Antigua: Government can be taken to court over prison – Cassell

By Antigua Observer

Attorney Warren Cassell

(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Prisoners and interest groups can sue the Antigua and Barbuda government in the High Court over the unsanitary and dilapidated condition of the country’s lone prison.

Attorney-at-law, Warren Cassell, in expressing this view on OBSERVER AM yesterday, stressed that Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, the Minister of Public Safety, whose portfolio includes responsibility for matters concerning the prison, should ultimately be held responsible for the violation of human rights at Her Majesty’s Prison under current conditions.

“The legislation sets out what every prisoner should have upon entering prison, so it is clear that if this is not being adhered to, there is a breach of statutory duty, so something can be done,” Cassell said.

Cassell explained that the Visiting Committee and the superintendent of the prison are in charge of ensuring certain standards are met, however, the minister is ultimately responsible.

“Persons were giving the authorities a chance,” Cassell said. “As the minister suggests, it cannot happen overnight, but … now given this latest report… things will move forward.”

His views on the poor conditions of the prison were ventilated from a legal perspective, during the radio discussion that touched on the release of the Antigua and Barbuda 2017 Human Rights Report prepared by the U.S. State Department.

Issues of sanitation, poor ventilation, damaged infrastructure, overcrowding, bribery and corruption, amongst others, were highlighted in the report.

Cassell added that even though the minister said these things cannot happen overnight, in reference to the conditions being changed, “people have been complaining for years.”

The attorney suggested that the government increases the budget for finances allocated to the prison. He quoted Nelson Mandela: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

He reiterated: “[the prison conditions] are a clear breach in the laws of Antigua and Barbuda, it’s not rocket science.”

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