The case of David Gaiqui is yet another stark reminder to all of us that we are still losing on the fight against police brutality in Mauritius.
We have all been shocked with a photograph that took to social media by storm: that of a man who was not only stripped off of his clothes but of his human dignity. The photograph is unprecedented but the practice surely is not.
Whether we like it or not, suspects and detainees have rights and most importantly have the right to dignity which should be protected to the fullest of extent. Without dignity, none of the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms can have any real meaning.
Now what matters is whether there will be a fair and impartial enquiry into how David Gaiqui was treated during his detention. Would there be a fair prosecution? Would there be a fair trial? If yes, the most important question is why and how can we be witnessing such a barbaric act in 2018 despite the fact that we have marched, campaigned, petitioned, voted and did almost everything to address the issue of police brutality in Mauritius? It appears that some police officers engage in violent behaviours simply because they think they can! From where do they get this perception?
Well, the criminal justice system begins with outdated judges rules made in 1966 which regulates the conduct of police officers vis-a-vis suspects and detainees in. Clearly the judges rules are inadequate to protect the rights of suspects and detainees at police stations and countless cases of police brutality are clear evidence to that. Victims often complain that there is no impartiality in investigations pertaining to police brutality. There is a perception that the National Human Rights Commission is toothless with no real power. When it comes to prosecution, there is the perception that the judicial system would support the narrative that the police are “heroes” fighting against an enemy. This perception and mentality has to change.
When the woods holding our roofs in our houses are rotten, we do not paint over it – we change it completely or otherwise it would crumble on ourselves. Likewise when the system is not functioning as it should, we should change it completely. The issue of police brutality requires an urgent systemic reform of the police organization, prosecuting authorities and judicial system. Otherwise, we would continue to see repetitions of what has happened to David Gaiqui, period!