Contributor(s)The Voice of the Forgotten

Physical integrity

The majority of deaths result from lack of medical care. Tuberculosis (TB) patients do not receive regular care and around 20% of prisoners at Libreville prison are said to be suffering TB. Untreated cases of AIDS are also reported.   

Acts of violence amongst prisoners are not punished. Some prisoners become dominant within the prisoner hierarchy through the use of force and join forces with others to create ‘chiefdoms’ within prisons. Score settling between prisoners, even when resulting in death, is not investigated.

People in police custody are frequently tortured in order to obtain a confession. One form of torture is called ‘the bridge’. The victim is suspended from an iron bar, and their legs or feet hit with an iron bar, machete or electric cables. Another form of torture involves applying electrical charges to the mouth or the anus. Some prisoners also report sexual violence.   

Posters are now being put up in police stations to remind staff that torture is forbidden, an initiative welcomed in a report published by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) in 2015. However the SPT also expressed regret over the absence of human rights training programs.   

Article 253 of the penal code references torture but does not define acts of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. This limits the prosecution of offenders. The SPT is concerned about the lack of training for medical staff on how to document cases of torture.

The practice of ‘beating up’ new prisoners, women and children included, still persists. It is possible for new prisoners to avoid these beatings by paying a fee to the ‘chief’ of the prison wing (another prisoner).
These ‘chiefs’ decide on disciplinary measures, which are carried out by other prisoners. These measures often involve physical abuse; floggings with whips, belts, sticks etc. Women have their heads shaved by way of punishment.

Lost files and expiration of legal time limits for prosecution make up the majority of arbitrary detention cases.