November 5, 2003

Red Cross investigates prison conditions

Health and human rights groups are concerned about prison conditions in Swaziland, where torture, lack of basic hygiene and unsafe sexual practices are said to be common. The media and correctional services officials were invited to what the Red Cross described as an "interaction" with prisoners. Discussions were frank, and prison authorities promised to investigate the prisoners’ concerns.

A list of demands was presented to Correctional Services Commissioner Mnguni Simelane during the meeting. Simelane said he was unaware of the beating of inmates, which he described as a violation of prison procedure. Inmates told the Red Cross that prison warders do not take prisoners seriously when they report they are ill, and neglected prisoners die before they are transferred to hospital. Prisoners furthermore demanded antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive prisoners, and the release of inmates dying of AIDS-related illnesses. In a reflection of the substandard prison conditions, inmates said they also wanted shoes, soap, and regular cell inspections by health workers. (IRIN)

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