Monday, January 02, 2012

AN IMPORTANT NOTE TO CIVILIANS IN FIJI - WATCH OUT FOR POLICE VISITS

Posted on Facebook
by Vasiti Ritova

By our learned legal advisors in Suva

DO NOT GIVE THE POLICE A ROPE TO HANG YOU. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO SILENCE AND TO LEGAL COUNSEL BECAUSE THE MILITARY REGIME'S PER SAYS SO.

This is a cautionary note for people in Fiji on what to do if you are picked up by police. It is essential that every civilian knows what to do when this happens. Please take note and share the information as widely as you can

Please advise all your relatives and friends that there is no such thing as a 'friendly' chat with police (not even a friendly phone chat). This caution is being publicised because our criminal justice system has been compromised - the police, prosecution and the courts by the military  junta in control of our government. Our only protection is to exercise our right to silence if questioned by the police or military.

If we could trust in the independence of the police from the military, or the independence of the prosecution (DPP or FICAC) or the independence of the judiciary, we could trust that injustices would be prevented by the checks and balances  in our criminal justice system. In other words, now we cannot trust that these arms of the law (police, prosecution, judiciary) to act fairly, especially when the regime feels threatened.

Often we think that we citizens have nothing to hide and they tell us 'eda veiwekani kece tiko qo' (we are all related) so we think its a harmless, friendly chat at the police station or over the phone. Please advise all your friends and relatives to exercise their right to silence, to every single interview question (except giving your name/address etc).

If the police call you to come down to a police station for a 'friendly chat', it is very important that you get answers to the following questions before you make arrangements to go there:
  • Name of the caller
  • Rank of the caller Police ID number
  • What division is that policeman from - CID, Major Crimes etc
  • What police station are they based at What is the subject of the call -
  • Why is he calling you
  • Who made the complaint? (they are unlikely to answer this, but ask anyway)  
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET TO THE PO;LICE STATION

  • Do not agree to go to the station right away, or to their coming to pick you up immediately.
  • Tell them you are occupied or busy and you want to call a lawyer to get some legal advice and to arrange for the lawyer to be there at the interview.
  • Do not answer any questions in relation to the matter over the phone!
  • Tell them you will not answer any questions over the telephone and prefer to wait for legal advice!
  • Do not treat the request for a meeting at the station as a 'friendly' or 'harmless' chat.
  • Be firm and tell the policeman that you have a right to legal advice, you are exercising that right and that you want the lawyer to be present at the interview (even if you don't get one later for the interview).
  • Do not answer any questions in relation to the matter over the phone! 
  • Do not admit to doing what you thought was allowable in a free country (sending an email or text or making a Facebook comment or saying something to anyone) - the police have to prove the allegation, don't admit to it and provide the evidence for them. Let the police prove the allegation if you do get charged, in court.
We can so easily give evidence against ourselves in these not so innocent 'friendly' or 'harmless' chats over the phone or at the police station! Fiji is no longer a free country that respects human rights and freedoms, so exercise your right to silence, take a friend or relative with you for moral support especially if you cannot get a lawyer.
What to do if the police insist on interviewing you

If the police insist on an interview or chat down at the station, be prepared:

THE MILITARY REGIME'S MARTIAL LAW

Under the PER, you can be held without charge for seven days, if it is not a PER breach, the police must produce you in court within 48 hours of your arrest.

Ask the police whether it is a PER breach or what other law are they interviewing you under - eg Crimes Decree etc. Before you go down to the station, ask a relative or a friend or two to accompany you - they will be witness to your interrogation.

Tell the police they are there for moral support and that you have legal advice that this is your right. If they refuse to have your friend or relative there, and you don't have a lawyer present, tell your friend beforehand to contact a lawyer straight away or a human rights NGO.

If you can get a lawyer, that is ok - make sure the lawyer is free and able to come to the interview.

If the lawyer is witness to police mistreating you, you may have to engage another lawyer to prove the mistreatment. In addition to the lawyer, have your friend along for moral support (and witness).

Listen to the questions, but answer by exercising your right to silence. The questions will tell you where the allegation stems from, and who is making the complaint and providing the evidence that the police have to question you further.

Let the police investigate and compile their own evidence, you do not need to tell them anything. Often the police have no little or no proof and are really just fishing and it is during questioning that they get the evidence against you by having you admit to certain things that you may consider innocent (eg Facebook)

But you must always remember the military are in control, they control the police, the prosecution and the courts, so it is their interpretation of the law that matters.

HOW TO EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS TO SILENCE

Repeat this phrase to each question asked to you: "I WISH TO EXERCISE MY RIGHT TO SILENCE" - that is all you need to say and the police will record this response to each question they ask you.

The safest thing for people to do is to remain silent and don't go into the police stations alone - go with a friend or relative who can be a witness if they don't grant your rights and demand to wait for a lawyer, or reschedule the interview until you can get a lawyer, but don't turn up alone. All is not fair at the moment with draconian decrees and a compromised police and judiciary.

So better to be safe - exercise your right to silence and go into the station with a friend to witness and support you and a lawyer!

WHAT IF THEY DON'T GIVE YOU TIME TO ORGANISE A LAWYER!

If you are picked up from home (or any other location), leave instructions for someone to follow you to the police station. At the police station, answer questions to confirm only your identity, address and occupation, otherwise maintain your right to silence and ask for the opportunity to call a lawyer and to contact your family.

Those who follow should ask the police to let one or two come and be with you during questioning for moral support (and witnesses to interrogation); Tell the police that you have legal advice that under their own PER, you have right to silence and that you wish to maintain that right to every question except name, address, occupation. Every other question, silence. It's the police's duty to find the evidence; Its not for us to oblige them with evidence by answering their 'questions'.

WHAT TO EXPECT

You can be held for seven days without being charge under the regime's Public Emergency Regulation. So, expect to be held there for that long. If not PER related, 48hours without charge. The only problem with counsel present is that they can become potential witnesses and another counsel will then need to be engaged to defend the matter.

TELL YOUR STORY AFTER YOUR RELEASE
  • Once released from custody, try to write or type a statement detailing all that happened.
  • Ask your relative or friend who went with you to write a statement too. 
  • Get a medical exam if you were assaulted, take photos of your injuries. Make a statement on video - on your camera or phone.
  • Give your statement to your lawyer, with the photos and medical report. 
  • Get copies to the Australian, NZ, EU embassies.
  • Email to friends overseas and get that information out.
WE CERTAINLY HOPE THIS WILL HELP EVERY CIVILIAN IN FIJI TODAY!

Vinaka vakalevu

 
BE ON THE ALERT FOR A MILITARIZED POLICE APPROACH

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