The Mahdia Dorm Fire Commission of Inquiry started its public hearings today with the Chairman of the Commission, retired Major General Joe Singh offering his assurance that nothing will be done to prejudice the rights of the 15-year-old murder accused to a fair trial.
The young girl is currently before the Courts, facing 20 murder charges in relation to the deaths of the 20 children that died in the fire.
Her Attorney, Dexter Todd, wanted the Commission of Inquiry’s work to be halted until the completion of the criminal case, but his request was denied.
“We are also cognizant that following the deaths of the children, a minor has been charged with 20 counts of murder. This Commission has a responsibility to ensure that nothing in these proceedings prejudices this minor’s rights to a fair trial before the law,” Major General (Ret’d) Singh said at the start of the hearings.
Mr. Singh also said the Commission intends to conduct the Inquiry with transparency, efficiency and sensitivity.
“It is also our duty to act in the best interest of all minors affected by this tragedy and to ensure that references to the deceased are dealt with in a dignified manner. We shall therefore be guided by provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2018, best practices, and international standards to ensure the interests of all minors involved are paramount,” the Chairman said.
Utilizing its powers under the Commission of Inquiry Act, the Chairman said there will be no live streaming of the hearings, and testimonies involving minors and relatives of the deceased and injured, will be done in-camera.
The Chairman called on the media to be responsible in their coverage of the inquiry.
“During your reporting the Commission directs that in the coverage of these proceedings, the names and other sensitive information regarding the deceased and survivors of this tragedy shall not be disclosed…We also call on members of the public to exercise sensitivity in how they treat with information that will be disclosed during the proceedings of this Presidential Commission of Inquiry,” the Chairman urged.
Back in August, President Irfaan Ali appointed the Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the events and circumstances leading up to, and the causes of the Mahdia Dorm Fire that occurred on the night of May 21, 2023.
The Commission is also tasked with inquiring into the actions that were taken to provide swift care, medical attention, and other forms of support and assistance to the injured and their families, and the families of the deceased.