FIJI JUDGE RELEASES SUSPECT, CITES PRISON CONDITIONS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 6) – Another prisoner on remand was released on bail by the Fiji High Court yesterday because of inhumane conditions at Korovou Prison.

Tukai Yavala, 20, charged with robbery with violence, appeared before Justice Nazhat Shameem yesterday seeking bail.

Justice Shameem said the officer-in-charge at Korovou Prison did not deny remand prisoners were now, once again, being held in the Awaiting Trial Block despite rulings by several High Court judges that the conditions in that Block were in breach of section 25 of the Constitution.

"In this case the result is inevitable. The Applicant is held in remand in breach of section 25 of the Constitution. I have no option but to release him on bail forthwith," she said.

Justice Shameem said she was in no doubt the Prisons Department had not taken any steps to improve conditions for prisoners on remand.

"Further, I am left in no doubt there are no plans for the future, to improve those conditions."

Justice Shameem said the officer-in-charge referred to plans to move prisoners to the Naboro Prison, to a new complex. However, she said he agreed these plans did not include the movement of remand prisoners who would remain in the condemned, degrading and inhumane Korovou Prison.

She said the problem had now become a most serious one, because as she had stated in a number of judgments, the result could have a serious impact on the law and order situation in Fiji.

"The problem could result in the waste of prisons and police resources in the recapturing of remand prisoners who should not have been released in the first place. The answer is a simple one. It is to relocate the remand prisoners as quickly as possible to cells that conform to the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules, and to conditions of custody that do not offend section 25 of the Constitution."

Justice Shameem said clearly the problem was not lack of resources because the executive had provided resources for convicted prisoners.

State counsel Kiji Bavou said Yavala produced an uncle — Manasa Babitu — as a surety before he was released yesterday.

Justice Shameem ordered Yavala to report to the Valelevu Police Station twice week and not not to apply for a passport while awaiting trial. Yavala is to reappear in court on January 20. Prisons commissioner Aisea Taoka said Korovou Prison could hold 235 prisoners but housed 315 inmates.

January 6, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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