December 6, 2016 10:06 am

Torture report angers Government, called biased and political

A report claiming Fiji’s security forces have been allowed to perpetuate torture on citizens has been aggressively refuted by the Government. The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has hit out at an Amnesty International (AI) report, calling it biased, selective, and one that “does not reflect the true position in Fiji”. AI is an NGO based in London […]

A report claiming Fiji’s security forces have been allowed to perpetuate torture on citizens has been aggressively refuted by the Government.

Beating Justice – How Fiji’s Security Forces Get Away with Torture

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has hit out at an Amnesty International (AI) report, calling it biased, selective, and one that “does not reflect the true position in Fiji”.

AI is an NGO based in London which is focused on human rights and released the report titled “Beating Justice – How Fiji’s Security Forces Get Away with Torture” yesterday.

The report listed eleven incidents based on media reports and court documents from January 2007 to November 2016.

Vilikesa Soko

The report detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of Vilikesa Soko.

AI: “Vilikesa Soko died after being beaten and sexually assaulted after his arrest as a suspect in a robbery case…Soko’s autopsy report was leaked online, showing severe physical trauma leading to multiple organ failures and his death. Eight police officers and one military officer were convicted of rape and sexual assault on 11 November 2016. Two were also found guilty of obstructing justice for directing other officers to lie about the incident. The officers were initially charged with manslaughter, but it is not clear why these charges were dropped in 2015.”

However, the AG said the report did not mention that members of the disciplined forces had been tried and convicted for his rape, sexual assault and also perverting the course of justice.

AG: “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…This is clear evidence of the selective nature of Amnesty’s claims.”

Convention Against Torture

The AG said Fiji had ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture and had made it clear that torture would not be tolerated.

The report claimed that Fiji had made changes to the convention prior to ratification.

AI: “While ratification is undoubtedly a positive step, Fiji made a number of significant reservations. Most notably, Fiji will define what is and what is not torture and will not allow the UN Committee Against Torture to review its compliance with its obligations or rule on complaints.”

Social Democratic Liberal Party Party Leader, Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, urged authorities to review the report and to bring to justice public servants who had allegedly committed assaults on civilians.

RABUKA: “Fiji has signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture and as a state party, we have the legal obligation under this treaty to do all we can to prevent and prosecute and punish torture. The report is also significant given Fiji’s attempt to join the UN Human Rights Council in the next round of voting.”

Director of Public Prosecutions

The report recommended the DPP “ensure that appropriate charges are laid and effectively prosecuted where there is evidence that serious crimes, including torture or murder, have been committed.”

The AG responded by saying that AI had a “predetermined agenda”.

AG: “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 ignore the full picture and put politics before principle and objectivity.”

Methodology

According to AI, the report was prepared by researchers who visited Fiji for eight days in April 2016 and met with 48 people.  The list included the AG, the Solicitor General, and the Chief Justice of the High Court amongst several NGOs and other government officials.  Further research was conducted until November.

The full press release and a copy of the report by Amnesty International are available here.