Cops Blamed in Little Boy’s Death

It is the duty of the police to detain mothers with children – as well as female juveniles – separate from adult prisoners and this was certainly not done to protect four-year-old Fortuna Tenete who was killed by a prisoner during a quarrel with his mother.

Ombudsman John Walters released a damning report last Friday on the death of the little boy in the Wanaheda police station holding cells, saying the police failed in their duty to have the deceased and his mother separated from adult detainees.

Walters released the report on the circumstances that led to the detention of Tenete with his mother Kaarina Mateus, 29, at the Wanaheda police holding cells on January 21 this year and his subsequent death in prison.

Tenete died in the evening of January 24 after a female detainee Loise Kaambu allegedly hit his head against the cell floor in anger over a fight she had with his mother Mateus earlier that day.

The mother of the deceased was in custody for shoplifting and failed to post bail of N$500. Walters said the “strictest precautionary measures shall be taken to prevent children from coming into contact with adult prisoners,” while “children under 16 years of age shall not be detained in police cells if it is possible to accommodate them in any other approved place.” According to the report, the deceased did not enjoy primary consideration in this matter because of lack of cooperation and collaboration between the different role-players, which include the Wanaheda Station Commander, Chief Inspector Josia, social workers at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare as well as the presiding and prosecuting magistrate.

“An institutions created to protect the rights of all children individually and collectively failed to act,” says Walters in the report. The report says that the station commander, supported by the regional crime coordinator, confirmed they did not receive assistance from the social workers of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to remove children detained with parents, because they do not have facilities to accommodate such children.

The report also noted the station commander recalled that officials of the Ombudsman visited the Wanaheda police station cells during December 2013, but they did not remove children being detained with their mothers.

Walters recommended the construction of remand prisons in Windhoek and other towns as Cabinet already decided during October 2009 that the Ministry of Safety and Security should budget for the construction of such prisons. He also ordered the police to immediately stop the practice of detaining female juveniles with adults. Another recommendation is that the Child Care and Protection and Child Justice Bill be passed as a matter of priority. Government was implored to ensure the principle of the best interest of the child be appropriately and consistently applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings as well as in all policies, programmes and projects relevant to and with impact on children. Government was also urged to protect the rights of children deprived of their liberty and improve their condition of detention and imprisonment, in particular by establishing special prisons for children suited to their age and needs and ensuring the provision of social services in all detention centres in the country.

He further stated that the duty of the State is to provide special treatment for detained and imprisoned children, adjusted to their needs, and that the deprivation of their liberty should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time.

Source : New Era