No evidence of torture video investigation says Fiji activist | Pacific Beat

No evidence of torture video investigation says Fiji activist

No evidence of torture video investigation says Fiji activist

Updated 24 April 2013, 17:11 AEST

A former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner, Shamima Ali, says she doesn't believe there is an official investigation into a video showing security forces beating two men.

The video appeared on the internet more than a month and a half ago, and initially Fiji Police said they were concerned about it and would launch an investigation.

Nothing has been heard about the investigation since then, and Radio Australia has been unable to get a response from the coup installed military government to question on the issue.

The police force chief operations officer, Assistant Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu, said he had no comment.

Shamima Ali tells Bruce Hill nothing seems to be happening, and there's little anyone in Fiji can do about it.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Shamima Ali, a former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner


ALI: There is no evidence whatsoever of any investigation being underway. When that has been queried on radio talkback show, the Commander, his response has been what would you do if somebody enters your house and tries to rob you and kill you. Aren't you going to act in self-defence and so on ? That's the response, apart from that very sinister comment that he will stand by his men. Really we haven't seen anything whatsoever, any evidence of any investigation being carried out.
HILL: When this torture video surfaced, it was condemned, not just in Fiji but around the world, the United Nations condemned it, the Parliaments' of Australia and New Zealand had a vote to condemn it. When this international pressure is brought to bear, couldn't that in a sense cause the Fiji interim government to simply raise the draw bridge and simply not engage in to the say, you guys are just being totally unfair and it could actually have a negative affect on concerns for human rights in Fiji?
ALI: No, I don't believe that Fiji is in a position to do that. It's a member of the United Nations, it belongs to the international community, it cannot ignore, it can act in that manner, but I'm sure something is hitting home. It has to adhere to universal standards of human rights and humanitarian law, as Amnesty International said, so that holds no water with me what they do. 
What is also significant is the fact that the draft Constitution, that we're very concerned about the protection of civil and political rights, because there are significant delegations, particularly in the right to life and it actually mentions the fact that these delegations will legitimise, in fact effectively legitimise the killing of escaped and escaping prisoners and persons participating in riots and insurrection. Given that this is a military regime, that is very, very significant for human rights and for prisoners or anyone who dares to go against this regime, so it's actually now in the draft Constitution and questions around that have been asked and they have been brushed aside.
HILL: Well, the Fiji police said when this torture video surfaced, that they were very concerned and they would launch an immediate investigation. We've been asking the Fiji government and the police about this investigation if they could confirm or deny that there is an investigation and all we got from a senior police officer was, was no comment and absolutely nothing from the actual government itself. Does that surprise you?
ALI: No, not at all, not at all, because that's the way things go. Once Bainimarama has spoken and has uttered those words that he's going to stand by his men or women or whatever, no one will dare carry out an investigation, no independent investigation will be carried out. We don't believe that the police force acts independently of government. It is not the professional force that we know, it is highly militarised, it has got a military commander at the head of it. So there is no way they will dare to even, though professionally, many police officers know that that should be done. Correction officers know that should be done. There needs to be, that is the process if you're talking about good governance and so on. They will dare not do it once those words have been uttered by the commander.
HILL; But does this really concern people in Fiji, because I saw a lot of the comments on social media. People were quite shocked by the video, but a lot of people were saying yeah, but these were bad guys, they kind of got what was coming to them. Does this really concern Fiji citizens as much as it does the rest of the world?
ALI: It is does concern people who care for human rights, who know what can happen, but there are some people who actually don't understand what human rights is about, they do not understand the legal processes, the rule of law and things like that. But in conversations that we have had people are concerned that that investigation has not taken place and then also what about the past incidents. This is something that was so visible, but also the escaped prisoners, the five of them, who were so badly tortured and so on. One had his leg amputated and it was said that he had died,  and things like that. So those also have gone, have been swept under the carpet. So for the human rights community and many of the upstanding people in this country it is a concern.
HILL: Assuming for the sake of argument that there is no investigation, we've found no evidence that there is one. What if anything can people in Fiji do about that.
ALI: Well at this point in time, no one can do anything, apart from raise our concerns and also reflected in this draft Constitution, but definitely we cannot use the media, because the media will not publish anything that will even slightly seem critical of the regime. I have raised it with the Commonwealth Contact Group that was here in the country last week and also with the Forum Ministerial Contact Group that I particularly raised that issue that those things need, they need to be questioned over those things and investigations and so on, but I did not get any response back.


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