Police complaint against Tevita Mara for alleged torture
Coalition for Democracy in Fiji files a police complaint against Tevita Mara under the Crimes of Torture Act
The New Zealand based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF) today filed a criminal complaint with the NZ Police against former Lt Colonel Tevita Mara for his alleged role in the torture of hundreds of Fiji citizens*
The CDF is adamant that those like Tevita Mara who are accused of serious allegations of torture on Fiji civilians must be held to account in an independent, impartial and fair justice system.
The New Zealand justice system, under the NZ Crimes of Torture Act (1989), and the UN Convention against Torture, which NZ has ratified, provides for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of crimes against torture committed outside New Zealand by non New Zealand citizens.
The former Lt Colonel, who fled Fiji to Tonga on the 20th May after facing charges of sedition, was recently granted a five day New Zealand entry visa by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite strong opposition from pro-democracy and human rights groups in New Zealand and Fiji.
CDF spokesperson Nik Naidu said that they are aware that he is due to arrive in New Zealand, tonight, 19 July 2011.
“It is the legal duty of the of the NZ Police, under the Crimes of Torture Act to investigate Mr Mara as a matter of public interest, as New Zealand guards and safeguards its human rights protections and minimum standards against its neighbours’ flagrant actions against and assaults on human rights of its citizens,” said Mr Naidu.
CDF stated that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Mara has allegedly committed an act of torture in Fiji, and therefore it is incumbent on the NZ Police to immediately launch an impartial and effective investigation in compliance with the obligations and duties under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 and Crimes Act”.
Mr Naidu cautions “that the torture and human rights abuse by the military that is arbitrary and prevalent against defenceless Fiji civilians will only stop if governments such as NZ are prepared to honour their commitment and legal obligation under international and domestic human rights laws to prosecute those such as Tevita Mara for alleged crimes of torture”.
CDF states that the filing of the police complaint against Tevita Mara is based on several reasons:
Regardless of the rank or position of the person (s). If they are alleged to have been involved directly or indirectly in the torture of Fijian civilians, they will be subject to the lodgment of criminal complaints under the relevant NZ laws, once they enter NZ jurisdiction.
After the first military coup in 1987, the military coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka gave himself and his supporters immunity from prosecution.
The same applied in the coup of 2000, and prior to the abrogation of the Fiji 1997 constitution in 2009, the former Fijian President passed a decree giving everyone involved in the coup blanket immunity.
The military regime is in the process of drafting a new Constitution, which among its key provisions will give those involved in the coup and in the formation of the regime immunity from prosecution.
This will irrevocably mean that those such as Tevita Mara and others like him accused of alleged torture will never be held to account in a court of law in Fiji, under the proposed new Constitution.
It is imperative therefore that a strong message be sent to those in the military regime that in countries such as NZ that has existing laws that allow for the arrest and prosecution for crimes against Torture, there will be no immunity against such crimes, despite giving themselves immunity in Fiji.
Ultimately, the aim of this criminal complaint against former Lt Colonel Tevita Mara is to stop the use of torture by the military regime against Fiji civilians.
Mr Naidu says that on the domestic and international stage, New Zealand, despite its relative size, has a proud and pioneering history of advocating and defending human rights.
Therefore the NZ government in protecting its domestic and importantly international reputation as being a defender of human rights cannot allow political expediency to dictate how it treats the criminal complaint against Tevita Mara.
To allow those like Tevita Mara, allegedly accused of gross human rights abuse and torture to enter and leave New Zealand with impunity will send a dangerous signal to that the NZ government provides a safe haven for those accused and involved in crimes of torture.