18 June 2019

Namibia: Inmates Cry Foul Over Keetmans Police Cells

Close to 80 trial-awaiting inmates at the Keetmanshoop police holding cells have complained that they are denied access to water, while living in unhygienic conditions.

In a leaked complaint letter to the //Kharas police's regional commander, David Indongo, dated 9 June, the inmates alleged that some of them have been locked in a cell with no running water for three weeks.

Because of the absence of running water, the inmates said they are denied showers, and have to endure the stench from the toilet.

"We have to beg for water in bottles from other inmates in corridors to drink, and at least wipe our faces and arms," the letter read.

Numerous complaints about the lack of running water in the cell to the police station's hierarchy have fallen on deaf ears, according to the inmates.

"These conditions of the toilet and showers can lead to sicknesses," they highlighted.

"Is this how inmates should be treated...like savages?", they asked.

The inmates further claimed that their rights to health while in custody are also being ignored.

"Sick inmates' health conditions go backwards in cells because their request to be taken for follow-up visits to medical doctors are being ignored," the inmates charged.

They also complained that they are unable to phone relatives or lawyers, and that at times some of them go to bed without a meal.

"We have a right to meals, but sometimes we sleep without food because rations are being distributed unfairly. This results in some cells not getting food," the letter read.

Indongo on Thursday admitted that there is no running water in some cells because of water leaks caused by old water pipes.

However, he was quick to note that inmates sometimes intentionally damaged water pipes.

"When there is no running water in a cell, we move inmates to another cell where water is available," he stated.

The regional commander also rebutted the inmates' claims that they are denied food, saying: "Inmates are regularly served with the prescribed three meals a day".

"Sometimes it is beyond our control to serve them three meals a day due to the economic situation prevailing in the country, but we ensure that they at least get two meals a day," he added.

He also poured cold water on claims that inmates are denied access to health, visits, or to make calls to family members or lawyers.

"They are being assisted regularly," he insisted.

However, he admitted that the inmates' visitation rights at times were limited due to manpower shortages.

Indongo said 78 inmates on average are locked up monthly at the Keetmanshoop police holding cells.

luqman@namibian.com.na

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