Thursday, March 01, 2007

Army Murder Continues in Fiji

Army blamed for youth’s death -28-Feb-2007

THE Executive Director of Fiji’s Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) Ltd, Reverend Akuila Yabaki, while talking to Sydney Morning Herald, blamed the soldiers for Sakiusa Rabaka Ligaiviu’s death.

“We have strongly condemned the assault by soldiers on Sakiusa Rabaka which in our view led to his death,” Yabaki said.

Yabaki said emergency powers given to the military following the December 5 military coup in the country went too far and his group had on Tuesday written to coup leader Frank Bainimarama in protest.

“It (the emergency decree) gives more room to the military to be in control. It is almost an immunity that is in place as well,” he said.

The new allegations come amid claims the military have taken dozens of people to barracks in Suva and Nadi and allegedly assaulted them in a bid to silence critics of the coup.

Amnesty International this month expressed concern over the situation in Fiji.

“The organisation expressed particular concern at continuing reports of threats made against critics of the coup, arbitrary detention and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of civil society activists and media professionals as well as other men and women,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The late Ligaiviu, 19, died on Saturday after being allegedly bashed by Fiji’s military last month.

Rabaka was arrested by six soldiers and a policeman on January 28 for possession of marijuana and taken to an army barracks.

Rabaka was said to have been stripped naked and made to carry heavy sacks while he was beaten while running up a hill.

He returned to Nadi last week after he was discharged. But on Saturday he collapsed while with friends and was taken to Nadi Hospital where he died 30 minutes later.

Blood on their hands

Interim Labour Minister Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau has said she is "devastated" at the death of a 19-year-old youth who was assaulted by soldiers and who she visited while he was in hospital.

In a message to youth activist Peter Waqavonovono, who has been campaigning against military human rights violations and who was himself assaulted by soldiers on Christmas Eve, Rounds-Ganilau said Sakiusa Rabaka's death should not have happened.

"I truly am sorry, in fact I'm devastated. It shouldn't have happened and this cannot happen again," said Rounds-Ganilau. She said interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum would make a statement on the death on behalf of the interim government.

Waqavonovono told Intelligentsiya in an email today that he has been "bombarding" Rounds-Ganilau and interim Youth Minister Adi Laufitu Malani with "requests to do something" about the continued abuse of human rights by the military.

"Human rights abuses must stop," Waqavonovono said. "Most citizens taken into military custody are youths and youths are the vulnerable members of society. And during these times youths should be consulted and not abused and humiliated."
"I consider Sakuisa a hero. And for generations to come he will be remembered
for what he went through and how he followed through till the very end. I have been touched by his story right from the start. When we visited him in the hospital, I thought that he was in a bad shape, but he had a strong will.

Sakiusa's story was first reported on Intelligentsiya. He was arrested by six soldiers and a policeman on January 28 for what the police said was possession of marijuana and taken to the army barracks in Nadi where they were made to strip naked, carry heavy sacks and run up a hill. All the while they were being beaten.

Sakiusa returned home early the next morning badly injured and later in the week started developing headaches. He was taken to Nadi hospital, then Lautoka and then to Suva's Colonial War Memorial Hospital where he underwent brain surgery.

He returned to Nadi last week after he was discharged. But on Saturday he collapsed while with friends and was taken to Nadi hospital where he died. His death was also first reported on Intelligentsiya late on Saturday night.

Sakiusa's mother, Alanieta, before his death and during his admission in hospital that he was "at the wrong place at the wrong time" and was about to start a course in hospitality studies.

"Yet another murder...the killing continues," somebody wrote in a comment on Intelligentsiya. "No prizes (for) what Berandette will now say when 'sorry' was all she could manage when responding to the senseless beatings this young man endured at the hands of RFMF rogue thugs who dare still call themselves soldiers.

And finally, from a poster claiming to be Sakiusa's brother: "Thank you for sharing my brother's story. We his family around the world are able to know the loss of our beloved brother. I hope that the citizens of Fiji will come out and share their stories (so) that it may end the exploitation of human rights and bullying tactics by the military."

Sakiusa's death brings to three (publicly acknowledged) the number of people who have died at the hands of military personnel.

Francis Kean, the Navy commander and Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's brother-in-law, is standing trial for the murder of John Whippy late last year at the wedding reception for Bainimarama's daughter and Whippy's nephew.

Nimilote Verebasaga of Nakaulevu Village in Nakelo, Tailevu was delivered dead to the army hospital at Queen Elizabeth Barracks in January after being badly assaulted.

There are perhaps other deaths that have not been reported but are linked to the military and Intelligentsiya is trying to get independent confirmation before posting them.

It was murder

Police are treating the death of a teenager who was allegedly assaulted by soldiers as murder.A post mortem examination was held at the Lautoka Hospital yesterday to determine how Sakiusa Rabaka, 19, died.But Acting Commissioner of Police Romanu Tikotikoca said the cause of death could not be revealed as it was part of evidence.“A post mortem examination was conducted at Lautoka Hospital and at the moment police are treating the case as murder,” he said.“I will not reveal the cause of death as it will be part of our evidence.”However, the victim’s mother, Alanieta Rabaka, said the pathologist found blood clots in her son’s head.“I have been told that the blood clots in his head were from injuries sustained from a blunt object,” she said. Sakiusa Rabaka was arrested from near his home at Votualevu Housing in Nadi by a joint military and police team on January 28.His friends – Josua Saunaiqali, 18, and Alekesio Ratuvou, 28 – were also taken in with him by police and military officers.The trio was allegedly assaulted at the Black Rock army base and told to run around with sacks on their backs.

Mrs Rabaka lodged a report at Sabeto Police Station on January 29 concerning the injuries her son received. Her son complained of severe headaches after being released from custody and vomitted continuously.Mrs Rabaka took him from Nadi Hospital to Lautoka and then to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva on February 6.On February 16, Sakiusa Rabaka had a brain surgery at CWM to remove the blood clots and he was discharged from hospital on February 20.
While relaxing at his home in Votualevu last Saturday, Mr Rabaka collapsed and died.Mr Saunaiqali claims that he lodged a complaint with police about the alleged assault but a police officer tore up his statement in front of a soldier.The third person, Mr Ratuvou, who was also allegedly assaulted, is undergoing herbal treatment in Levuka.On claims by Mr Saunaiqali, Mr Tikotikoca said a police officer was accompanying soldiers at the time of that joint operation.The purpose of our investigation is to find out the allegations levelled against them (officers),” he said.We are treating the case as murder and we are investigating along that line and the purpose is to arrive at the truth. Those implicated will be interviewed to determine the participation of each and every suspect in that case.”Mr Tikotikoca also said it was premature at this time to say whether the police officer who allegedly tore up Mr Saunaiqali’s statement would be suspended.A report concerning the officer’s involvement will be given to the Police Professional Standards Department,” he said.Mrs Rabaka said she was hopeful that police would carry out a fair investigation into her son’s death.“All cases should be investigated by police as only then I believe there will be a fair investigation and justice will be done,” she said.

“The post mortem examination was done and the doctors found blood clots still in my son’s head, which they say were inflicted by a blunt object. “I also think that doctors should have kept him in hospital a little longer after the surgery on February 16 for further treatment.Sakiusa Rabaka’s funeral service will begin at the Namaka SDA Church at 10am on Friday followed by the burial at Enamanu Cemetery at midday.When asked whether the army will allow police to freely question military officers related in the case, army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said police are also conducting investigations through its board of inquiry. If police conducts investigations and complaints have been lodged with them that gives them the authority to conduct investigations,” he said.

Mother to Take Soldiers/Police to Court for Alleged Death of her Son

www. - Feb 28, 2007

The mother of 19 year old student Sakiusa Rabaka who died after he was allegedly assaulted by soldiers will now take the matter to court.

Alanieta Rabaka said that she will take the 6 soldiers and a police officer to court after Sakiusa's funeral tomorrow.

She adds that police are yet to inform her family about the cause of Rabaka's death and she is planning to visit the Sabeto Police Post.

Audio Comment

Meanwhile, police are now treating the case as murder.

Rabaka was allegedly nabbed by the police and military joint patrol team at about 11:30pm on the 28th of last month and later died from injuries allegedly sustained while in military custody.

6 soldiers, policeman grilled over youth's killing - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

POLICE are treating as murder the death of the 19-year-old student who was allegedly brutalised by a police officer and six soldiers.

Acting Police Commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca said the police officer and soldiers were being questioned over the death.

The military was blamed for the death of Sakiusa Rabaka Ligaiviu on Saturday after he suffered injuries in an alleged assault last month.

APC Tikotikoca said the post mortem examination result was out but could not divulge the cause of death, saying, "it was part of evidence".

He said they would find out who and all causes leading to Ligaviu's death.

"We will find out the involvement of officers implicated and the truth about allegations levelled against them," he said.

APC Tikotikoca said all people implicated would be interviewed.

"We will have to find out the participation of each suspect."

He said it was premature to comment on the fate of the policeman allegedly involved in the death. But Mr Tikotikoca would not say whether the officer would be suspended during the investigation.

The policeman is alleged to have torn up a statement by one of the three victims who were allegedly brutalised by soldiers last month. The three were taken to Black Rock, in Votualevu, Nadi, where they were allegedly beaten and told to run around with sacks on their backs.

Ligaiviu, originally of Taviya Village, in Levuka, Ovalau, will be buried in Nadi on Friday morning.

His mother, Alanieta Rabaka said the funeral service would be held at the Namaka Seventh-day Adventist Church at 10am before burial at Enamanu Cemetery.

Mrs Rabaka, who was at the Lautoka Hospital mortuary yesterday morning, said she hoped those responsible would be brought to justice.

Mrs Rabaka said her youngest son, who always wanted to be a chef, should not have been beaten even if he was suspected of an alleged drug related incident.

She pleaded with the military to refrain from such brutality on the people of Fiji.

She said beatings and torture would adversely affect youths.

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali called on the military commander and Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to ensure those responsible were brought to justice.

Ms Ali said Mr Bainimarama's intervention was essential to 'put people's minds to rest'.

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