Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission – Hearing number 125 | 18 November 2020
Grieving mother testifies as army atrocities highlight hearing
The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission yesterday witnessed the heart-breaking testimonies of Marie and Bernadette Lespoir, regarding the brutal assassination of their son and brother, Marc Lespoir, at the Grand Police Prison in 1995.
Mr Lespoir was serving a 10-year sentence for rape and assault and was due to finish his prison time a few days before his murder at the hands of soldier Jacquelin Bastienne who poured 12 bullets from his Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK-47) into his entire body.
According to a communiqué back then from the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs, inmate Lespoir threatened the guard on duty and made his way to the prison’s surveillance wall and attacked him.
In an interview with the media, ex-CID chief Gaetan Didon said Lespoir attacked the guard after being told that the appointment he had with his lawyer had been cancelled because the lawyer was out of the country and according to him, Mr Lespoir believed it was not true.
Still according to the communiqué, in the physical tussle that ensued between Lespoir and Bastienne, the guard’s automatic rifle was activated and shots were fired and the former was shot in the chest in the process.
A statement which does not match the photos of the late Mr Lespoir whose whole body was covered in bullet wounds.
The communiqué further stated that Mr Lespoir was helped into a van by several fellow inmates and three other guards before being firstly taken to the Anse Royale Hospital, then the Victoria Hospital.
Former senior police officer Tite Morin also took the oath as witness in case 0115 in relation to the detention and interrogation of Jean Dingwall regarding his involvement in the failed mercenary invasion of November 25, 1981.
In closed sessions yesterday, the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) listened to evidence by ex-police officer Eugene Poris who gave evidence in case 090 filed by Livette Hermitte in relation to the murder of her son Ricky Hermitte on October 19, 2006 at Kan Tobruk, Sans Souci.
Ex-soldier Jason Hoareau was a witness in case 0170 filed by Brian Anacoura who had claimed he was removed, without his consent, from his post at the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG) in the middle of the night at the time of the presidential election in 2001 and brought to the army headquarters at Bel Eau, prior to being transferred to the Grand Police army camp until the end of his contract.
Case 220: Marie Lespoir and Bernadette Lespoir
Tearfully addressing the commission, Mrs Lespoir who was being accompanied by her daughter Bernadette, said even if her son was convicted by the court, the authority had no right to execute him in cold blood.
She explained after his execution they refused to give her the body until Wavel Ramkalawan (now the head of state) and Jean-François Ferrari (now designated minister) got involved and persuaded them to hand over the body.
Mrs Lespoir said the toughest part to digest regarding her son’s death was that he was the one who helped her to raise the younger siblings since her husband’s health was not good.
She explained that following the incident, Macdonald Marengo who was in charge of the Grand Police prison asked her to come to his office at the Bel Eau army headquarters where he claimed he was not present at the scene on the particular day, before offering Mrs Lespoir some groceries, including a bag of rice, oil and milk as compensation for her loss.
Mrs Lespoir also explained that another one of her sons has been traumatised by the incident and is mentally unstable to date.
She added that according to sources, when being carried to hospital, her son begged to see her before he died, but she could not manage to get there on time.
That is one of Mrs Lespoir’s biggest regrets.
The grieving mother is also bitter about the perpetrator (someone well-known to the family) who she said is still walking free and has never once apologised to her and the family for his crime.
Still according to her testimony, Mrs Lespoir who used to work at the Seychelles Hospital said each time her late son came down for medical purposes they always found a way to meet since they were very close.
She said her son would always tell her about the ordeal he went through at the prison, including being tied to a vehicle before being dragged.
When taking the stand, Bernadette Lespoir filled with emotions showed the commission photographs of her murdered brother and claimed that Mr Bastienne was freed by the court following the incident.
Already having past inmates as witnesses for the case, Ms Lespoir is urging others to come forward and give evidence on how her brother was murdered.
Case 0115: Jean Dingwall
The first witness to take the seat yesterday was former senior police officer Tite Morin who was giving evidence in case 0115 filed by Jean Dingwall.
In his complaint, Mr Dingwall alleged that he was detained at the Union Vale Camp (UVC), along with six captured mercenaries from the failed attempted attack on November 25, 1981.
Mr Dingwall claimed that while he was being detained, on several occasions he was taken to the Central Police Station for questioning between the hours of 9pm to midnight where he was interrogated by Mr Morin himself, Raymond Louise and Michel Antoine.
During the questioning, Mr Dingwall claimed that a big spotlight was shown on his face and that he was continuously taunted and told that he was responsible for bringing in the mercenaries and he was only released after signing a confession prepared by Rolly Marie.
In his evidence, Mr Morin stated that based on their claim, Mr and Mrs Dingwall are praiseworthy for their deposition which he said is the truth without any amplification, especially regarding police treatment, during Mr Dingwall’s interrogation.
He added that he noted with appreciation reference made by Mrs Dingwall regarding his intervention to prevent officers from the Police Mobile Unit (PMU) from cutting mattresses in their effort to search for weapons which they suspected were present on the Dingwalls’ property.
Mr Morin claimed that as the lead search officer, after examining the mattresses, he was satisfied that there were no weapons concealed in them, an opinion which he said was not really welcomed by other officers.
He also noted that Mr Dingwall certified that during their encounters, he (Mr Morin) was not under the influence of alcohol and that at no point any gun was used to threaten him.
On the issue of the mercenary attack, Mr Morin explained that he had the chance to interrogate Mr Dingwall during the time when police investigation was targeting the plotters, including the complainant himself.
He explained that Mr Dingwall personally admitted his involvement in the event in front of the TRNUC, especially in helping Mike Hoare in the planning.
Mr Morin explained that by doing so, Mr Dingwall personally admitted to treason and concealment of treason.
He also added that they were ordered to be firm and tough by Commissioner of Police James Pillay regarding the situation and that he does not recall any complaint, or request regarding strong light from Mr Dingwall during the interrogation.
He further stated that he was not involved in setting up the interrogation room which was made available to them.
When asked about whether it was appropriate to interrogate a suspect only during night time, the ex-police officer explained that it is a normal procedure as it makes more sense to question someone at a time when he is more likely to give you an answer.
It is a common practice where the physical layout of an interrogation room is designed to maximise a suspect's discomfort and sense of powerlessness from the moment him or her steps inside.
Mr Morin explained that based on his training and experience, there is nowhere in the world that Mr Dingwall would not have faced the same circumstances based on the gravity of his offence.
Quizzed on whether the methods used were in conformity with human rights, Mr Morin said at that time our Constitution did not cater for such rights.
Mr Morin added that based on what he, as a police officer, did, does not qualify him as perpetrator.
He noted that even if ex-President Albert Rene had been arrested for treason after the 1977 coup, he would have treated him the same, in terms of his police work.
Based on that statement, chairperson of the TRNUC, Gabrielle Louise McIntyre, reassured Mr Morin that he was called in as a witness in the case, otherwise they would have served him the suspect, perpetrator notification.
Mrs McIntyre added that the TRNUC understands that there was a legal framework and police officers were working in conformity with that legal framework.
Case 0170: Brian Anacoura
Ex-soldier Jason Hoareau who took the oath as a witness in the case explained that he went through the same ordeal as Mr Anacoura.
He said on that particular day, along with two other colleagues, he was ordered to fall-in at the Quarter Guard, before being asked to return their personal weapons at the armoury.
He said they were ordered not to ask any question and that a transport was coming to pick them up from the Pointe Larue Camp where they were based.
Soon after, a Pinzgauer vehicle came and took them, heading towards south Mahé, until they were dropped off at Grand Police.
Mr Hoareau said some temporary accommodation was set up for them and soon after they met with Macdonald Marengo who was in charge of the place.
He informed them that they have been sent to Grand Police for political reason, precisely for supporting the opposition and to initiate a rebellion.
Mr Hoareau said they were all confused since none of them ever wore any political clothes, let alone planned, or talked about any rebellion, or mutiny.
Mr Marengo informed them that they will be kept at Grand Police without their weapons and they will carry out land clearing jobs involving only machetes.
He even threatened them if ever they refused.
He explained that the only thing they did was clearing duties from morning till night which he said was a very tough job.
Mr Hoareau also noted that they began to get days off only when two soldiers escaped and reported themselves to the Regar newspaper which published a story regarding their situation.
He explained they were divided into groups of three and Mr Marengo personally dropped them off at Anse Royale, urging them to go straight home.
Mr Hoareau noted that this raised a certain amount of concerns and doubts in their minds, especially when they were asked to perform night duties without their weapons.
He explained that they travelled in groups just to be safe as Grand Police was a remote and deserted area.
The ex-soldier further explained that they slept under the watch of armed guards which to him confirmed that they were prisoners, instead of soldiers.
Former soldier Alain Robert also appeared in close session in the same case.