Another Mauritian Tale about Police Brutality… But shouldn’t we go beyond ?
On the 2nd of March this year, the news came out as a traumatising shockwave to entire Mauritius!
Iqbal Toofanny, 42 yr-old father of three, was declared deceased by the coroner, 48 hrs after his arrest and stay in custody. Publicized photographic evidence showed multiple contusion and bruises, on several parts of Toofanny’s body. These made no doubt about how the 42 year old citizen, was mistreated, brutalized and beaten up while in Police Custody.
Five suspects, all CID (Central Investigation Department) officers, were indicted on charges of torture and later bailed out on a Rs 9 000 (300 USD) bond, after 24 hrs detention. This, by itself, has been lived through as mere injustice, by an entire empathic population. The entire Police Force and Mauritian judiciary became (again) suspects of unequal justice delivery, towards simple citizen. How can five Police officers come out with a Rs 9000 bail, when there are strong unrebuttable presumption of torture and manslaughter? The Scene was set!
To the eyes of many, this kind of situation could have triggered social chaos. Should this had happened under the previous detested Ramgoolam government, there would have definitely been profound social unrest and riots, like in 1999 when iconic creole singer Kaya died in Police Custody.
The Authorities Feels the People’s Breath in the Neck… For the First Time in 100 days…
There are many other tales of Police brutality that resorted into unexplained deaths in Mauritius recently, but the Toofanny case is the one of the rarities where pressure from the people is building up on the DPP’s office, in an organized manner. There are, as it may seem, urgent and pressing requests that the actual director steps down from office. Private Notice Questions have been asked in Parliament and the People’s pressure is also growing hard on the new Mauritian Government. The latter has had to deal with its first big social issue, within less than 100 days, since it came into power, on december 12, 2014. Responding to the popular upthrust, the Prime Minister, Anerood Jugnauth promised to leave no stone unturned and showed his discontent with the way the judiciary handled the matter.
Beyond Police Bashing… The Victims’ Place
But as with all such cases of heartfelt social injustices in Mauritius, we often fail to think about the What Next… about how will the victims be treated and be offered acceptable justice delivery. In an “Etat de Droit” (Law-based State) like Mauritius, we believe that victim status should be of utter importance.
What can be recalled from the Toofanny ordeal, is the complete devastation of the parents, wife, siblings and other close acquaintances. At no moment, has official authorities or the Government, showed some efforts in supporting the afflicted family. In the absence of Jameel Peerally’s and Salim Muthy’s bold stands, we might have already forgotten of the whole tragedy. The Toofanny family might have found itself helpless against a machinery that knows all about case muffling, camouflage and psychological repression.
Beyond the main victim Iqbal, who is no more, stands a 5-member family circle that needs to be guided precautiously and knowledgeably throughout proceedures of justice. For one comforting fact, we know that barristers, who have sided with the family, will, at levels almost next to no-cost, be providing all their talent and (he)art in that direction. Above that, the family should be able to open a special communication channel with the proper Police department and judicial instance, until justice is delivered. In this particular case, the Mauritius Police Force should be made to officially deem support, not only in words, but also in the way the case is geared. There should, at no time, be THE sense of a Police Force that favors its rogues more than the victims.
Such type of professional and psychological counselling should be readily made available to victims in similar cases and others where rape, murder, aggravated assaults, conjugal or pedophile violence are implied. It is important to identify and quantify the levels of emotional stress brought up with the Consequences of the said crimes and analyse how such, can impact the way the victims will heed with the interactions, within the process of justice delivery.
How many times have we seen, plaintiffs unable to attend court hearings, due to unbearable emotional states? How many times have we seen and heard stories of rape victims who just couldn’t go through their testification and as such opened doors for the criminal’s judicial escape? How many times have we heard tales of victims who never knew what happened to the perpetrators and were just left alone with their own grief for the rest of their life? What is true, is that Justice in Mauritius, is delivered upon strict delivery of undisputable facts from both parties, without the full knowledge of all the prejudices caused to victims. Justice is rendered but not especially to the victim.
In the face of such a painful event, the Mauritian Government, should be prone to amend the laws in order to bring victimology into the process of rendering justice, as we believe that above anything, any legal process has the obligation of serving the victims, most importantly. The Iqbal Toofanny Case should inaugurate new ways about how the Mauritian Judiciary and Police Force shall stand in front of traumatising Police Brutality cases, closer to the victims.
I, therefore, invite the Government of Mauritius to include the concept of Victim Judicial Support and Assistance, in its on-going reforms. This will especially benefit victims of rapes, aggressions, family violence and other violent crimes where victims and their families are to be psychologically assisted and protected.
Je suis Iqbal… I am a Mauritian citizen with rights…