Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There was one report that the government or its agents allegedly committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing. The Major Crime Investigation Team investigates security force killings and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions pursues prosecutions.
On May 5, inmate Jean Cael Permes was found dead at the high security prison in Phoenix. The postmortem examination revealed that Permes died of hemorrhagic shock after being hit on various parts of the body with a blunt object. The Major Crime Investigation Team of the Mauritius Police Force arrested five prison guards of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, and the investigation continued at year’s end.
On August 3, the Intermediary Court acquitted the four police officers accused of killing Iqbal Toofany in 2015 while in custody after a routine traffic stop. The court found that the prosecution did not prove that the officers were involved in Toofany’s death. On August 21, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the Intermediary Court’s decision.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there continued to be allegations of police abuse, through either official complaints or allegations made on the radio or in the press. For example, in September, four boys accused two prison guards at the Beau Bassin Correctional Youth Center of physical assault. The two prison guards were only reprimanded.
Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. While disciplinary actions against offending officers take place, dismissal or prosecutions are rare.
While conditions did not always meet international standards, there were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were reports prison officials failed to provide timely adequate medical assistance. Lack of maintenance of sanitary equipment and the absence of readily available soap caused hygiene problems in some of the prisons. Inmates’ relatives sometimes turned to private radio stations to denounce hygiene conditions or other problems in the prisons. There was some overcrowding in the prisons. The NGO World Prison Brief reported that in October prisons held 2,757 detainees in facilities designed to hold 2,315 persons.
Administration: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) claimed every prisoner complaint was dealt with expeditiously. In its 2019 report, the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Division of the NHRC received 75 complaints from prison inmates; 65 were resolved and 10 remained under investigation.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers, including the press, the NPM Division of the NHRC, independent local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the EU, and other foreign missions.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these legal requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The constitution and law require arrest warrants be based on sufficient evidence and issued by a magistrate. A provisional charge based on a reasonable suspicion, however, allows police to detain an individual up to 21 days with the concurrence of a magistrate. If authorities grant bail but the suspect is unable to pay, authorities detain the suspect in the Grand River North West Prison pending trial. Authorities must advise the accused of his or her rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The law requires authorities to arraign suspects before the local district magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. Police generally respected these rights, although they sometimes delayed suspects’ access to defense counsel. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members, but minors and those not advised of their rights were less likely to obtain such access. During the COVID-19 confinement period (March 18 to May 15), prisons did not allow visits. A magistrate may release an individual on bail the day of arrest, with or without police consent. Authorities may detain individuals charged with drug trafficking for up to 36 hours without access to legal counsel or bail. Courts grant bail for most alleged offenses. There was no report that any suspects were detained incommunicado or for a prolonged period without access to an attorney.
Arbitrary Arrest: At least seven citizens were arrested for criticizing the government (see section 2.a.). On September 22, police arrested political activist Bruneau Laurette, who had organized an antigovernment rally that attracted approximately 100,000 persons, due to an alleged bounced check. Laurette claimed that he paid the debt in July. He was released on bail.
Pretrial Detention: According to data from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the NHRC, and the Bureau of Prisons, due to a backlogged court system and detainees’ inability to post bail, a significant percentage of the prison population remained in pretrial detention. In October, 53 percent of detainees were pretrial detainees, according to the NGO World Prison Brief. Lawyers believed that approximately 40 percent of pretrial detainees typically remained in custody for at least three years before going to trial. Judges routinely credited time served in custody against sentences ultimately imposed.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Trials are typically not timely. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals). Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to consult an attorney in a timely manner. An attorney is provided at public expense when indigent defendants face felony charges. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to confront or question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses against them, and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right also not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to present an appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The courts respected these rights, although the extensive case backlog significantly delayed the process.
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters. The law provides access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights abuses. It also provides for individuals to seek civil remedies for such abuses. As an alternative to the judicial system, the constitution provides for an ombudsman to investigate complaints from the public and members of the National Assembly against government institutions and to seek redress for injustices committed by a public officer or other authority acting in an official capacity. The ombudsman can make recommendations but cannot impose penalties on a government agency. After exhausting all local appeals, individuals or organizations can appeal decisions to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council, which is the highest court of appeal. The government respected courts’ decisions.
The constitution prohibits such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. There were continuing unsubstantiated claims police tapped phones, emails, and offices of journalists and opposition politicians. Freedom House noted complaints that the law allows monitoring of private online speech, and provides penalties for false, harmful, or illegal statements online (see section 2.a.). There were unsubstantiated reports that authorities used cell phone data to track persons’ locations without a judicial warrant.