a can of worms. Rather than sweeping things under the carpet, it would be necessary to have a full-scale inquiry headed by a retired judge, as requested by the Leader of the Opposition and Bar Council members to probe the scope of the rot and make public recommendations for a thorough revamp of what can no longer be tolerated in 21st century Mauritius.
Most citizens recognise that the police face some pretty difficult clients in many volatile areas and that they cannot lose grip on their necessary policing functions to maintain law and order and will sympathise with such functions conducted fairly by a credible force. But harassing those who wish to and have the right to express grievances, such as lack of drinking water for months, flooding, or anger at their dwindling pockets and keeping dozens of recruits busy hounding participants, counting their numbers, laying obnoxious provisional charges with bail terms, are not what we expect from our police force.
While resources for normal policing and law and order on the streets are being diverted by such political stunts, it is the investigative functions that are at the core of concerns. Many high-profile cases have relied on confessions extracted under duress and we don’t really understand why they are not treated with far greater circumspection by our court magistrates. Professionals reckon that there have been no serious independent investigation of police brutality, let alone a trial and conviction, despite scores of deaths in police custody over the past decades. If we do not exorcise the past, with deeper scalpels than another internal inquiry, we cannot pave the way for our future.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 3 June 2022
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