Inmates petition AG over alleged abuses

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Inmates petition AG over alleged abuses

Two trial-awaiting inmates at the Windhoek Correctional Facility have petitioned the Attorney-General to intervene in what they call serious infringements on their constitutional rights.

American murder accused Kevan Townsend and former Namibian magistrate and double rape accused Jaco Kennedy want the AG, Festus Mbandeka, to issue directives and/or intervene under his obligation in terms of Article 87 (c) of the Namibian Constitution to restore their rights under Article 5.

They claim that their safety is compromised when they are transported in the back of police vans from the facility to court for court proceedings. This, they say, amounts to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in contravention of Article 8 (2)(b) of the Constitution. Furthermore, they want the AG to direct on the constitutionality pertaining to WCF officers placing trial-awaiting inmates in handcuffs behind their back and/or in the figure eight position during interrogation or interview sessions. They also want the AG to intervene on the constitutionality of WCF
 administration prohibiting trial-awaiting inmates from contacting media houses, which they claim is inconsistent with Article 21(1)(a). 

Another issue they want the AG to deal with is the “premeditated and deliberate impoverishment created by the WCF administration that complainants are detained for about 19 to 20 hours per day in a small, congested cell with broken windows, and that trial- awaiting inmates are classified and treated similar to maximum-sentenced offenders”. 

As such, they say televisions, rechargeable FM radios and electric power plugs are not permitted in cells, whereas such privileges are afforded to medium and/or minimum sentenced offenders. They are also prohibited from communicating digitally with lawyers and/or family, and the natural grass at their section was removed and replaced with a full concrete floor, similar to the one for maximum-sentenced offenders. They are also not allowed to acquire basic exercise equipment, as are allowed for medium and minimum sentenced offenders, and may only be visited for 30 minutes, whereas sentenced offenders receive one-hour visits per day. 

Another complaint is that trial-awaiting inmates are collectively punished for the wrongs of other inmates, and that WCF officers constantly harass their visitors and insult, humiliate, disrespect or provoke them. They further want the AG to intervene on the constitutionality of the practice by the WCF administration of punishing trial-awaiting inmates for wrongful conduct without giving them an opportunity to be heard first.

This comes hot on the heels of a case filed with the High Court in which the two men want to be allowed to receive conjugal visits and possess partly-naked pictures in prison. 

The Namibian reported earlier that Townsend, who is accused of murdering Andrè Heckmair; and ex-magistrate Kennedy, accused of raping two women he offered lifts to, filed a case in the Windhoek High Court, complaining that the prison authorities are violating their constitutional right to freedom of expression by not allowing them to receive or possess what they describe as “semi-nude images”.
The court should order the prison authorities “to cease and desist from removing semi-nude images from plaintiffs’ private printed material”, the two men are asking.
Kennedy and Townsend are also claiming that police and prison authorities are unreasonably refusing a request by them to be allowed to receive “conjugal or private family visits”.
The two men are suing the Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security as minister responsible for the police and prisons; the inspector-general of the Namibian Police; the commissioner-general of the Namibian Correctional Service; the officer in charge of the Windhoek Correctional Facility; and the Ombudsman.