25 Feb 2003

Vanuatu Ombudsman takes government to task over poor state of prisons

5:35 pm on 25 February 2003

Vanuatu's Ombudsman has accused the government of human rights breaches over its failure to upgrade the country's prisons and for allowing a 12 year old to be jailed with adult prisoners for 5 months.

Hannington Alatoa says there are no juvenile detention facilities, and that the main prisons are in such a state of disrepair they need to be rebuilt.

He says they have not been upgraded since colonial days.

Mr Alatoa says inmates are suffering poor health and live in overcrowded conditions.

Mr Alatoa says the government is aware of the poor prison conditions, but continues to ignore the problem.

"there's a lack of political will, those prisons are falling apart, wiring and plumbing and when it rains the whole place leaks....Vanuatu has breaches some of the international conventions in relation to people under age and I think subject to checking our laws we should not be imprisoning anyone under 18"

Mr Alatoa says he has called for a meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs and Justice next week to discuss the issue.