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[Press Release] Benin: An important step forward for the protection of detained persons

June 2012

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Paris – Cotonou, 12 June 2012 – The Benin government, at a meeting of the Ministerial Council, named an examining magistrate to the Second 1st Class Examining Cabinet of First Instance Tribunal of Porto-Novo. This is a very important step for the protection of human rights in the country, notably for the 200 detained persons whose cases before the Cabinet have remained without examination for more than three years.

The detention conditions in Benin are deplorable and can often be described as inhuman and degrading treatment. The prison overcrowding is rampant there, notably because of the slowness of the judiciary system. The majority of persons deprived of liberty is in preventative detention and may never be brought before a judge.

To fight this practice, FIACAT and ACAT Benin have often pressured Benin authorities to give necessary and adequate access to justice in the country. Also, FIACAT and ACAT Benin denounced, during the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in April 2012, the inactivity of the Second 1st Class Examining Cabinet of First Instance Tribunal of Porto-Novo for more than three years because of the absence of appointment of an examining judge and a court clerk. This situation put more than 200 people in arbitrary detention.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, an ordinance which prolongs the committal order must take place every six months; however, certain detainees have spent more than two years without appearing before a judge.

FIACAT and ACAT Benin welcome the fact that, following the 51st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR, the Benin government proceeded to nominate an examining magistrate and assign a court clerk to the Second Examining Cabinet of the Court. FIACAT and ACAT Benin hope that the nomination of a new judge will reduce the overcrowding of the country’s prisons and the improvement of detention conditions.

FIACAT and ACAT Benin now invite the Benin authorities to fill the Third and Fourth Examining Cabinets of the same jurisdiction, which has been without a clerk for a few months. According to the provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure, no act of examination may be proposed without the presence of a clerk. FIACAT and ACAT Benin will attentively follow this question during Benin’s Universal Periodical Review, which will take place at the United Nations in October 2012.

Press contact:
-  FIACAT: Guillaume Colin – g.colin@fiacat.org – + 33 (0)1 42 80 01 60
-  ACAT Benin: Pascal Zohoun – +229 95 85 16 46 / 90 01 03 94

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