DPP loses appeal case against police officers who were suspected of being involved in the death (whilst in police custody) of Rajesh Ramlogun due to inconclusive evidence

DPP v Jagdawoo & Others 2016 SCJ 100

Extract of the judgment delivered by Hon. A. Caunhye, Judge:

We feel bound however to raise some matters of grave concern which the crude facts of this case have brought to light in connection with the treatment of persons detained by the police. Ramlogun was in good health and condition prior to his arrest and detention by the police. Although the evidence fell short of establishing, in accordance with the legal standards of proof, the infliction of any inhuman and degrading treatment by the particular police officers who were charged with an offence under section 77 of the Criminal Code, it is beyond dispute that Ramlogun was subjected to physical abuse and was killed whilst in police custody. Those responsible remain unpunished.

The right to life and protection from torture and any form of inhuman or degrading treatment are fundamental constitutional rights guaranteed under section 4 and section 7 of our Constitution respectively. The peremptory nature both of the right to life and of the right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is further highlighted by the fact that these rights cannot be derogated from. In international human rights law, there can be no derogation to the protection of these rights even in the gravest of crisis situations as are laid down in Article 4(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27(2) of the American Convention on Human Rights and Articles 3 and 15(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The treatment of detainees who are placed in a vulnerable position is a matter of even greater concern when it comes to protection of these human rights. The detainee is virtually cut off from the outside world and is placed in a situation of weakness and vulnerability being left to a considerable extent to the mercy of police or prison officials.

The State has positive obligations to afford security and protection of the law and human rights to all categories of its citizens. The State has a duty to secure and not to violate the right to life and the right to protection from torture and inhuman treatment. The more so, in respect of its more vulnerable citizens.

We say so because the infliction of torture or inhuman treatment and the killing of a person in such circumstances cannot be treated with levity. Constitutional rights and criminal law provisions would remain purely theoretical and illusory unless there is in place an effective law enforcement machinery endowed with the appropriate legal and investigative mechanism for the prevention, investigation and punishment of any such violation of human rights.

When the State kills one of its citizens in police custody, it constitutes an intolerable violation of the human rights of the individual. But when the State kills with impunity, it rocks the very foundation upon which a democratic state rests i.e the Rule of Law.

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