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[Blog] Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Lives matter!

Michael Atchia

12th September 1977 in South Africa:  Steve Biko dies of injuries sustained in police custody.

While held in Port Elizabeth, Biko was interrogated while shackled, handcuffed and naked. Although the exact details of the interrogation have never been established, it has since been acknowledged that Biko was violently assaulted to such an extent that he suffered brain injuries that led to a hemorrhage. Having been sent to Pretoria for medical treatment, on 12 September Biko died in his cell of what the autopsy referred to as an ‘extensive brain injury’. His death attracted global attention and intensified international criticism of apartheid. His death in custody and the 27 years of imprisonment of Nelson Mandela have not been in vain.

25th May 2020 in Minneapolis, USA : These are the last words of George Floyd, a 46-year-old man from Minneapolis, USA, who died as a US police officer pinned him down, kneeling on his neck for seven minutes, until he suffocated:

"It's my face man
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
please man
please somebody
please man
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
please (inaudible)
I will
I can't move
I can't
my knee
my nuts
I'm through
I'm claustrophobic
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
everything hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
please sir
please I can't breathe"

Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after. His death in police hands led to multiple protests and riots in a number of cities, calling for equal rights and an end to Police abuse.

21st of February 1999 in Mauritius, Kaya the inventor of Seggae music died at the age of 38 while in police custody. Born on the 10th of August 1960, Joseph Réginald Topize was professionally known by his stage name, Kaya. He was the creator of the seggae music, a mix of Mauritian sega and reggae. He was very popular in Mauritius. Following his death, widespread protests and civil unrest took place throughout Mauritius but mainly in specific suburbs such as Roche Bois. Kaya died while in police custody (purportedly beaten to death by the police); he was originally arrested for smoking Marijuana during one of his concerts.

On 5th May 2020, in Mauritius, Prisoner Cael PERMES , age 29, Mauritian citizen of African origin, was transferred from the Beau-Bassin prison to La Bastille prison. He was purportedly heard to have said when leaving prison that “I am being transferred to be tortured and killed” (Le Mauricien, 25.5.2020, p6),

He reached La Bastille prison at about 6.30 pm and is reported to have been in very bad physical condition, bleeding. He was put in a cell. He was purportedly heard to have said aloud: “Pardon me, I am about to die, remove my cuffs”.  He was heard muttering words of pain. A medical officer was called. Cael Permes was dead.

Since Mr Permes was in the care and custody of prison  officers, subsequently 4 of them were arrested then released on bail.

What happened? Was citizen Permes tortured by his custodians? And were the inflicted injuries the cause of his death?

The Republic of Mauritius has an excellent constitution, has a fully democratic and respected government which respects the rule of law and has several human rights instances. Therefore such an isolated breach in law and order deserves an independent commission of enquiry, a MUST to establish the truth of what led to Cael’s death, both on possible murder charges and human rights abuse, in fairness to all. Is there any relationship with  the recorded deaths (with suicide as a possible cause ?) during the last few months, while they were in custody, of Joselito, of Mervyn, of David and of Michael (Cover story, 5-Plus Dimanche, 30.5.2020).
Lives matter. We should remind ourselves of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations which states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. That applies equally to all, as it is also stated (in Article 1) that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Michael ATCHIA



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