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Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Constitutional provisions prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed torture. In September, the local press reported allegations by a 19-year-old woman that four police officers physically and verbally abused her during questioning at a police station.
Prison conditions were poor. Approximately 30 prisoners were held in the dilapidated central prison in Port Vila; security at this facility was poor. Inmates were treated humanely to the extent allowed, given the meager resources of the prison system. According to press reports, five prisoners who escaped from the Luganville prison in September and later were recaptured claimed that they had tried to escape because of ill treatment. They alleged that the prison authorities gave them insufficient food and denied them toilet privileges; the authorities denied the allegations.
The sole female prisoner was held at the barracks for female police officers. Pretrial detainees usually were held in the police lockup rather than the prison.
During the year, the government Ombudsman released a report recommending disciplinary action in the case of a number of prison officers, stating that they had borrowed money from a prison fund set up to assist inmates with such needs as medical expenses and had failed to repay the funds.
The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers.
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