Monday, May 30, 2011

Human Rights Watch Letter to Women Basher & Dictator Bainimarama

Posted on Raw Fiji News - 30 May 2011

Letter to Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo of Fiji
February 4, 2007

A letter from Human Rights Watch to Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo sharing concerns regarding developments in Fiji since the December 5, 2006 military coup. The letter urges the interim Prime Minister and the President to ensure the swift transition to an elected government, and calls on them and their officials to immediately and publicly make an unambiguous commitment that fundamental human rights will be respected and those who exercise them will be protected.
Dear interim Prime Minister Bainimarama and President Iloilo,
We write to share our concerns regarding developments in Fiji since the December 5, 2006 military coup. We urge you to ensure the swift transition to an elected government, and call on you and your officials to immediately and publicly make an unambiguous commitment that fundamental human rights will be respected and those who exercise them will be protected. The conduct of an independent investigation into the death of a person in military custody and allegations of arbitrary detentions, beatings, and harassment of more than a dozen individuals by the military should be a first step towards helping to restore confidence. In addition, we call on you to publicly state that all legal civil society groups are free to continue with their work. Finally, we urge you to protect the independence of the judiciary and the media.
We are particularly concerned about allegations that your government has engaged in arbitrary detention and abuse of particular individuals.
On the evening of December 24, 2006, Ms. Virisila Buadromo, executive director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Mr. Arshad Daud, Ms. Buadromo’s partner, Ms. Laisa Digitaki, a businesswoman, Mr. Imraz Iqbal, a businessman and former journalist, and Ms. Jacqueline Koroi and Mr. Pita Waqavonovono, both youth activists, were taken from their homes by members of the military. No arrest warrants were produced. Between the coup on December 5, 2006 and this incident, some members of this group had received threatening phone calls from individuals who identified themselves as members of the military. The six were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, where they were questioned and beaten by military officials. At least two were hit in the face in the course of their questioning, and one required a neck brace following her release. Another suffered a broken leg and broken ribs. Early the following morning, they were forced to run 10km in the rain to Lami, where they were made to dismantle pro-democracy banners. They were subsequently informed by the Immigration Department that they would not be allowed to leave the country.
The comment from you, Interim Prime Minister Bainimarama, that, “If we need to call [activists] in and say you’re speaking too much, we’ll do it,” would appear to be an unacceptable endorsement of this behavior.
Other detentions and assaults by members of the military are of equal concern. According to our information, at least two dozen people, including civil society activists, but also members of the business and media communities as well as private citizens, have been detained. None appears to have been detained with a warrant. Those detained include:
* Mr. Kenneth Zinck, former government minister of Labour, who was detained twice (6 December, 9 January). On the occasion of his second arrest on January 9, Mr. Zinck was taken by members of the military to the Namaka barracks near Nadi after he made comments in a publication against the military regime. He was allegedly beaten during his detention.
Kenneth Zinck
# Mr. Mesake Koroi, Fiji Daily Post General Manager (December 8), was taken to Queen Elizabeth Barracks for speaking out against the military.

# Mr. Peceli Kinivuwai, United Fiji Party (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, SDL) National Director (December 9), was also taken to Queen Elizabeth Barracks for speaking out against the military.

Peceli Kinivuai and ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
# Mr. Robert Wolfgramm, Editor-in-chief of the Fiji Daily Post (December 14), was not given a reason for his detention and was taken to Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

Dr Robert Wolgramme
# Mr. Jagannath Sami, former Sugar Cane Growers Council chief executive (December 23, and January 18), was taken to the police station in Lautoka for making statements to discredit the military.

Jagannath Sami
# Ms. Laisa Vulakoro, Musician (December 28), was questioned by the police after voicing his criticisms of the military.

Laisa Vulakoro
We note that these actions violate Fiji’s constitution, which guarantees the fundamental rights of expression (section 30), assembly (section 31), and association (section 32). They appear to also violate the rights to be treated “with humanity and respect for his or her dignity” if arrested and detained (section 27 (1)(e)).
The death in military custody of Mr. Nakelo Verebasaga, a land surveyor, particularly merits independent investigation. Mr. Verebasaga did not appear to be suffering from any life-threatening injuries or illness when he was taken into custody on January 5, 2007 for alleged disputes with his neighbors. He too was taken to Queen Elizabeth Barracks, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the barracks hospital. His body was then taken to Colonial War Memorial Hospital mortuary at 11:30am for a post mortem examination. Military officials have claimed that Mr. Verebasaga had been injured in fights the previous week, and that he had developed breathing problems en route to the barracks. As Mr. Verebasaga died whilst in the custody of the military an independent investigation is essential to establishing a credible explanation for the cause of death and the culpability of any of the military officers in charge of him at the time.
Nimilote Verebasaga – killed under Frank Bainimarama’s command
The military’s placing on leave on January 3, 2007 of Chief Judge Daniel Fatiaki and Chief Magistrate Ms. Naomi Matanipobua also raises concerns about your present and future commitment to the rule of law. These two senior members of the judiciary appear to have been dismissed because they are likely to oppose your efforts to suspend the Constitution. An independent judiciary is fundamental to the protection of human rights, and military interference in it constitutes grave disregard for the rule of law.
Daniel Fatiaki

Naomi Matanitobua
President Iloilo’s January 4 statement supporting the extension of legal immunity to all coup members and interim Prime Minister Bainimarama’s similar statement on January 7 send a worrying signal that you intend to prevent investigations into allegations of serious human rights abuses perpetrated by members of the military. Any attempt to grant impunity for abuses will undermine efforts to re-establish a stable and democratic Fiji for the foreseeable future.
Human Rights Watch urges that you publicly reiterate your commitments to basic freedoms as guaranteed by Fiji’s constitution, and instruct your officials to conduct themselves accordingly. Finally, you must ensure that elections consistent with international standards are held as soon as possible, and that the results of those elections are honored. Should you fail to do so, the future of human rights in Fiji remains in jeopardy.
Brad Adams
Executive Director
Asia Division

Another Fijian pro-democracy advocate reports how they were beaten up

Below is a Fiji newspaper report on what happened on that Christmas eve night in 2006 when coupster Frank Bainimarama is reported to have tortured a group of pro-democracy civilians which included three women.
By Samantha Rina
SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Dec. 27) – An outspoken Fijian pro-democracy activist who was beaten and forced to run through the capital at gunpoint with five others yesterday said she held no grudges against the military.
“I want the (army) commander (Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama) to know that I forgive him. And that is all I want to say. I just want him to know that I forgive him,” said businesswoman Laisa Digitaki.
A visibly shaken and bruised Ms Digitaki, who wore a neck brace and was in a wheelchair at the Suva Private Hospital yesterday, said she feared further assault by the military and would not elaborate on her ordeal in the early hours of Christmas Day. Soldiers detained the six – including Fiji Women’s Rights Movement executive director Virisila Buadromo and her partner, magazine owner Imraz Iqbal, Jacqueline Koroi and Pita Waqavonovono – from their homes for comments they made against the military.
One of the advocates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of her life, said they were scared on their way to the camp but what awaited them was worse.She said they were ill-treated and amidst the physical and verbal assault, a choir of soldiers sang Christmas carols.
“We were taken to a cell where we were slapped and punched and yelled at by the soldiers. They made us run to the playground where we were ordered to lie face down on the concrete slab in the playground. The soldiers who had guns then kicked us anywhere and everywhere on our bodies and yelled and swore at us,” said the woman, who helped set up the democracy shrine which was ransacked on Saturday by a group of men believed to be soldiers.
“While we were being kicked and assaulted as we lay down, there was a choir of soldiers standing at the front entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks singing Christmas carols.She said they were then told to stand up and as the physical assault continued, bullets were being loaded into the guns.”They put the guns to our ears and cocked them and terrorised us by threatening to pull the trigger. After that, they ordered us to run out to the main road. We could not resist any of their orders because we were all so frightened for our lives,” she said.
The victim said one of her male colleagues broke his leg and despite his severe injury, he was forced to run through the rain.”They were right behind us and kept on yelling ‘toso! toso!’ (move! move!). Each time we slowed down, they yelled even louder to keep us moving,” she said.The victim said another of her colleague was unable to see that night after soldiers smashed her spectacles. She said at Reservoir Road, the soldiers warned them again before leaving them to find their own way home.The other advocates have since refused to speak to the media. Yesterday, they were at democracy shrine, which was housed in a building belonging to Ms Digitaki, to remove their banners and equipment.Army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni would not confirm nor deny the incident but warned citizens not to criticise the RFMF.”The RFMF would like to reiterate its warning to anyone trying to undermine its efforts in conducting a smooth national audit,” he said.
“They have been numerous warnings made in all media outlets and to some individuals that there is an Emergency Decree in place during this period.”It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that non-governmental organisations and political commentators exercise caution when making public statements.”Whilst the RFMF wishes to allow everyone to have an enjoyable holiday, it will not tolerate anyone breaching the Emergency Drecree.”Political parties and church organisations have condemned the military’s actions, saying they are uncalled for and unnecessary.Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti told the Fiji Sun that people should take heed of the army’s warnings, adding that “it have been worse” for the six pro-democracy supporters who were beaten up

Alleged Fiji beating victim opts for forgiveness

Peter Waqavonovono
One of the pro-democracy activists who were allegedly beaten by Fiji’s interim Prime Minister in December 2006 says he has forgiven all those involved in the incident.
The allegation by the former senior Fiji officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, came in his latest statement from Tonga where he fled to this month after being charged with sedition.
Col Mara accuses Commodore Frank Bainimarama of personally beating four pro-democracy activists, including three women, at Queen Elizabeth Barracks on Christmas Eve 2006.
Peter Waqavonovono of Fiji’s Young People Concerned Network confirms he and the others were arrested and abused.
“I can confirm that there were high profile faces, characters, that were there on the day. We were subject to many, many things that happened that night. But I guess the most important thing is how we’ve all responded to those events and that is we’ve decided to continue to respond peacefully.”
Radio New Zealand International

3 Fijian women assaulted by dictator Frank Bainimarama denied fair justice

There is no hope in Fiji today that the three women who were brutally punched up and assaulted by dictator Frank Bainimarama, will ever be able to lay charges or get fair justice against their attacker.
Laisa Digitaki, Virisila Buadromo and Jacquline Koroi can only watch as their key assailant, Frank Bainimarama, continue on with his usurped Prime Ministerial high life, while they come to terms with their reality that totally contradicts Frank, Aiyaz and Nazhat Shameem’s law, boasting a zero tolerance on violence against women and domestic violence in Fiji.
Sitiveni Weleilakeba
Laisa Digitaki
Virisila Buadromo
Jacqueline Koroi
The sweet-talking Aiyaz who likes to dress up Frank’s madness with his legal jargons is now faced with a real sticky and bloody issue after his puppet was identified as the main torturer who unsympathetically punched up the three Fijian women.
To make matters worse, one of the victim is Virisila Buadromo, the Executive Director of Fiji Womens Rights Movement who has good women followings.
Now with the truth out that it was none other than tyrant Frank who beat her up, it will come as no surprise then that most Fijian women will by now have absolutely no respect or faith in Frank

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