Sunday, June 19, 2011

Amnesty International: Fiji Abusers can only be Punished if Citizens Tell Their Story

Posted on Coup Four Point Five - 19 June 2011

BEATEN: Ben Padarath

Recent revelations about the brutalising of Fiji citizens, like that of the young professional who says he was abused by former land force commander Pita Driti in 2007, clearly shows the regime had a deliberate policy to degrade and torture citizens. The military goons could have easily just 'scared' citizens but that wasn't enough for them - they had to leave lasting damage.

The world is aware of what is happening in Fiji but until something really happens and the abusers (whether they were following orders or not) are brought to justice, Amnesty International has some good advice to citizens: make your story count and document it. Amnesty's New Zealand advocacy and government relations manager, Chris Kerr, answered the following questions on behalf of the organisation.

PINGED: Dictator Bainimarama and torturer son, Meli.

1) Can Fiji make a case to the ICC for Frank Bainimarama to be charged for human rights abuse? The ICC is governed by the Rome Statute, which at present gives the ICC jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Torture can be prosecuted by the ICC as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.In order to be prosecuted as an act of genocide it has to be committed against a person or persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group and it has to be intended to destroy, in whole or in part, that group. It has to be conducted as a part of a broader pattern of similar conduct calculated at destruction of the group in question. Prosecuted as crimes against humanity the act of torture must be committed as part of a “widespread and systematic” attack against civilian population. The ICC can prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on or after 1 July 2002 when the Rome Statute entered into force.

2) Would Fiji need the support of New Zealand or Australia to do this?No, Article 17 of the Rome Statute states that the ICC is able to exercise jurisdiction with respect to crimes under its jurisdiction if:

a) A situation in which one or more of such crimes appears to have been committed is referred to the Prosecutor by a State Party 

b) A situation in which one or more of such crimes appears to have been committed is referred to the Prosecutor by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations; or

c) The Prosecutor has initiated an investigation in respect of such a crime. Regarding the third option, article 15 of the Rome Statute gives the prosecutor the power to investigate crimes on its own initiative from information gained. This information can come from any source including from individuals, non-government organisations or any other source. However, note again that there must be allegations of crimes that fall within the court’s jurisdiction. The primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law lies with the state where these crimes are alleged to have been committed. The ICC cannot prosecute cases which had been already or are at present, investigated or prosecuted by another State unless such investigation or prosecution is not genuine and aims at protecting the alleged perpetrators from prosecution by the ICC. The ICC can only prosecute cases of sufficient gravity. The case also has to be ruled admissible by a Pre-Trial Chamber before its prosecution can start.

3) In practical terms, who would actually take such a case. Amnesty International, the Fiji pro-democracy movement or a single individual?Cases before the ICC can be initiated by the ICC prosecutor acting on his own initiative or if they are referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council or a State Party to the Rome Statute.
BEATEN: Sam Speight.

4) From information already gathered, does Fiji have a good case?AI cannot make this kind of assessment.

5) Is Amnesty International aware of most of the abuse in Fiji or have some cases gone unreported?Amnesty is aware of cases of human rights violations in Fiji which we have investigated or have been brought to our attention. We welcome any information provided to us about human rights violations in Fiji and all other countries.In relation to the UN, information about human rights violations can be provided to its Suva Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Information on how to do this can be found in the Issues section of the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

6) What does Amnesty International think about the recent Roko Ului Mara statement Frank Bainimarama beat three women pro-democracy workers at camp?Amnesty International is deeply concerned by growing evidence of torture and other ill-treatment that has, and continues, to occur in Fiji. The most recent allegations from Tevita Mara further highlight the need to investigate all such reports. Those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable for their actions.

7) What can Amnesty do with this information? Amnesty International can work with a variety of partners including individuals, governments, non-governmental organisations, and regional and multi-national organisations to build pressure for an end to human rights violations. The more information we have, the more effective we can be.

8) How does Fiji's human rights record compare with other countries? In the Pacific and worldwide? Amnesty International does not compare the human rights records of different countries, not least because we cannot guarantee that we are fully informed about every human rights abuse that occurs in every country.Nevertheless, we are extremely concerned by the abrogation of Fiji’s Constitution, the absence of the rule of law and an independent judiciary, and the suppression of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Fiji. Whether in Fiji, Myanmar, or Iran, it is within such a climate of impunity that human rights abuses thrive. Indeed, the mounting allegations and evidence of ill-treatment and torture in Fiji is testament to that fact. 

9) What can Fiji citizens do to help highlight the abuse that's taking place in their country? It is of course up to the people of Fiji what they would do, but Amnesty International stands in solidarity with them for human rights protection there.Firstly, it is crucial that people in Fiji do nothing to compromise their own safety. If, however, it is safe to do so, the most important thing people in the country can do is provide their fellow citizens, the United Nations, other governments in the region and human rights organisations such as Amnesty with as much information as possible. As already mentioned, the single largest reason human rights abuses continue is because of a lack of accountability. People can only be held to account if evidence of their abuses is documented and made available.

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