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5 RESPONSES TO THE PRELIMINARY REPORT - Summary

5 RESPONSES TO THE PRELIMINARY REPORT


5.1 The preliminary report in this matter was issued on 11 May 1999 to provide the person or body complained about or affected an opportunity to reply to the preliminary findings made against them.

    1. The preliminary report and sections of the report were issued to the following people:

Mr Maxime C Korman Former Prime Minister

Mr Charley Nako Former Minister of Home Affairs

Mr Robert Karie Former Minister of Home Affairs

*Mr Vincent Boulekone Minister of Internal Affairs

Mr Sato Kilman Former Police Commissioner

Mr Charlie Obed Monomono Former Police Commissioner

Mr Luc Siba Former Police Commissioner

*Mr Peter Bong Police Commissioner

Mr Alick Noel Former Mayor of Port Vila

Mr Patrick Crowby Mayor of Port Vila

*Mr Pierre Carlot Officer-in-Charge, Vila Prisons

Prisons Superintendent Police Headquarters

Kinhill Kramer Vanuatu Ltd

PWD Engineer

Escap Office

*Amnesty International

*National Planning Office

    1. Responses were received from only those marked with an asterisk (*). The others have not forwarded any comments to our office and we will have to assume that they agree with the facts and comments set out in the report.

Responses



Response from Peter Bong – Police Commissioner



5.4 On the conditions of prison buildings, Mr Bong stressed that it has been a continuing concern and issue that the Vanuatu Police Force has continued to address to the Government since 1990. The Government, however, has paid very little attention and support to the issue.

The Police Force sought assistance from several donors and the Canadian Government gave some assistance for some rehabilitation equipment. The Government provided limited funds towards the Police and Prison programs.

Mr Bong stated that during the last nine years, the Government could not build a new Prison Complex due to some factors such as; funds availability, land difficulties and a proper and thorough study for proper and appropriate prison complex suitable for Vanuatu.

In 1997, the Police Force managed to complete a proposed project profile for a new Prison complex in Vila including Santo and Tanna. The new complex plans was supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and was sent to National Planning Office for finding. However, the NPO could not secure any foreign funding Aid for year 1997 to 1999.

Mr Bong went on to state that in 1999, the United Nation through the ESCAP Office is interested to pursue with the Prison Building Project. An ESCAP representative paid a visit to Vanuatu in July to discuss the prison project with all relevant authorities concerned.

On the issue of Prison Budget, there are two chapter heads for prison budgets. There is 226.20.209 for Prison Security and 226.20.211 for Prison Rations. The Commissioner of Police is the vote controller of the Budget allocated to the Police and Prisons.

Mr Bong stressed that not only were funds vired out from the prison budget but that there are also virement made from other budget allocations into the prison budget. Whenever situation warranted for virement, the Police Commissioner has the authority to authorise and approve virement or purchase items from related budget provision. However, such virements and overall budget expenditure must be made such that the overall budget of the Prisons and the Police is not affected. Apart from the chapter heads of 209 and 211, Prisons also shared the same budget with the Police for other activities such as telephones, public utility, stationary, travelling & subsistence, spare parts, fuel and other incidentals.

The

total of over Vt10 million were vired out from the Prison Budget

to fund other police expenses, such as purchasing of new police uniforms, maintenance of RVS Tukoro and other general police expenses between 1993 to date.

Ombudsman’s comment:



5.5 The Government must provide all necessary assistance to see that the new planned prison buildings get off the ground as soon as possible. This should be one of the Government’s top priority project in order to meet the standard set out by the United Nations for treatment of prisoners.

On the issue of the prison budget, the former Police Commissioners may have the power under the Financial Regulations to make virement of funds out from the prison budget, but such virement should only be made if prison services was not affected or suffered. However, evidence shows that during the years that virement have been made from the prison budget to other budget allocations within the Force, the prison conditions have continually deteriorated and prison services have suffered as the result of such virements. It appeared that prison services were always regarded as of low priority by the Commissioners of Police and so decisions were made to vire funds from prison budget for other expenses within the Force.

An additional information about virement of funds from the prison budget to other budget allocation was made on 17 May 1999. We received a copy of a letter from Mr Vake Rakau, Assistant Prison Superintendent to Mr Patu Lui expressing his dissatisfaction over the Vt3 million being vired out from the Prison budget.

Response from Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr V Boulekone



5.6 This report now may not have the substance it originally has because most of the issues mentioned are currently being addressed. The separation of prisoners into categories is currently not possible because there is no room for this. This may be considered in the new and forthcoming prison developments.

The main Central Prison (ex French Prison complex) in Port Vila, which is the main fact in issue here is no longer being used. The house is being considered seriously for demolition. However, the prisoners are now housed at the Ex British Prison. There were complaints of water leakage in the prison and poor conditions of toilets. The Ministry has received verbal confirmation from the Commissioner and the Assistant Superintendent that the water leakage have been fixed and toilet reparation is being assessed by a Public Works plumber(confirmation received that reparation has been completed).

The Minister have finally appointed the members of the Prison Visiting Commission on 22 June 1999. The Commission will resume its role with immediate effect after their names are gazetted by the Office of the Attorney General (no information was received if the names of members of the Commission were gazetted at the time this report is being released).

The Ministry has gone one step further in ensuring transparency in granting remissions to Prisoners. The Council of Ministers have approved and set up the Remission Committee. The Committee will deliberate on the remission reports submitted by the Superintendent of Prisons and then advise the Minister before he exercises the discretionary power under the Act to remit a prisoner.

About the issue of food/ration, the Ministry believed that the food offered in prisons is much better than what is alleged. The current ration is sufficient.

The misuse of prison funds is a matter that the Ministry is yet to be briefed on. The Ministry’s intention is to consider separating the Prison Budget from the Police overall budget to avoid future misuses.

Ombudsman’s comment:



5.7 The Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Boulekone must be congratulated for complying with the provision of the Prison Act to appoint a Prison Visiting Commission. The Ministry should also be congratulated for initiating the appointment of Remission Committee.

On the issue about the deteriorating state of the Prison buildings, the buildings that housed the prisoners at Independence Park now in Vila, in Santo and in Isangel cannot be predicted for their conditions to remain the same forever. The Government must take necessary steps now to find funds to build new prison buildings.

On prison budget, the Ministry must separate the Prison Budget from the Police Budget. The prisons services is after all established under a separate Act (Prisons Administration Act). It is therefore proper that the budget is separated from the Police. Under this Act, the Minister is given the power to appoint persons to perform the prison duties. Section 4 of the Act says that members of Police Force and any other persons may be appointed to perform prison duties.

Comment on the report by Dr Heinz Schurmann-Zeggel – Amnesty International



    1. About 30 prisoners were kept in the Ex British Prison in Vila in six cell blocks at an average of five 5 prisoners living in one cell block. This does constitute a capacity-occupation or a little more, but could be regarded as not quite constituting 'overcrowding'. However, this can only be if overcrowding is defined as occupation above maximum capacity.

If the ex British Prison was designed for an occupancy of less that 30 but it frequently takes 30 or more prisoners, even if the occupancy rate is equal or not much above the capacity rate, this constitute overcrowding. Such situations may cause problems because more prisoners have to share limited resources, making life more uncomfortable for all and work more difficult for officers.

A prison filled to capacity is like a hotel always fully booked and unless the prison have not got all staff and services functioning properly all the time, prisoners will complain. Also, the officers will be under stress because the prisoners will demand more and a complaint by a single prisoner can then cause big trouble for all.

Overcrowding can become a human rights problem when other circumstances compound the situation. An example is a lack of proper food, medical care, visiting arrangements and rehabilitation programs.

The complaints by prisoners against the prison services if proven would be violations of international human rights standards and the rights of prisoners under the United Nations standards. For example, denial of visits to doctor or hospital. Any proven denial to prisoner for such medical care would be serious violation of human rights.

The Government takes responsibility for each prisoner’s life and well being, which include medical care. Prison is already a punishment, ordered by law and prisoners must not be punished for being in prison by being denied basic humanitarian needs.
2014-07-19 18:44
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