DELEGATION OF RADICALS IN NIGER VISITS THE PRISONS OF NIAMEY AND KOLLO
|Pannella visits the women's prison in Niamey
November 21, 2014: The delegation of the Radical Party and Hands Off Cain that was in Niger for institutional meetings regarding the UN resolution for the moratorium on executions was also able to visit two prisons in the country, that of Niamey and that of Kollo, 30 km from the capital.
The prison of Niamey is structured in a men's block, a womenâs block, and a juvenile block. The 46 women and 27 minors are kept in areas that by law can house 45 and 60. These structures do not show serious architectural or sanitation shortcomings. The 1,114 men instead are crammed into unhealthy premises which should accommodate 350.
The delegation, composed of Marco Pannella, Sergio D'Elia, Marco Perduca, Matteo Angioli, Marco Maria Freddi and Stefano Marrella - whom for Radio Radicale has, when allowed, documented the hours spent in jail - held talks with male inmates in dormitories and, briefly, even in open areas. These spaces, given the overpopulation, are often used as bedding.
The delegation was able to see that the men's section is facing alarming sanitary conditions with very overcrowded cells that have tiny windows that do not allow the slightest ventilation.
Outdoor spaces remind of a souk where, however, there is virtually no separation between the part where you can walk to go to the bathroom or to the showers, and the area where to sleep or to eat. The makeshift beds are sheltered by pieces of cloth or wicker hanging from loose ropes.
To overcome the excessive overcrowding, sometimes the prison has more than 1,500 inmates, prison authorities at times carry out displacements and evacuations, short-term solutionsÂ that fail to significantly reduce the inhuman and degrading treatment to which detainees are subjected.
As mostly everywhere in the world, the administration of justice in Niger takes a long time. Indeed, of the 1,114 housed in the prison, only 411 had a final judgment. At the time of the visit there were 55 foreigners from neighboring countries. None of the male inmates are working or going to school. Even the mosque reflects the dramatic overcrowding.
The situation is better in the female and juvenile blocks. Here there are no problems of overpopulation and almost all the detainees work in a knitting laboratory, woodworking, sewing and batik dyeing.
In the juvenile block, at the time of the visit, there were 27 boys. Part of them was busy working, and part was attending the local school. Talking with the youngsters showed that in many cases the validation of the arrest took place without the assistance of a lawyer.
Talking to some of the younger, it was also found that one of those inmates was 12 - an age that in Niger you can not stand the prison. The case of the boy was immediately reported to the there present authorities and to the representatives of the United Nations who in the meantime had joined the Radical delegation.
The visit to the prison in Kollo presented a situation radically different from that of the prison in the capital. The complex is organized into four blocks. In the female block there were 24 women in a rather narrow but still fairly well-kept structure. The 3 male blocks are divided between those who have already undergone the trial, those awaiting trial, and "officials".
Built in 1987 to accommodate about 1,500 inmates, at the time of the visit of the d Radical delegation, Kollo Prison housed 283 people: 161 convicts, including four women and two minors; 124 pending final judgment, including 20 women and 1 minor; 39 foreign prisoners from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Benin.
The blocks of men all have a central prayer area managed by an inmate serving as imam. The cells range from a minimum of four and a maximum of eight beds and are open from 6,30 am to 19 pm. The rest of the day is spent in an open area where it is also served a single meal a day. Extra food must be provided by families.
It was recently expanded a vegetable garden in front of the jail where six inmates grow vegetables possibly used for meals. The area known as "officials" hosts thirty people indicted, or convicted, of crimes against the public administration - this area is separated from the others and is organized as a small community. In Niger there is no prison police, and prisons are guarded by the military; medical staff in Niamey was dressed in civilian clothes, in Kollo it is dressed in uniform.
Thanks to the presence of officials of the Ministry of Justice, the delegation was able to interact with those guests who did not understand French. In the block of the convicts Marco Pannella gave a speech, and the Director of the Department of Prisons has translated it to the local dialect . This video is available on the website www.radioradicale.it (Sources: NtC, 21/11/2014)