Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bainimarama Appeal Denied

Fiji Times -Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fiji Court of Appeal upheld a court decision that ordered compensation cost against Fiji Military Forces Commander, Voreqe Bainimarama for the brutal beating of a villager in 2000.

The appeal court dismissed the commander's appeal against a decision that ordered the military to pay $45,000 general damages for pain and suffering and $18,000 exemplary damages as a result of injuries sustained by villager Taito Navualaba between August 24-25.

Instead, the appeals court awarded extra costs of $3000.

Appeal judges Justices John Byrne and William Calanchini said Navualaba claimed damages as result of the assaults by members of the police force and soldiers.

The assaults were committed at a temporary military camp set up at Wainavau, Naitasiri.

The Commander's grounds of appeal stated the High Court erred to consider that in the 2000 coup certain civil liberties were suspended until law and order was restored. The judge also erred in awarding the sum of $45,000 in damages for pain and suffering when the medical evidence did not support such an award.

Navualaba told the court he voluntarily surrendered himself to the soldiers at the Naqelewai community hall, Naitasiri. He stated he was taken by soldiers from Naqelewai to Wainavau Camp in Naitasiri for questioning where he was beaten and tortured.

The appeals court said ground one of appeal appeared to suggest the assault was justified by virtue of the Emergency Decree, 2000

"We only say this: Section 21(c) of the Decree on which the appellant relies allows members of the armed forces to use such force as is necessary when:

searching any building, vehicle, vessel, cargo, or baggage which they have reasonable grounds for suspecting may contain any matter connected with the commission of an offence against the Decree;

effecting arrest of any person whom they have reasonable grounds for suspecting to have committed an offence against the Decree.

"It is clear to us, as it was to the trial judge, that the soldiers who assaulted the respondent were neither searching any buildings, vehicle, vessel, cargo and baggage, nor were they effecting an arrest.

The court said the evidence showed Navualaba surrendered.

"In these circumstances the assault on him could not be justified and we therefore reject this ground," the court said. "We cannot find any fault in the judge's assessment of these damages. In our view his judgment was measured and realistic and his award of general damages fair if perhaps a little on the low side.

"In these circumstances we find no reason to interfere with his award of $45,000. Accordingly for the reasons we have given we dismiss this appeal and order the Appellant (commander) pay the respondent $3000 in costs."

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