Parliament adopts bill to discuss the state of detention facilities

Stefanus Nashama

The National Assembly has this week adopted the motion that seeks to discuss the deplorable state of holding cells and correctional facilities across the country.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) Member of Parliament, Inna Hengari, on Tuesday, tabled the bill, and the National Assembly referred it to the relevant Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny.

While tabling her motion, Hengari highlighted that the motion is a call for urgent intervention and total reconstruction of detention facilities as their current conditions constitute a serious human violation.

According to Hengari, issues such as overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, inmates’ delayed access to medical care, and a lack of necessities across the country persist in police stations, holding cells and correctional facilities.

“It is a grim reflection of the disregard for the health and welfare of the detained population and a stark reminder of the urgent need for reform,” she motivated.

As the bill holds an imperative objective to protect the rights of all persons, Hengari conveyed that those behind bars deserve the same fundamental human rights.

“It is our moral and legal obligation to ensure that our detention facilities are habitable and dignified, and respect the rights of inmates to health, safety and humane treatment,” she said.

Despite admirable efforts observed in some facilities where cleanliness is upheld, the Parliamentarian maintained that several pressing issues persist.

While emphasising her point, Hengari pointed out the Ohangwena Police Station is one of the stations exposed to long periods of detention, poor maintenance of facilities, and overcrowding, adding that these are issues of great concern.

She noted that detention facilities, such as Aus Police Station, have failing infrastructure, posing a clear and present health hazard to the inhabitants. Omuthiya Police Station is overcrowded, rendering it impossible to enforce crucial health regulations during the global pandemic, COVID-19.

She also remarked on the reported allegations of assault among inmates at Oshivelo and Oshikango Police Stations.

Opuwo Police Station, complaints about case postponements and issues regarding bail elucidate a larger judicial backlog.

Hengari said all the issues highlighted above clog the detention system, prompting the consideration to reform beyond the physical conditions of the facilities.

To substantiate her motion, Hengari cited a recent report of the Ombudsman, saying it details the conditions of the holding cell and correctional facilities.

At the same time, Hengari mentioned that although the office of the Ombudsman tried on several occasions to educate inmates on their rights it could not alone address the root of the problem.

“The current situation of holding cells and correctional facilities reflects the failure of the system to maintain order and security,” she reiterated.

The politician further indicated that many correctional facilities require renovation and reconstruction to avoid serious health hazard situations.

“There is a need for immediate and robust reform is glaringly apparent. We have to ensure that these facilities align with our constitutional ideals, upholding the dignity and rights of every human being,” she stressed.

As she waits for the Parliamentary Standing Committee to report back, Hengari calls for the introduction of an independent oversight mechanism to prevent torture, and cruel inhuman, or degrading treatment in places of detention.

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