Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission Victim forgives perpetrator in open session |08 June 2021
For the first time since the start of hearing sessions by the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) in 2019 and to its delight, a perpetrator, Elvis Dingwall, was able to meet up face to face with his victim, complainant Peter Henri, in open session yesterday to ask for forgiveness which was granted.
The hearing, in its 161st session, resumed yesterday after a two-week break to the public.
Case 0405 - Peter Henri
Coming all the way from Praslin, former army lance corporal, Elvis Dingwall, was the first person to appear before the commission yesterday morning in open session in relation to case 0405 - Peter Henri, who had claimed he was badly beaten up on December 23, 1991 near La Rosière school after he had had a drink with a friend, Kevano Denis, at the Tobruk Club. He had assumed he was targeted by persons he did not recognise because he and his friend were wearing opposition party ‘Parti Seselwa’ branded t-shirts.
The commission had, through its enquiry, understood that Mr Dingwall, who was 21 years old at that time, was one of the persons ordered to participate in the beating of Mr Henri.
Before giving out his evidence he (Dingwall) requested to see in person the individual who had made the complaint, a request which was granted. After the face to face meeting with Mr Henri, Mr Dingwall acknowledged that he (Henri) was really the victim in question. Mr Dingwall said that he had known and met up with Mr Henri before as they were both residents of Mont Buxton.
He said it all started when he and another private from the Point Larue army camp were instructed by one of his superiors (corporal) to follow him on a mission which he had no idea what it was all about. The now Praslin resident said that they drove in the corporal’s car to the Tobruk Club that night and while having a beer there, he was told by the corporal that they were supposed to watch the movements of Mr Henri and his friend who were in opposition branded t-shirts. He said that after following the two persons by car and cornering them at La Rosière, he and his other colleague were ordered to assault them. He said he hit Mr Henri with a baton on the head and while he (Henri) fell in the gutter, he ran after his friend (Denis) who managed to escape.
Mr Dingwall, now 52 years old, said that upon returning to where Mr Henri had fallen, he witnessed his other colleague slashing Henri with a dagger and was told to participate in the act. He said that upon refusing to participate, the dagger was used against him, cutting him lightly on the stomach, forcing him to participate but through play acting as he never got to inflict any injury with the dagger on Mr Henri.
“I did not cut him with the dagger. All the cuts on him were done by the other guy,” he claimed and turning to Mr Henri, he said: “If I had used the dagger on you I would have told you. I voluntarily decided to come and tell the truth and this is what I am doing.” He noted that he in fact did save Mr Henri’s life as the other colleague was going to kill him (Henri) hadn’t he (Dingwall) told the colleague to leave Henri alone as he was already dead. He said that the corporal (superior) never got out of the car to participate in the act. He further added that the corporal tried to persuade him not to attend yesterday’s hearing session.
He stated that he had never met with Mr Henri again after the incident as he had thought he was dead on account of his injuries. He further stated that he got to know he was alive after seeing him before the commission and this prompted him to come forward to tell the truth. He added that he was very happy that Mr Henri was alive and that he should be compensated on account of his ordeal.
“Brother I publicly ask you to forgive me for my involvement in your ordeal. It was never my intention to be part of the incident,” Mr Dingwall said, noting that nobody should be victimised for what he or she believes in.
Mr Dingwall said that the incident prompted him to leave the army in November 1993 to settle on Praslin where he became an opposition activist. He said the beating of Mr Henri was the only incident aimed at intimidating people in the opposition that he was called to participate in. He stated that as an opposition activist, he also was followed and threatened by state security officers and as a result his fishing boat was sunk.
With regard to Mr Dingwall asking for forgiveness, Mr Henri, now 66 years old, said he is happy to be alive and happy to forgive Mr Dingwall for what he had done. Mr Dingwall said the pardon has relieved him of the pain and burden he had carried for so many years and will on his part pardon those who victimised him if they ask him for forgiveness.
Case 0348 - Andy Fontaine (complainant)
Former police officer Andy Fontaine, who was based at the Grand Anse police station on Praslin, had claimed before the commission that he was victimised by the Seychelles Police force because he refused to hand over four detainees under his guard at the police station in 1978.
He also complained that among other forms of victimisation he was subject to, he was blacklisted by the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) for further loans after he won an appeal against the bank on a loan which he claimed he fully repaid but the bank had accused him of missed repayment.
With regard to the Praslin incident, he said he was alone guarding the four detainees in the police station when a soldier alighted from a car with two other persons coming from the direction of Baie St Anne, asking him to release a Dan Payet who was in his custody. He said he refused to do so and the angry soldier left to later return late in the afternoon with the two other persons to pick up all four detainees, under the eyes of their relatives, while threatening him with a gun.
He said that he and the four detainees were shipped to Mahé the same day where the four were sent to the Union Vale prison and he to the Central Police Station to see the commissioner of police. He stated that the next day, without any charges against him, he was sent back to Praslin where upon arrival he was told by the commissioner to pick up all his belongings as he was being transferred to the Anse Aux Pins police station. He stated that a lot of malicious charges were levelled against him to try to send him to prison and to make him lose his job, all of which failed. He added that the persistent victimisation forced him to leave the force and eventually the country for Australia where he stayed for four years.
Mr Fontaine said that upon returning in the country, he took out a loan of R150,000 with the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) to build a fishing boat but only R140,000 was disbursed. He also said that (providing his loan bank statement) he paid back the loan but was served with a summon 16 years later that he still owed the bank R50,000. He claimed there was some sort of arrangement, including his lawyer, to make him lose his case countersuing the bank. He said the bank withdrew the case and he doesn’t know if the money was paid or not regarding him winning his appeal against the bank. He added that he is counting on the commission to shed some light on the case.
Cases 0333, 0145, 0428, 0226
Former investigation police officer Guy Roucou was called in before the commission as a witness in four cases: Case 0333 - Annette Henriette / Harinna Labrosse regarding the death of Robin Henriette, Case 0145 - Rita Barallon regarding the planting of drugs on her son Roy Dias, Case 0428 - Derrick Dias concerning an allegation of wrongful arrest and Case 0226 - Eddy Mussard which went into closed session.
In the case of the shooting of Robin Henriette on January 12, 2005 in Port Glaud, the family had claimed that it was unlawful and that while he was shot by the police, he was denied medical attention which resulted in his death.
In assisting in the investigation, Mr Roucou said that following the investigation it was recommended for preliminary inquiry to be done with the collaboration of the Attorney General’s office. He said following the request, a case was brought before the court but no action was taken as the complainants had already been compensated. He said that a board was set up within the police to sanction the three police officers involved in the shooting and who had been suspended since then. Under the police force act they were charged with unnecessary exercise of authority, discreditable conduct and irregular conduct and their sentence for dismissal from the force were suspended for six months. Two of the police officers have already left the force.
Mr Roucou stated that what led to the misconduct of the officers was that they chose to shoot somebody who was not armed which is against the police act. He also stated that the police lady officer who took the wallet from Mr Henriette was also sanctioned for her action.
With regard to Case 0145 - Rita Barallon regarding alleged planting of drugs on her son Roy Dias by the police in 1984, leading to his conviction and imprisonment for three years, Mr Roucou said that he was part of the search party but he was not the one who planted the drugs in his car when he was arrested at Petit Paris.
He claimed that the duty officer at the Police Mobile Unit got a call informing that Dias was coming up and he had to be stopped and brought down to be searched at the headquarters. He further said prior to the arrest he witnessed the commanding officer taking a brown envelope in a drawer and putting it under his shirt. He noted that he did not see the commander planting the drugs but saw him removing a similar envelope under the car seat. He said he never planted drugs on people as he did not enter the police force to plant drugs on people. He said that although he didn’t do it, it was common practice at that time to plant drugs on people.
In Case 0428 Derrick Dias had claimed that he was wrongfully arrested and convicted without cause, after he had attended the Regatta in 1984, on allegation that he participated in a demonstration in Victoria that day that never took place. He had said that Mr Roucou was among police officers involved in arresting the presumed demonstrators and to give evidence against them. He also said that they had no role in organising the demonstration and that Mr Roucou received his order for their arrest from State House.
Mr Roucou claimed that he never arrested Mr Dias apart from two women, one of whom he arrested at her residence following a written order from the commanding officer. He said he never had the order coming from State House for their arrest that day, although during his 46 years in the force he did receive and execute seven orders coming from President Albert Rene.
He said that the only order from the President to him that day was for him to take control of the Central Police Station hosting around 40 presumed demonstrators including the two women that he arrested. He said that he presumed he was ordered to do so because there were two detainees who were connected to a top police officer and he had to prevent the latter from interfering with them and with orders to lock him up if he did so. He stated that he gave evidence in court on only the two women he arrested.
The commission, through commissioner Marie-Therese Purvis, also read a letter of reply from former army private Angelin Labiche of Case 007 who denied allegations by former army officer Andre Vidot who had described him as a ‘soungoula’ (scoundrel) who is playing tricks to get money out of retired members of the armed forces who will join the Association of Retired Army Personnel. He said he is only the secretary of the association and not the treasurer who has the responsibility to deal with cash. He called on the commission for a public apology from Mr Vidot.
Mr Labiche also called on the commission to call in for questioning Rolly Lesperance, mentioned by Mr Vidot as the person who is aware of all his (Labiche) suffering while at the Barbarons army camp to know the truth and also to get the military for permission to question recruit number 3340 on what really went on at the camp at that time.