Year2015
Contributor(s)The Voice of the Forgotten

Contact with the outside world

Prisoners can receive visits twice a week on Wednesday and either Saturday or Sunday. Visitors are systematically searched on entering the prison. Visits take place in the visiting room.

There are no rights to conjugal visits.

Any requests to keep families together are not taken into account by the prison administration.

The administration inspects the contents of any mail. Relatives can send parcels containing mattresses, sheets, hygiene products, food, medicines and books.   

Prisoners can telephone relatives but confidentiality is not guaranteed, a prison officer always remains at the side of a prisoner during a call.

The only chance for a reduction in sentencing is a presidential pardon. It is reserved for ordinary common law criminals who have not been the subject of any disciplinary action.   

Sentences for murder, embezzlement, armed robbery, rape, sexual abuse of a minor aged 15 or under, child trafficking or drug trafficking are not eligible for presidential pardon.

Prisoners do not have the right to vote in elections.

Prisoners can, in theory, submit a complaint to the court in the case of bad treatment at the hands of prison staff. In practice however, prisoners are not aware of this procedure and there is no record of any prisoner complaints made. Staff enjoy a climate of impunity inside prisons.

The maires (chiefs) supervise all complaints concerning bad treatment and disputes amongst co-prisoners brought before the prison administration. Wardens and prison administration do not usually intervene.

Overpopulation is linked to a weak judicial system. Many lawyers are appointed on the day of the hearing. They barely have time to study the file and judicial decisions are not immediately communicated. Time in detention is unnecessarily prolonged, even in cases of acquittal.

No time limit is imposed on the ‘writing up’ of hearing reports. Prisoners are regularly incarcerated longer than sentenced. Some files remain in the clerk of the court’s office for several months before being processed.

A.T. and K.S., prisoners since May 2014, sentenced to one year in prison with six months suspended, have still not been freed. The court clerk assigned to their case has still not written up the judge’s decision.

C.I. has been a prisoner since November 2013, and was tried one month after arrest. However, the prisoner has not been sentenced because the file has been lost. La Voix des Oubliés has made several requests to the prosecutor for provisional release but the prosecutor refused, noting that the file is missing. Despite the file being referenced in the preliminary enquiry report, the prosecutor has not begun the procedure to deal with the case.

On 22 September 2010 Gabon ratified the optional agreement to the UN Convention against Torture. Article 17 states that an NPM should be created within a year.  

A meeting to discuss the creation of an NPM was organised for 23 and 24 June 2015, in partnership with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). Around forty people (police, ministers, prison staff and psychiatrists) discussed a pilot bill to create the mechanism. They established a roadmap for the next stage of the process.