Communication No. 354/1989 : Mauritius. 28/11/90.
Convention Abbreviation: CCPR
Human Rights Committee
DECISION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE UNDER THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL
AND POLITICAL RIGHTS - FORTIETH SESSION
Communication No. 354/1989
Submitted by: L. G. [name deleted]
Alleged victim: The author
State party concerned: Mauritius
Date of communication: 17 February 1989 (date of initial letter)
The Human Rights Committee, established under article 28 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights,
Meeting on 31 October 1990,
Adopts the following:
Decision on admissibility
1. The author of the communication (initial submission dated 17 February 1989 and subsequent submissions)is L. G., a Mauritian citizen and former barrister. He claims to be the victim of a violation of articles 1, 2, 3, 14, 15 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by Mauritius.
The facts as submitted :
2.1 On 16 February 1979, the author was arrested in connection with the possession
of parts of the proceeds from a robbery at a casino, perpetrated on the night
of 21 January 1979. On 29 January 1979, a self-confessed participant in the
robbery retained the services of the author and remitted two sums of money to
him, first 3000 rupees representing the author's legal fees and then 7000 rupees
to be put aside for the eventuality of retaining the services of senior counsel.
Several days before the author's arrest, his client's wife requested the author
to return the 7000 rupees, allegedly because the client was ill and needed the
money for medical
expenses; she was accompanied by two plainclothes policemen who posed as relatives of the client. The author asked to personally meet his client, and a meeting was arranged at the client's house where, in the presence of the undercover agents, the author returned the 7000 rupees to his client. Upon leaving the house, he was arrested in a nearby street, and charged with possession of stolen money.
2.2 The author claims that he was framed by the police, who were in exclusive charge of the investigation related to the robbery. He alleges that there was strong evidence that a number of individuals of Chinese origin were directly associated with the crime but that all the participants of Chinese origin except one either denied their participation in the hold-up or were never questioned by the police about it. He further indicates that the police, instead of completing its investigations within a short period of time, engaged in "secret dealing" with those participants in the hold-up who were of Chinese origin.
2.3 During the trial the author's client appeared as the prosecution's principal
witness, testifying that he had given the author the 7000 rupees for safekeeping.
On 12 August 1979, the court of first instance, in a two to one majority decision,
convicted the author. He appealed, but on 5 August 1980, the Supreme Court confirmed
the judgment of first instance. The author envisaged a further appeal to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council but claims that this was bound to fail
due to the fact that the grounds of appeal were limited to the court record
and the issues of law were not of fundamental importance; moreover, he submits
that the Privy
Council very rarely intervenes on issues of fact. This information was imparted to him by an English professor whose services he had retained; as a result, the author chose not to proceed with his petition, and on 20 December 1980, the Privy Council dismissed his appeal for "non-prosecution", that is, failure to pursue the case.
2.4 Late in 1980, the author came across fresh evidence which led him to believe
that the police inquiry had been "partial, discriminatory and deliberately
selective". On 17 March 1981, however, he was summoned to appear before
the full bench of the Supreme Court under Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners
(Disciplinary Proceeding)Ordinance and advised to remove his name from the roll
of practicing barristers. The author subsequently requested his removal from
the Roll of Barristers so as to prevent the continuation of disciplinary proceedings
against him. In 1983 and 1986, he submitted petitions for pardon to the Commission
Prerogative of Mercy; both were rejected. Since 1981, he has unsuccessfully sought to obtain the assistance of the Mauritius Bar Council in his efforts to be readmitted to the roll of practicing barristers. In 1986, he contemplated a formal motion before the Supreme Court but was advised to contact the Attorney General's office instead, since a Letter from the Attorney General would be sufficient for him to resume his practice. He wrote to the Attorney General but did not receive any reply.
2.5 Early in 1989, the author wrote to the Chief Justice, who recommended to him to apply for re-instatement under the Law Practitioner's Act 1984; the author did so. On 17 November 1989, the Chief Justice declined to issue the order for his re-instatement on the ground of the author's previous conviction.
The complaint :
3.1 The author claims that there was no basis for suspending him indefinitely from the exercise of his profession. He notes that Mauritian legislation makes no provisions for a retrial in cases in which there exists new material evidence, which was unknown to the accused prior to the trial. As all criminal investigations are conducted by the police who have overall responsibility for a case, the judicial authorities, may only require supplementary information with respect to the investigation but have no control over it. Once an investigation is completed, it is submitted to the Crown Law Office. The author argues that at this juncture there exists a "no man's land" bound to create situations in which the administration of justice may be jeopardized. He notes that the institution of the examining magistrate (Juge d'instruction) is unknown in Mauritius. For these reasons, the author considers that he was not afforded a fair trial and is thus the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
3.2 With respect to the requirement of exhaustion of domestic remedies, the
author states that he did not pursue his appeal to the Judicial Committee Of
the Privy Council because of the prohibitive costs involved, and because it
would not, in his opinion, have constituted an effective remedy, as the Privy
Council does not entertain an appeal based on facts. He claims that after the
decision of the Chief Justice not to grant his request for re-instatement, the
only effective remedy for him would be the enactment of new legislation allowing
for a retrial in cases in which new material evidence becomes available after
the conclusion of the trial, or new
legislation vesting disciplinary powers in the Mauritian Bar Council along the same lines as those vested in the British Bar Council. He concludes that he has exhausted available judicial remedies, and affirms that the prolongation of the pursuit of remedies is not solely attributable to him.
The State party's observations :
4.1 The State party contends that the communication should be declared inadmissible
pursuant to articles 2 and 5, paragraph 2(b), of the Optional Protocol. It argues
that it is inadmissible on the ground of non-exhaustion of domestic remedies
because the author, although availing himself of several non-judicial remedies,
failed to pursue the avenue provided for under Mauritian law: to first apply
to the Registrar for reinsertion of his name on the Roll of Barristers, and,
in the event of a negative decision, to seek judicial review of the Registrar's
decision. The State party claims that the communication is also inadmissible
because of the author's failure
to pursue his petition for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
4.2 The State party further affirms that the communication is inadmissible pursuant to article 2, of the Optional Protocol, since it does not disclose a claim under article 2 of the Optional Protocol. It notes that in as much as the author's claim of a violation of article 14, on the ground that he had discovered new evidence not available to him during the trial, is concerned, the communication does not disclose in precise terms what this new evidence was. It contends that all the evidence referred to in the communication was available during the trial, and that the allegation of an *'elaborate police frame up" amounts to no more than a personal conclusion drawn from evidence available at the time. Moreover, the State party observes, the Mauritian courts acted properly in deciding to rely on the evidence presented by the author's own client and that of other witnesses, after having directed them properly on issues of law, and that the object of the communication would convert the Human Rights Committee into a Court of Appeal on findings of fact.
The issues before the Committee :
5.1 Before considering any claims contained in a communication, the Human Rights Committee must ascertain, in accordance with rule 87 of its rules of procedure, whether or not it is admissible under the Optional Protocol to the Covenant.
5.2 In respect of the author's claim that Mauritian Law does not provide for a retrial in cases in which fresh material evidence becomes available after the conclusion of the trial, the Committee notes that no substantiation Of such fresh material evidence has been made. Therefore, the author has failed to advance a claim under the Covenant within the meaning of article 2 of the Optional Protocol.
5.3 As to the author's claim that he has been unjustly denied re-instatement
on the Roll of Barristers and that no remedy Lies for this, the Committee notes
that the author failed to apply for judicial review of the Chief Justice's decision
of 17 November 1989. Until he avails himself of the possibility of a judicial
review, no issue under article 14 of the Covenant arises. The author's claim
is thus incompatible with the provisions of the Covenant within the meaning
of article 3 of the Optional Protocol.
6. The Human Rights Committee therefore decides:
(a) That the communication is inadmissible;
(b) That this decision shall be transmitted to the State party and to the author.