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Fiji Human Rights Body Pledges Full Investigation

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Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: Fiji's Human Rights Commission today promised to carry out a full investigation into the deaths of rebel soldiers and of prison escapee Alifereti Nimacere in the mutiny and subsequent military manhunt, according to local media reports.

Pacnews regional news cooperative quoted commission chairperson Justice Sailosi Kepa as saying he would contact the authorities for a report but "until then, it would be premature to make allegations of human rights violations."

"However, Justice Kepa said he wanted to stress that no one was above the law and that justice should take its normal course no matter how serious the crime allegedly committed was," a commission statement said.

The Fiji military was today trying to stave off criticisms that loyalist soldiers had used excessive force in putting down the mutiny, Pacnews reported.

Radio Fiji today quoted hospital sources as saying some of the five rebel soldiers died from severe head wounds.

Three loyalist soldiers also died in the capture of the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in suburban Nabua and following assault by military forces on Thursday.

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The military were first questioned about this by the radio's news director, Vasiti Waqa, in early bulletins yesterday.

Ms Waqa was one of three staff of the radio station detained for seven hours on October 20 over a controversial report exposing serious rifts within the military.

According to Pacnews, the radio said today it had "yet to be determined whether some of these soldiers died from gunshots or from heavy beating inflicted by soldiers loyal to the military commander, Commodore [Frank] Bainimarama".

Further speculation about "heavy army tactics" was sparked with the arrest last night of notorious prisoner Nimacere who had been on the run for the past three months, Pacnews reported.

"Military spokesman Major Howard Politini went 'live' on Radio Fiji about 11pm last night to announce the arrest of Alifereti Nimacere from a home in a suburb in the capital Suva, only to confirm early this morning that the prisoner had died," Pacnews said.

Major Politini could not say whether the prisoner was shot by soldiers or whether he had died from the beatings inflicted by arresting officers, Pacnews reported.

He said this would be answered once their investigations were completed.

According to Pacnews, Major Politini could only confirm that the prisoner was armed with a pistol when soldiers arrived at the home to arrest him.

Military and police authorities believed Nimacere was involved in the ambush of a security forces patrol at a rural settlement near the airport town of Nausori in August when a soldier and a policeman were shot dead.

It is understood that international human rights groups had taken an interest in Nimacere when he was severely beaten up by police after being recaptured from an earlier escape last year.


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