Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Military Treatment of Fiji Citizens

Soldiers beat up night manager

www.fijivillage.com Feb 3, 2007

A man is suffering from internal bleeding and is having difficulty breathing after he was beaten up and thrown in the sea by soldiers early this morning.The man who is a night manager at one of the prominent nightclubs in Suva had closed the nightclub by 1 this morning and was sitting around with his staff having a few beers.According to witnesses soldiers stormed into the place asked for the night manager and began beating him up for no reason.Other witnesses that Legend FM news spoke to say they than saw the military taking the man to Vatuwaqa where they threw him into the sea while he was tied to a rope.The manager was later taken to his brothers' house where he was allegedly left in the drive way.The man is at the Suva Private hospital and is expected to go through a few more tests and scans later today.Meanwhile family members have refused to speak on the matter fearing for their safety.The military had earlier stated that they would not be taking people up to the military barracks until and unless it was warranted.The Interim Attorney General had also assured that human rights would not be violated and people would be charged instead under the Public Order Act.
Interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayad Khaiyum.When Legend FM went to air with this story the interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayad Khaiyum, Fiji human Right Commissioner Shaista Shameem and the RFMF Spokesperson Major Neumi Leweni still could not be reached for a comment.The Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua National Director Peceli Kinivuwai has once again been taken up to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.Relatives have this morning confirmed that Kinivuwai was called late last night to report to the barracks at 6 this morning and has yet to return.The Fiji Military Forces Spokesperson Major Neumi Leweni has confirmed that Kinivuwai is at the barracks but could not comment on when he will be released and why Kinivuwai was taken to the barracks.This is the fourth time the SDL National Director has been taken to the barracks.Meanwhile Fiji Times Photographer Sitiveni Moce has been released from military custody after he was taken in for taking pictures of the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama. Major Leweni says that Moce was only held for 15 - 20 minutes before he was released.

Activist detained by soldiers
www.fijilive.com - Tuesday January 30, 2007

Soldiers have apprehended one of two pro-democracy activists that they have been looking.

Director of the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity Angie Heffernan was arrested by soldiers at a resort in Sigatoka this morning. Heffernan is wanted for allegedly making inciteful statements against the military and the interim regime.

The other activist on the run is businesswoman Laisa Digitaki. She is being wanted for questioning for a statement on a website detailing her detention at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks last month. Digitaki claims she is now under United Nations protection dealing directly with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

Crisis Centre hears of 'army brutality'

www.fijitimes.com - Sunday, January 28, 2007
THE Fiji Women's Crisis Centre says several individuals have lodged complaints with the Centre alleging military brutality. Crisis Centre co-coordinator Shamima Ali said the Centre had advised these individuals to lodge their complaints with the Fiji Human Rights Commission and the police.
"Most of these people come to us because they don't know where else to go. We then offer them our usual counselling services like we do to all other victims," said Ms Ali. "Then we ask them to go and lodge their complaints with the Human Rights Commission, the police or the military but they don't want to go there. It seems that they have lost faith in the Commission," she said. Ms Ali said staff at the Centre tried to do what they could for the victims. She refused to divulge the number of people who had sought the Centre's assistance and said that they were only protecting the victims, be it in good or bad times.
Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni also confirmed some people had gone to the military with complaints of alleged abuse at the hands of soldiers. He said these people were told to lodge their complaints with the Human Rights Commission, as it was the right body to handle their case. Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) Josaia Rasiga is handling such cases. He was not available for a comment when contacted yesterday.
Since the December 5 military takeover, a number of individuals have been taken up to the army camp for questioning. Some of them alleged they were abused. In the most recent case, prominent Suva lawyer Richard Naidu was taken to the camp for questioning. The military accused him of making inciting statements to overseas media.
Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has advised those with complaints against the military to lodge their complaints with the FHRC. He also advised the military to lodge complaints of suspected inciting cases with the police or the DPP's Office.

Jale Baba in Military custody - www.fijivillage.com - Jan 26, 2007

The former SDL Director Jale Baba is in military custody since yesterday. Army Spokesperson, Major Neumi Leweni said Baba has been questioned about some comments he made recently against the military. Leweni said Baba is still in Military custody and expected to be released later this afternoon.
Military searches for NGO advocates
www.fijilive.com - Thursday January 25, 2007

The Fiji Military Forces is looking for outspoken pro-democracy advocates Angie Heffernan and Laisa Digitaki.

Military Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti says the two will be taken up to Queen Elizabeth Barracks for questioning for allegedly speaking out against the interim government.

"We are hot on their heels and if they think they can get away with this then they should think twice because the military will not take this matter lightly," Col. Driti said.

He said the two had made inciteful comments against the government which could trigger instability in the country.

"Despite repeated warnings they have not learned their lessons and they should realise that we will do whatever we can to stop this sort of actions," Col. Driti said.

He said Laisa Digitaki has not leaned her lessons despite being taken to QEB last year.

"They have gone too far this time."

Col. Driti said they have been trying to locate Angie Heffernan but to no avail.

Col. Driti said they were trying to protect the integrity of the interim government by minimizing negative comments from the public.

He said such comments from certain NGOs will cause instability among the people.

Naidu cautioned at QEB
Jan 24, 2007

Prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks last night.

Soldiers surrounded Naidu's home just after 9 o’clock last night and took him to the military camp.

Village News has received confirmation that Naidu was dropped off in Wailoku to find his way home at Duncan Road.

Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti has confirmed to Village News that Naidu was taken to QEB last night and cautioned.

Colonel Driti only said that Naidu had made some comments which could bring instability and incite people. He said due to the State of Emergency, Naidu was cautioned to ensure that he does not make inciteful remarks.

Meanwhile Interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is expected to comment about the incident later this morning.

http://www.fijitimes.com/ -Letters to Editor- 19 january 2007

Assault on people
THE military regime is losing support because of the reported cases of assault on members of the public. It shows the level of mentality in the army because they could have been praised as heroes if they adopted the tactic of handling protesters in a civil manner. What is wrong with doing it the legal way and charging the so-called protesters who are destabilising the country under the emergency decree?

Lock them up in the cell if necessary but only if they have been convicted by a court of law.
Can the interim Chief Justice and Attorney-General point this out to the commander, or is he also part of the military? The assault on people takes us backward to the Saddam Hussein era in Iraq. More so, when people are starting to die under suspicious circumstances at the hands of the military.
James Bolavucu, Wales, UK

Early election
THE interim members of government should try to persuade the interim Prime Minister to put a stop to the brutality his men are committing on members of the public. The commander and members of the interim government cannot deny what is happening to the unarmed, weak and defenceless civilians being roughed-up by soldiers in the army camp after they were taken-in for interrogation for speaking out against the military.

Failing to voice their concern to their leader will only implant a memory to the victims and the silent majority that the interim government is condoning the actions of abuse rather than genuinely trying to move the country forward as they said when they accepted their interim posts. The interim members of government should understand that our country is vulnerable, since we rely heavily on the international community to keep our economy alive. The general population should be ready to make sacrifices because the international community will soon be putting on pressure to the interim government to hold an election quickly if they try to prolong it.
It was the same sacrifices the people had to bear during and after the 1987 coup with job losses, pay cuts, devaluation of the currency and retarding of the development of civilian life for more than five years.
A quick, early election this year will not be harmful to the interim administration or the military since the mandate of the President regarding the clean-up, which is the reason of the coup, can be carried forward to the new democratically-elected government. It would be interesting to read Doctor Shaista Shameem's next Fiji Human Rights Commission report regarding the legality of the December 5 coup and the interim government.

Paula Kaulotu


Fiji army to probe rights violations

www.fijitimes.com - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fiji's military has assured that it will investigate all reports of human rights violations by soldiers.

The assurance follows concern about reports of people being taken in by the military and assaults on some including several Fijian soldiers serving with the British Army who are home on leave.

Media reports in Fiji have spoken of a group of men and women being forced to strip to their undergarments by female soldiers and forced to run around the drill square at the Nasinu Force Training Group (FTG) camp.

A taxi driver has complained of two broken ribs and a bruised torso after being taken in by soldiers in Nausori.

The Lautoka Hospital has confirmed treating and discharging a man in his 40s who was brought in by soldiers with visible injuries to his chest.

The former Labour Minister in the SDL government, Kenneth Zinck, is reported to have been arrested in Nadi, taken to the Namaka police station where he was made to run around and then spent the night in a cell.

Mr Zinck is reported to have criticised President Iloilo for his statement supporting the work of the military.

Interim administration ministers have been reluctant to speak about these reports but several say they will bring up the issue at their first cabinet meeting today.

Deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase has appealed to the interim administration to step in and stop human rights violations.

http://www.fijitimes.com/ - Human rights abuse probed

Saturday, January 13, 2007

British Army soldier Josefa Navusolo, left, smiles as members of the British Army Parents Association visited him in Suva yesterday. Association officials are Romanu Naceva, second from left, Tiko Delaitamana and Mosese Namafainoa The Fiji Human Rights Commission has confirmed it has received 13 reports of possible breaches of human rights since the military takeover of December 5. The commission yesterday said there were only five formal complaints but they were investigating them all. This comes as reports continue to surface about alleged breaches of human rights by the military. It is alleged the military assaulted two British Army soldiers last week because they enlisted in a foreign military.

A group of parents of Fijians enlisted in the British Army will visit military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to raise their grievances on the issue. British Army Parents Association president Romanu Naceva said the Fijian British Army troopers who were on their break in the country were detained and allegedly bashed up by soldiers. The association yesterday visited one of the British Army personnel, Josefa Navusolo, at his home in Raiwai. Mr Navusolo and his family referred all questions to the British High Commission. In another case a man who was taken along with two others from a settlement in Nadera, Nasinu, to the Army Training Centre at Nasinu on New Year's Eve claims he was innocent and he was harassed along with the two others because of unsubstantiated sketchy reports that they were creating a nuisance.

The mother of one of the men yesterday said the incident was unfortunate and she wanted to know why the military took her son in. Her son was allegedly beaten and had his hair shaved before being reportedly thrown in a muddy bog in the Nasinu camp. "It is a very bad thing and very embarrassing in the way they came here and took them," said Salote Biu, of Verevere Settlement, in Nadera.
"On that night they just came and asked for Jitoko and said they wanted to take him up. We want to know why they wanted him," she said.
The three men, all cousins, were reportedly drinking at the time of the incident but one of them, Joe Tavogi, 33, said it was not what reports received at the camp, pointed it out to be.
"We were in our own yard and not disturbing anyone. We had six stubbies. I had only drunk two and was not very drunk, so we can't understand where their harassment was coming from,'' said Tavogi who had bruises on his legs to show for the experience.
"Five armed soldiers came and took us. We spent two and a half hours at the camp being interrogated."
Tavogi suspects someone with a hidden agenda in the area called the military and gave false information that they were being rowdy.
One of the men reportedly had his wallet snatched off him by a soldier before it was returned to him with $70 missing.
Assistant Senior Superintendent Manoj Singh could not confirm that the men lodged reports at the Valelevu Police Station shortly after their harrowing experience.
Military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni said it was irresponsible for the media to report on "unsubstantiated claims" of abuse inflicted by soldiers.
He advised those with complaints to personally lodge them at the army headquarters at Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
Major Leweni said the military would not like to get involved in claims troops assaulted two British Army soldiers because they enlisted in a foreign military.
A group of parents of Fijians enlisted in the British Army will visit army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama soon to raise their grievances on the treatment of the two soldiers by Fiji Military Forces soldiers.
Mr Naceva voiced concern on the way the two Fijian British army troopers were detained.
The association yesterday visited Mr Navusolo at his home in Raiwai.
"We went to visit him because he is one of our sons. In this association we have all become one big extended family so when one of our sons dies or gets injured, we all feel the pain as a family," said Mr Naceva.
He said the family of the British trooper acknowledged their visit. He said it was one way in which they hoped to encourage the man and his family to move on from what happened. "We're very concerned about what has been done as we, soldiers, are known as brothers in arms," He said. "We're going to visit the commander and try to raise our grievances and concerns with him on how a Fijian soldier can hurt another Fijian. Listening to the young man's tale of what he went through at the hands of fellow Fijians, it really concerned me and made me question what we as Fijians are coming to." Mr Navusolo and his family refused to comment on the issue, directing all queries to the British High Commission, which they said was handling the matter. Mr Navusolo is believed to have been in the capital city early Sunday morning after a night out when a taxi driver told a passing truckload of soldiers that he and a friend had sworn at them. Despite the pair's denial the taxi driver maintained they had sworn at the military. They were then carted off to the army camp and beaten up.

The military had earlier confirmed the detainment of two British Army troopers since Christmas Eve but claims that it was because of their "unruly manner" towards soldiers manning checkpoints. The second British Army soldier was nowhere near a military checkpoint when he was taken in and he has confirmed this. Mr Naceva said it was a shock and he still found it hard to believe that a Fijian could beat up another Fijian without emotion. The Fiji Peace Keepers Association said Fiji soldiers working for overseas defence forces should not interfere with the operations of local soldiers. Former general secretary Taniela Senikuta said the British soldiers should be sensitive about the local situation and not interfere with the day to day operations of the Fiji military. "We expect these foreign soldiers to behave themselves and be more professional because they are from a highly regarded institution," he said. "They should not interfere with the young troops who are only doing their duty on the road. "Our soldiers are on the road day and night, maintaining the smooth flow of everything and, at the end of a day, they don't need such behaviour from others trying to ridicule them. "The British soldiers should behave in a professional manner.

"They got a nice life outside Fiji so they should just come here, visit their family, stay nicely and then go back to wherever they came from." Mr Senikuta said the allegations of the British soldiers swearing at the army were true and the association was aware of it. "After all, our men have a career and a task to perform for the nation and we should be supporting them," he said. Earlier, an e-mail from a concerned family member of one of the British Army soldiers living in the United Kingdom said they had lost all pride in Fiji because of the way the two were treated. She said the two troops could have been assaulted because they had enlisted in a foreign force.

NGO Warns Civilian Govt Over Human Rights Violations

By www.fijivillage.com
Jan 12, 2007

Angie Hefferman
An NGO has warned the interim civilian government that it could be held responsible for alleged human rights violations by being part of the military installed regime.

Pacific Centre for Public Integrity executive director Angie Heffernan said the interim cabinet ministers must explain to the public what they intend to do about the alleged human rights violations by the RFMF.

She said under national and international law, they might be held accountable for the actions of the military.

Heffernan also said the silence of the interim administration could be viewed as condoning the military regime's breach of the Bill of Rights.

PCPI said the interim cabinet meeting next week should focus on getting the military to withdraw from the streets.

Police firm on assault probe

www.fijitimes.com -Tuesday, January 09, 2007

POLICE yesterday reassured that if there was enough evidence to support charges against a senior naval officer in connection with the death of a salesman at a wedding reception, nothing would stop this from taking place.

Divisional crime officer Senior Superintendent Ponsami Chetty said nothing would stop investigators from charging the suspect.

"If he has committed the crime then we will proceed as we normally investigate these cases and bring him to prosecution,'' he said.

Police hope to submit the evidence and case interview files to the Director of Public Prosecutions Office this week.

The victim, 32 year-old salesman John Whippy was allegedly bashed outside the club while attempting to board a taxi at about 2am on December 30.

He had attended the wedding reception of his nephew, who had just married interim Prime Minister and military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's daughter, Ateca.

Police had earlier confirmed a senior naval officer had been questioned and released over the incident.

Meanwhile, the military warned yesterday that it would take to task those who used the case to discredit the military.

Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said certain individuals were using the incident on December 30 to paint a bad picture of the army.

He said the army would not tolerate any irresponsible reporting and publication on the matter.

"We support the freedom of the press to the extent it does not undermine national security and stability,'' said Major Leweni.

"This is an advancement of individuals' own personal agenda. The military deems this as an incitement to instability," he said.

British Army Soldier, police officer detained

By fijivillage
Jan 8, 2007, 15:14

The military has confirmed that a British Army soldier and a police officer were detained at the Flagstaff checkpoint for behaving in an unruly manner.

It was reported in one of the dailies that the two were allegedly assaulted by soldiers.

RFMF spokesperson Major Neumi Leweni said the men were heavily drunk and argumentative and were taken into custody to contain the situation.

He claims that this is the second incident where British Army personnel has behaved in an unruly manner and that it is unfortunate that such highly trained individuals have behaved in an unacceptable manner.

He said the military will not tolerate such behaviour.

Kenneth Zinck Allegedly Assaulted by Military
www.fijivillage.com - 8 January 2007

Kenneth Zinck
Former Labour Minister Kenneth Zinck was taken in by the military for the second time, and allegedly assaulted for commenting against the military regime in a hotel pub last Thursday.

Village News has received information that Zinck was in a Nadi pub when the swearing in ceremony of the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama was aired on television.

He made a remark against the swearing in ceremony and a few minutes later, soldiers and police officers turned up at the hotel and took him in for questioning.

It is alleged that Zinck was assaulted before being taken to the Namaka barracks where he was again beaten up and had to spend the night in a cell.

Police awaits word from DPP on Whippy case - www.fijidailypost.com
8-Jan-2007 10:55 AM

THE Fiji Police Force is now awaiting word from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office concerning the charges against the alleged murder of John Whippy.

Divisional Crime Officer Southern Superintendent Ponsami Chetty said they have questioned and released a senior naval officer. “We are now waiting for DPP to study the file and tell us what charges can be laid,” he said.

He added that the cause of Whippy’s death was the result of internal hemorrhage.

However, Chetty refused to divulge the potential charges if any, the suspect is likely to face. He added that although they had identified a suspect, their investigations were still continuing.

Whippy was allegedly killed during a wedding reception party of interim Prime Minister and Commander of the Military Forces Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s daughter, Ateca Bainimarama at the Royal Suva Yacht Club two weeks ago. Whippy, who was a guest at the reception, was boarding a taxi when he was allegedly beaten by the suspect. Whippy was a relative of the groom, Samuel Whippy.

Youths forced to kiss at gunpoint - http://www.sun.com.fj/ - Monday 8 january 2007

Four youths yesterday told of how soldiers beat them up and forced them to drink waste water from a drain and kiss each other at gunpoint. The youths, of Naimalavau Village in Tailevu, alleged that they were picked up while walking home after going out dancing on a Saturday night before Christmas.They believe the soldiers were looking for suspects after a fight in Nausori Town and they were passing by when officers ordered them into a military vehicle. Josese Tuivadra, 23, said he would not forget the ill treatment dished out to him, his younger brother and two of his friends that night.He said they had started walking home when the clubs had closed because no taxi would stop for them. "We had reached the BP service station when solders arrived and took us away to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks," said Mr Tuivadra.At the QEB, the four said they were made to crawl through a tunnel in a drain while they were punched and kicked. They were even forced to drink contaminated water before forced through further drills. "After all of that we were told to strip to our underwear before we were thrown into a dark cell until day break. They told us to put our wet clothes back on before going through the same drills we had faced earlier at morning," he said.Before they were released, he said, the soldiers forced them to kiss each other. "They dropped us again at the BP service station in Nausori after which they told us to find our own way home. We were tired, in pain and cold from the wet clothes we were wearing and no taxi would want to stop for us on the morning of Christmas Eve." They ended up showing taxi drivers the last $10 that they had and in the end a taxi stopped and agreed to be paid first before taking them to their village. His brother, Epeli Tuivadra, 19, was still in shock and recovering from the wounds he sustained that dreadful morning. "Epeli has severe pains in his back. He sustained injuries while crawling around at QEB. Solders struck his back with the butt of the gun and my little brother couldn't get up for days after the incident," said Mr Tuivadra. Asked why they had not reported the matter to the police, he said they were too frightened to complain. After the return to power to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo last week, they are calling on the group that had taken them that night to explain why they have forced to endure such ill treatment. The army has since denied any involvement in the ill-treatment of civilians taken to QEB.

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