Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amnesty International says Fiji Torture Allegations Appear Confirmed

Posted on Raw Fiji News 

Be warned Mosese Tikoitoga, Ben Naliva, Aseri Rokoura, Savenaca Siwatibau & all military officers

Source – Radio Australia

Fiji military personnel who may have been involved in ill-treatment of civilians have been warned they should come clean now because they risk prosecution when the current interim regime in the country ends.

The warning comes from Amnesty International in New Zealand, in the wake of the confirmation from a former senior Fiji military officer, Lt Col Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara that torture has been used on people taken to the barracks in Suva.

Amnesty New Zealand CEO Patrick Holmes says there have been long standing tales of physical mistreatment of civilians at the hands of the army, and Ratu Tevita’s statement would appear to confirm them.

Presenter:  Bruce Hill

Speaker:  Patrick Holmes, CEO of Amnesty International in New Zealand

HOLMES: Amnesty International and other agencies have said for a long time and there’s been ample evidence that this has been going on, but to hear the third in command of the armed forces as I understand he is actually coming out and saying this, an insider saying this. I think this raises the stakes considerably and this could well be a game changing moment in Fiji, because to hear him say this, I mean takes it beyond all doubt that the rumours are true, at least a good proportion of them are.

HILL: How credible is his statement though. I mean you could say that he has a bit of self-interest in having a go the regime that he’s fled. He might be making it up to make himself look more credible to people overseas?

HOLMES: Well, I think there’s always a risk of that and, of course, the politics within the Pacific is extremely complex. However, I think people would understand he’s from a very wealthy family, a very highly connected from royal stock. I don’t think he’s got anything to gain now. I don’t think he’s interested in gaining political ground. I think he wants to be a soldier and a lot of the other senior officers in the Fiji army also want to be soldiers. They want to do what they’re paid for, not police this regime. So I think what he has to say holds incredible weight and I think we should take it extremely seriously.

HILL: He said that he himself was not personally involved and a lot of senior people were not involved. He did suggest that it was a somewhat smaller group that was involved in physical treatment of civilians who have been taken up there to the military barracks. What is the responsibility of military officers if they’re asked to engage in this kind of activity? Are they within their rights to refuse? Should they refuse, should they say something about it?

HOLMES: Well, they should refuse, because what we’re seeing at the moment is complete impunity for military officers who are engaged in inhuman treatment and torture and abuse and bullying. But of course they should stand up and it’s very difficult and I appreciate it and we’ve seen that in world wars and we see it in conflicts all around the world where serving officers find it very difficult to say no. But they have a responsibility and there are well known human rights, humanitarian laws which is proved that they breach them, then clearly that’s a very serious issue.

HILL: But when your in the army, when your given an order, you carry it out, it’s what you do?

HOLMES: It is, and I appreciate that Fiji has got a reputation for dealing harshly with those who do stand up to the commanding officer, so I appreciate it’s a very difficult situation. However, human rights are universal, they are indivisible. You can’t pick and choose which ones you observe, so the day will come when this regime I feel sure is no longer around and of course, there will be a reckoning and those that have been responsible for this abuse will of course have to be held accountable.

HILL: Will that actually happen, what’s been the track record in regimes where this has happened. When the regime has collapsed, what’s happened to military officers who’ve been involved in human rights abuses?

HOLMES: Well, there are examples around the world where there have been truth and reconciliation processes where there’s been investigations and troops, perpetrators have been held to account. So I think the officers within the Fijian army and it may well be a very small group who are perpetrating these abuses now need to start looking over their shoulders, because when – all despot regimes fail eventually everywhere eventually and no doubt this one will fail eventually and then there will be a day of reckoning and then they will be accountable to the law.

HILL: Is there any way they can save themselves? Would they confess now and come forward or how could they save themselves from any potential legal problems as a result of what they’ve been ordered to do? Is I was just following orders an excuse?

HOLMES: No, it’s not an excuse, that’s no defence and any officers who are investigated and have due process of law and are found guilty, then they will be dealt with in accordance with human rights and humanitarian law. The way to protect yourself is don’t do it and don’t support a corrupt regime like this who continue to bully and intimidate and torture innocent people.

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