Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Human Rights Abuse in Fiji

Fiji's Human Rights Abuse to Come Under UN Scrutiny

NZ Press Association - Wed, 10 Feb 2010

Four people have died in Fijian military or police custody since the 2006 coup and dozens have been intimidated, beaten, sexually assaulted, or subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, the international Human Rights Watch group said today.

"Security personnel implicated in three of the custodial deaths remain free," the group said in a statement from Geneva, where the United Nations' Human Rights Council will tomorrow review Fiji.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said UN members should press Fiji's military government to end arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment in detention, and interference with judicial independence, and to ensure a swift return to democratic rule.

The Human Rights Council's review of Fiji is one of a series it conducts of every UN member country every four years, so is the first of the Pacific nation since Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama grabbed power on December 5, 2006.

"The military government's attempts to justify its seizure of political power as necessary for good governance and racial harmony ring hollow when it continues to abuse the rights of its people," HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

Fiji's military and police arbitrarily arrested and detained human rights defenders, journalists, and others perceived as critical of the military government. Human rights abusers in the army and police felt protected from prosecution or any other punishment, HRW said.

"Because Fiji contributes many troops to global UN peacekeeping efforts, both the UN and member countries should be concerned about the deployment of abusive Fijian troops to UN operations."

HRW said human rights in Fiji were likely to deteriorate further. Fiji's land force commander, Brigadier General Pita Driti, warned government critics in a January 5 interview with the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that "I would like to tell [our adversaries] to keep low and try to cooperate with us ... otherwise they will be in for something really hard in terms of how we will treat them this year."

The wide-ranging powers and immunity provided in the Public Emergency Regulations adopted last April contributed to a climate of impunity for members of the security forces, HRW said.

These regulations, which are extended every 30 days, empowered security forces to prohibit processions and meetings; to use lethal force as they deem necessary; to enter and remain in any building where there is reason to believe three or more people are meeting; and to regulate the use of any public place.


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