Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
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 according to media reports in 2016, police and National Drug Enforcement Agency officers beat and abused persons, including detainees, to force confessions. Unlike in previous years, there were no cases of abuse by the police.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions improved during the year, due to less crowding following a presidential order to release 82 prisoners as well as the implementation of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis.
There were reports that the level of inmate indiscipline increased in prison with rampant use of drugs. On June 30, Seychelles Nation reported remand detainees rioted and wrecked a new facility at Bois de Rose Avenue built to separate condemned prisoners from detainees awaiting trial. There were reports that violence among inmates increased. Prisoners operated a scam whereby they extorted money from family members of fellow inmates who pretended their lives were in danger. Inmate use of mobile phones was common despite authorities’ use of jammers at Montagne Posee Prison. On March 17, Today in Seychelles reported on a press conference by the police and prison authorities warning the public against frauds to extort money from individuals with family members in prison or connected to certain court cases.
A high-level committee on prison reforms and rehabilitation was formed during the year chaired by the vice president and the speaker of the National Assembly. The committee recommended the closure of the outlying island prison of Marie-Louise. The high-security prison for drug traffickers was closed and decommissioned on September 30 when the four remaining prisoners there were transferred to the other island prison of Coetivy.
Physical Conditions: Prison conditions and overcrowding in Montagne Posee Prison, the main prison, significantly improved during the year. In June 2016 amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, which reduced the prison’s population; the reduction continued during the year. A work release program that allowed prisoners to work during the day either with a stevedoring company at the port or landscaping in the streets of the capital, then return to prison at night, continued.
A separate holding facility for pretrial male detainees opened on Bois de Rose Avenue at the former Coast Guard base. Female pretrial detainees continued to be held at Montagne Posee in the same block as convicted female prisoners. Juvenile pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together with adult prisoners. On August 23, Seychelles Nation reported that on the day prior to his scheduled release, a Honduran national was found hanged in his cell at Montagne Posee. Following a police inquiry, prison authorities called the death a suicide.
Administration: An ombudsman may make recommendations to the National Assembly and the president to improve conditions for prisoners and detainees but had no authority to enforce such recommendations. Although the ombudsman is required to issue an annual report on inmate complaints and on investigations into human rights abuses and corruption, the ombudsman has not done so for at least three years. Statistics on inmate complaints filed with the National Human Rights Commission were unavailable at year’s end.
Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) visited Montagne Posee Prison during the year. Several religious groups also visited the prison.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. There were no reports of arbitrary arrests or detentions during the year. In 2016 individuals posted allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention on social media sites. Following the December 2015 presidential elections, Mauritian lawyer Sanjay Bhuckory was detained and deported. According to government officials, Bhuckory misled immigration officials regarding the purpose of his visit, while government opponents claimed the deportation was politically motivated. Police dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The president maintained effective control over the security apparatus. This includes the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces (SPDF), Presidential Protection Unit, Coast Guard, and police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. The police commissioner, who reports directly to the minister for home affairs, commands the unarmed police, the armed paramilitary Police Special Support Wing, and the Marine Police Unit, which together have primary responsibility for internal security. When necessary, the SPDF assisted police on matters of internal security. On October 4, the National Assembly repealed the National Drug Enforcement Agency Act (NDEA), effectively transferring NDEA responsibilities to the police force.
Security forces were effective. There were no reports of police brutality during the year.
There were no developments in the April 2016 case involving two male police officers who allegedly sexually assaulted a female colleague while on patrol. The two male officers were suspended, charged with sexual assault, released on bail, and had their passports confiscated.
Authorities rarely used the enquiry board (a police complaint office) but instead established independent inquiry commissions to examine security force abuses. Private attorneys generally filed complaints with police or published them in Today in Seychelles or in opposition party newspapers, such as Seychelles Weekly and Le Seychellois Hebdo. Although respect for human rights was included as a core precept in police training, the course was only two to three hours long and did not comprehensively cover human rights.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law requires warrants, except for persons arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Act that allows police and National Drug Enforcement Agency officers to arrest and detain persons without a warrant. The law provides for detention without criminal charge for up to 14 days if authorized by court order. Persons arrested must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours, with allowance made for travel from distant islands. Police did not always respect this requirement. Authorities generally notified detainees of the charges against them and, unlike in previous years, generally granted family members prompt access to them. Detainees have the right to legal counsel, and indigents generally received free counsel. Courts allowed bail in most cases.
Arbitrary Arrest: No official incident of arbitrary arrest was reported during the current year. In September 2016 the newspaper Today in Seychelles reported that police arrested political activist Bernard Sullivan for criminal trespass and held him for 24 hours. Sullivan was arrested in the course of researching an article about former president James Michel’s property holdings. In an office open to the public, authorities accused Sullivan of “unlawful trespassing” but filed no charges against him.
Pretrial Detention: The constitution provides that remand (pretrial) prisoners be released after six months of detention if their cases have not been heard, but prolonged pretrial detention has frequently been a problem. Prisoners sometimes waited more than three years for trial or sentencing due to case backlogs. Pretrial detainees made up approximately 16 percent of the prison population.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right of persons arrested or detained to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and seek compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Nevertheless, court processes were inefficient in that both civil and criminal court cases generally last for years.
The Supreme Court, appeals court, and magistrate court justices were either naturalized citizens or citizens of other Commonwealth countries. Judges were generally impartial. There were several unconfirmed reports that Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey was overzealous in dealing with certain attorneys and certain case files. For example, in October 2016 Supreme Court justice Durai Karunakaran, a naturalized citizen, was reported to the Constitutional Appointments Authority on the request of the chief justice and investigated for malpractice. The report of the tribunal set up to investigate Judge Karunakaran was given to President Faure after several months of trial for action. Chief Justice Twomey made public the contents of the report, calling for the dismissal of Judge Karunakaran before President Faure had announced the contents of the report. At least two lawyers reported Judge Twomey to the Constitutional Appointments Authority, the authority that appoints judges. The opposition claimed the suspension of Judge Karunakaran was politically motivated because he made several rulings in 2016 perceived to favor the opposition.
Authorities generally respected court orders. A report issued on September 13 by the National Assembly stated that the Supreme Court had served summons on three members of the National Assembly, an act that directly contravened the constitutional immunity afforded to members of parliament.
Both the constitution and law provide for the right of a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to be present at their trials and to appeal. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the first court appearance through all appeals. Only cases involving charges of murder or treason use juries. The constitution makes provision for defendants to present evidence and witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses in court. Defendants have the right to access government-held evidence, although responses to such requests often were delayed. The law provides the right of defendants to consult with an attorney of choice or to have one provided at public expense in a timely manner and to be provided adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right not to confess guilt, not to testify, nor to enter a plea. The law extends these rights to all defendants.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. For example, on April 2, Today in Seychelles reported the Constitutional Court issued a ruling that called on the ruling Parti Lepep to transfer ownership of a building and land in Victoria back to its rightful owners, the Umarji family. The government acquired the land and building in 1984 allegedly in the public interest and later transferred the property to the ruling party. The court ruled the acquisition did not serve the public interest and noted the right to own and enjoy property is a constitutional right. On July 26, Seychelles Nation reported President Faure announced the establishment of a land commission to investigate claims of forced land acquisitions since the 1977 military takeover and to settle all claims. Individuals may also appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Nevertheless, the public suspected that the government and the ruling party monitored conversations without legal process.