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[Press statement] Rights of detainees: Benin approves a new Code of Criminal Procedure

April 2012

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Paris – Cotonou, 12 April 2012 – On Friday 30 March 2012, Benin Assembly deputies unanimously passed Law No.2012-15 setting out the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Benin. This is a very important step forward in the protection of human rights in this country, especially for persons held in custody and in detention.

Conditions of detention in Benin are deplorable and often comparable with cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments. Prison overpopulation is endemic and the majority of the prison population consists of persons in pre-trial detention. According to the Minister of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights, Marie-Elise Gbèdo, one such detainee was held in preventive custody for 19 years, before being eventually sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment.

In their opposition to this practice, FIACAT and ACAT Benin have often put pressure on the Benin authorities to reform their Criminal Law. In November 2007 they met with experts from the UN Committee Against Torture and presented their recommendations for effective reforms to end violations of human rights in prisons. The Committee Against Torture broadly accepted FIACAT’s proposals and recommended that the Benin authorities « reform the provisions of its Code of Criminal Procedure relating to police custody so as to ensure that persons held in custody are effectively protected from physical and mental harm. In particular, the draft Code of Criminal Procedure should guarantee the right to consult a lawyer and a doctor of one’s choice and to contact family members, and should also include the principle of presumption of innocence and the obligation to inform all arrested persons of their right to receive legal assistance. »

FIACAT and ACAT Benin are delighted that a new Code of Criminal Procedure has been adopted, founded on the principle of presumption of innocence, and they congratulate the Benin authorities on seeing this project through to its conclusion with such determination. Indeed the new Code states that the freedom of the detainee is the principle, and his or her detention the exception. FIACAT and ACAT Benin hope that this new Code of Criminal Procedure will help reduce prison overcrowding in Benin and improve conditions of detention.

FIACAT and ACAT Benin now invite the Benin authorities to promulgate this law without delay and to promote it as widely as possible among the population and those responsible for surveillance of detainees.

FIACAT and ACAT Benin also urge the Benin Parliament to approve the draft Criminal Code and finally declare torture a crime in Benin.

- FIACAT : Guillaume Colin – g.colin@fiacat.org - + 33 (0)1 42 80 01 60

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