Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fiji: Fears for activists as Military Clamps Down

Press Release – Amnesty International

 March 3, 2011

Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about the ongoing crackdown on human rights in Fiji following reports that the military is clamping down on activists to prevent a peaceful protest planned for 4 March in Suva.
At least 10 politicians, trade unionists, government critics and other Fijians have been arbitrarily arrested and subjected to severe beatings and other forms of torture and ill-treatment in the last two weeks at the hands of the Fijian military. Although they have all been released there are fears that more people will be targeted in relation to the protest.
Activists in Fiji have told Amnesty International that the climate of fear amongst the people has increased in recent days.
“Soldiers have been seen marching around Suva’s suburbs and groups of five to seven, in full uniform, were near the supposed venue for the march. There is a sad apprehension that a clampdown on pro-democracy activists will begin soon,” one youth activist told Amnesty International.
“As we watch the wave of uprisings sweep across the Middle East and North Africa, closer to home, our neighbours in Fiji are facing violence and intimidation at the hands of the military for demanding the same thing – human rights change,” says Patrick Holmes, CEO of Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ.
“People have the right to peacefully protest and have their voices heard wherever they are. But the military is attempting to stop at all costs any demonstrations from taking place.”
Following the release of Sam Speight last Thursday, at least another two other politicians were detained and beaten at the army barracks on 26 February and released the next day. On the same day, seven young men from a settlement on the outskirts of Suva were also reportedly tortured and ill-treated by the military, because they had been discussing plans for the 4 March demonstration.
Some human rights activists and family members who went to ask for the release of the seven young men were threatened and beaten by soldiers at the army camp. The soldiers warned the young men that they would be killed if they spoke to anyone about their treatment at the camp.
No military officers have been officially investigated or charged over the beatings and neither the military nor the Ministry of Information have answered overseas media queries regarding these cases.
Amnesty International is calling on the Government of Fiji to:
•Immediately stop the arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment of critics, activists and others;
•Initiate an independent impartial investigation into the arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment of opposition politicians, government critics, trade unionists, and young people;
•Ensure that military officers suspected of involvement in these acts, irrespective of rank, are brought to justice;
•Suspend the Public Emergency Regulations which greatly restricts freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
•Ensure that any peaceful protests that do take place on 4 March occur without interference from the Fijian Military or Police.


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