Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

April 30, 1990

Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

Based on its experience, Amnesty International believes that complaints procedures should reflect the following principles:

1. The main objective of complaints machinery is to establish, to the degree of certainty possible, whether torture or ill-treatment has occurred. As it is not a criminal inquiry, it should therefore not be necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt who committed the offence in order to conclude that an offence has taken place.

2. The investigating body, however constituted, should be able to demonstrate its formal independence from the detaining and interrogating authorities as well as from governmental pressure and influence. In order that its findings prove credible, the government might include among its members persons nominated by independent non-governmental bodies such as the country's Bar and medical associations. There is no strong reason to exclude representatives of the general public, especially in countries with systems involving trials by jury, from serving on a board charged with reviewing complaints against the police.

3. The terms of reference of the investigating body should include authority to subpoena witnesses, records and documents, to take testimony under oath, and to invite evidence and submissions from interested individuals and non-governmental organizations. The investigating body should also have powers to review procedures and practices related to the notification of arrest; to visits to

detainees by lawyers, family and their own physicians; to medical examinations and treatment and to the admissibility of statements in court allegedly obtained by coercion.

4. The investigating body should be capable of acting on its own initiative, without having to receive formal complaints, whenever there is good reason to believe that torture has occurred. To do so, it must be given the staff and other resources to carry out autonomous investigations.

5. The methods and findings should be made public.

6. The investigation should be speedy if it is to serve the cause of either justice or deterrence.

7. The right to file a complaint should be available to all current and former detainees, their lawyers, families and to any other person or organization acting on their behalf.

8. Accurate records of complaints filed should be published on a regular basis.

9. Security agents against whom repeated complaints of ill-treatment are filed should be transferred, without prejudice, to duties not directly related to arresting, guarding or interrogating detainees, pending a thorough review by senior officers of their conduct.

10. The investigating body should have available to it the medical documentation resulting from an examination by an independent doctor given immediately after the complaint is filed. Records of any post-mortem examination relevant to a complaint should likewise be available."

On the basis of the information which it has received about the circumstances in which torture has taken place, Amnesty International also considers that a number of changes in detention procedure would help reduce the possibility of torture.