24 Feb 2006 14:18:19 GMT,Source: Reuters,By Nita Bhalla
PORT LOUIS, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Mauritius plans to reform its police force following the death of a suspect in custody that has highlighted concerns over police brutality, the island’s attorney general said on Friday.
The death of murder suspect Rajesh Ramlogun on Jan. 14 sent shockwaves through the tiny Indian Ocean island, known for its idyllic image.
Two independent inquiries have shown he was tortured by officers from the Mauritius police force, which has about 10,000 officers. Six policemen have been suspended.
"We are going to reform the whole system – at the level of the police force and the judiciary," Rama Valayden, attorney general and also minister for justice and human rights, told Reuters in an interview.
"We must invest in having a good police force. The police need to be seen as a trustworthy institution and not as a tool used by the state to repress people," he added.
Amnesty International last week called on the government to crack down on police brutality, saying it had to send a clear message that ill-treatment of detainees was unacceptable.
In a letter to Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the human rights group said at least 46 people have died in police custody since 1979 and that hundreds of other detainees can testify of ill-treatment and torture suffered at the hands of the police.
Valayden said reforms would start with how police were recruited. A police academy would be put in place where officers would be trained in legal, civil and human rights affairs.
A new code of conduct for the police will also be introduced and interrogations of suspects by police will be videotaped to ensure there is no foul play.
Valayden, a human rights lawyer before joining the government last year, said he wanted to ensure that people had more rights and were aware of them.
"We will implement reforms such as ensuring people have access to a lawyer and reduce the period spent in detention before cases come to court. "When justice is delayed it is seen as an injustice and rightly so," he said.
He said the country’s Human Rights Commission will be given more powers to investigate violations and families of victims of police brutality would get government compensation.