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Inspecting Samoa's places of detention

Graphic: Staff from the Office of the Ombudsman, with Ashley Bowe (right)

For the first time ever, prisons and other places of detention in Samoa have been inspected by the Office of the Ombudsman.


For the first time ever, prisons and other places of detention in Samoa have been inspected by the Office of the Ombudsman, as part of its expanded mandate as the country's national human rights institution.

Over a five-day period, a team of inspectors from the Office of the Ombudsman visited five facilities, including Tafaigata prison and Police Headquarters Custody in Apia, as well as the newly opened Mental Health Unit at Motootua, the Olomaanu Juvenile Detention Centre and Vaaita Prison in Savaii.

The purpose of the visits was to build an understanding of the current conditions within these places of detention, especially in key areas such as security, health, safety and education, Acting Ombudsman Maualaivao Seiuli said.

"We will also develop effective recommendations to help achieve quality detention centres which treat all people in Samoa with dignity, integrity and respect, irrespective of whether they have been found guilty of a crime or are awaiting trial," Mr Seiuli said.

He said that the findings and recommendations from the inspections will be made in a report to parliament and released publicly in due course.

Inspectors from the Office of the Ombudsman were assisted in the visits by Jacki Jones (Chief Inspector for the Office of the Ombudsman, New Zealand) and Michael Woodhead (Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman).

In preparation for these visits, staff from the Office of the Ombudsman, other inspection team members and representatives from the Ministries of Police and Prisons and Correctional Facilities attended a four-day workshop on the principles of monitoring places of detention.

The workshop was facilitated by Ashley Bowe, APF Project Manager, and drew on an inspections handbook produced last year by the APF which provides a framework of standards for all areas of detention.

"The dedication and teamwork displayed by the Ombudsman's staff as they undertook this first round of visits was exceptional," Mr Bowe said.

"Through their efforts, Samoa's NHRI has collected an impressive amount of baseline data which will be critical in generating positive reforms for those held in places of detention."

This workshop was the latest in a series of training courses conducted by the APF to support NHRIs in the region to monitor places of detention and prevent torture.

A new blended learning course on investigating allegations of torture, open to all APF member institutions, will begin in March 2015.

Date: 13 February 2015


Image credits

  1. Staff from the Office of the Ombudsman, with Ashley Bowe (right) - Office of the Ombudsman, Samoa