Fijian Government defends improvements and denounces biased report from Amnesty International

Yesterday the Media party went all in on a shonky and shabby report from Amnesty International about Fiji.

Of course, it was Barbara Dreaver putting the slipper in while she enjoys staying in Suva, not at all grateful for her new freedoms.

A damning report from Amnesty International has found Fiji’s security forces are involved in an alarming level of torture, brutality and abuse cases.

Since the military coup of 2006 there have been five deaths in custody and other people have suffered serious injuries or been raped.

Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze says accountability for these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

“It’s quite extraordinary the level of violence that some of these cases are experiencing … what makes it different in Fiji I guess is that you have immunities under the constitution which make it very difficult to investigate these,” she said.

Ms Schuetze says another problem is that Police and Prisons Commissioners are both senior serving military offices which “blurs the line between these two institutions”.

Amnesty International say more accountability is needed and there needs to be an independent mechanism monitoring the security forces so they aren’t investigating themselves when cases come to light.

What I find extraordinary is that a report that involves the criminal justice system and the prosecution of people who use torture would not include input from the office in charge of those prosecutions, the Director of Public Prosecutions office. Kate Schuetze, the so-called “researcher” for the report is obviously ignorant of the Fijian justice system and how it operates or wilfully blind or deliberately excluding the office in fear of hearing something that might challenge her and her Australian backers’ political bias.

I note she also refers in the introduction to the report to the “militarisation of the justice system that allows torture and other ill-treatment to go unpunished”. Excuse me Kate, do you have ANY evidence to corroborate that allegation? Thought not.

The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has issued a statement that sheds somewhat more light on the situation than Barbara Dreaver did.

STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

The latest Amnesty International report on Fiji is biased, selective and does not reflect the true position in Fiji or the great strides that we have made as a nation to deal with the issue of torture.

Fiji has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture and our institutions and their leaders have made it clear that torture, assault and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees will not be tolerated.

The Prime Minister and the Police Commissioner are both on the public record has having said that there is a policy of zero tolerance for torture. And that policy is being enforced with vigour.

It is no secret that during more turbulent times in Fiji, we had a problem with certain individuals  taking the law into their own hands. But there has never been institutionalised torture in Fiji and the days in which these individuals behaved with impunity are over. Indeed, there has been no immunity in the Constitution or any other law in Fiji that applies to disciplined forces since 2014.

In fact, the record shows that successful prosecutions have been mounted and the perpetrators sentenced to lengthy jail terms. This is certainly the case in relation to the death in custody of Vilikesa Soko. Yet in its media release in which the Soko case is cited to support Amnesty’s case, no mention is made that members of the disciplined forces have been tried and convicted for his rape, sexual assault and also perverting the course of justice. This is clear evidence of the selective nature of Amnesty’s claims.

Not only has Fiji embraced a policy of zero tolerance for torture and signed the UN Convention but we are working hard with our development partners to raise standards in the Fijian Police and reduce the incidence of assault in custody. Britain and the United Nations Development Program are working closely with the police on a pilot program that includes the video recording of police interviews and “First Hour” procedures in which detainees are informed of their rights and gain access to legal representation. This program – which is to be implemented throughout Fiji – has been praised by UN officials and the Secretary General of the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, Mark Thomson. Yet it is not mentioned in Amnesty’s report at all. The report also puts forward a number of generalised claims regarding Fiji’s legal framework and processes that it fails to substantiate.

It is a great pity that instead of highlighting these important positive developments, Amnesty has chosen to be selective in its reporting and sensationalise the issue with its headline “A darker side of paradise”.

It is of deep concern that at no stage did Amnesty’s researcher contact the Fijian Director of Public Prosecutions, who could have provided clarity on a number of issues that were raised in the report and also outline the progress Fiji is making to dealing with complaints of alleged torture or abuse. This suggests a predetermined agenda on the part of Amnesty International to ignore the full picture and put politics before principle and objectivity.

Once again Barabara Dreaver is working hand in hand with those who would undermine progress in Fiji.

 

 

-1News, Fiji Government


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