Thursday, March 19, 2009

Justice will be done

Justice will be done
www.fijitimes.com - Thursday, March 19, 2009
THE High Court's decision to send eight soldiers and a policeman to jail for the killing of Sakiusa Rabaka should be a warning to all members of the security forces.
It should also be a reminder to every citizen in this country that in the fullness of time, justice will be done. For two years the Rabaka family waited to see these killers face the court and answer for this heinous crime. On Tuesday the long wait for justice finally came to an end.
Justice Daniel Goundar ruled that the nine service personnel must serve four years in jail for torturing and injuring him so severely at the army's Black Rock Training Camp that he later died from his injuries. There are those who argue that the penalty for this death should have been more severe in order to underline the gravity of the crime. In his judgment Justice Goundar alluded to the seriousness of the offences committed by the nine. He also highlighted a trend which has become painfully apparent since the overthrow of elected government and the removal of parliamentary process in December 2006.
Far too often, members of the security forces have taken matters into their own hands and subjected detainees to cruel, inhumane treatment. Justice Goundar said: "Instead of being custodians of the law, you took the law into your own hands and became both the jury of guilt and the executor of punishment." Rabaka was not the first, nor was he the last, to suffer degrading and inhumane treatment at the hands of the security forces. Several cases – including the killing of rebel soldiers after the 2000 mutiny and the slaying of escapee Josefa Baleiloa – remain unsolved.
It is likely that if these men had been produced before a judge and subjected to due process, they would have been incarcerated for life for their crimes against the State. But they were denied this right by soldiers and policemen who took not only their civil liberties but also their lives. In the Rabaka case Justice Goundar told the nine accused men: "Every detainee in this country is entitled to the constitutional guarantees such as due process of law and protection from degrading treatment."
Ironically, their actions took place at a facility built to train troops for participation in United Nations peacekeeping and protection efforts around the world. Members of the security forces must remember now, more than ever before, that their most important duty is not to follow orders – it is to follow the law.

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