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NGOCHR Condemns Excessive Force And Brutality Against Detainees

The NGO Coalition for Human Rights (NGOCHR) expresses deep concern over the alleged assault by Corrections Officers, which led to the death of Jone Masirewa. The Coalition affirms that justice for Jone Masirewa’s death starts with an independent investigation.

“We welcome the recent comments from the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC) calling for an independent investigation into Mr. Masirewa’s death,” said the NGOCHR Chair Nalini Singh.

“This situation is extremely worrying, especially at a time when hundreds of people are arrested daily over COVID-19 precaution breaches. Their rights and dignity should be protected at all times, even if they are detained.”

The HRADC Director Ashwin Raj Raj also highlighted this in his statement that those arrested and detained have the right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment and must be afforded their rights guaranteed under section 13 of the Fijian Constitution.

“Fiji has a commitment to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and have just returned from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. We should be leaders in upholding human rights,” said Ms. Singh.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse for human rights violations. Excessive force and brutality are unacceptable from any of our enforcement or security forces.”

Corrections officers, police and military have higher standards for its conduct, particularly at this time when they should be reassuring the public. There should not be any impunity for torture or murder by enforcement and security officers.

In addition the NGOCHR looks forward to a formal reassurance by Fiji Government and the Fiji Police Force that the First Hour Procedure (FHP) is in full operation and we note that the Commissioner of Fiji Police Force confirmed in a press conference last week that the FHP procedures are still in place. We call for strongest public reiteration along with additional communications to all Fiji Police stations throughout Fiji to remind them of their compliance obligations. We reiterate that the human rights of a detained person or of an accused person must be fully respected as guaranteed in the Fiji Constitution (2013) and especially protected during these times where multiple charges are placed daily on breach of restrictions on COVID-19. We are also concerned to ensure that proper advice has been afforded to a person arrested or charged for offences under Public health Act.

“There needs to be an improvement on procedures for dealing with detainees. During this pandemic particularly, there are understandable frustrations in dealing with disobedience of precautionary measures but enforcement and security officers are trained for these situations and have an obligation to remain within the perimeters of the law,” said Ms. Singh.

The Coalition reiterates the need for an independent investigation, of which the results should be made public; and a continued effort at eliminating torture and brutality for Fiji to cultivate a culture of democracy that emphasises rule of law, accountability and equal protection of citizens’ human rights.

For more information contact info@fwrm.org.fj

The Members of the NGOCHR include the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), femLINK Pacific, Social Empowerment and Education Program (SEEP), and Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality Fiji. Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) and Haus of Khameleon (HoK) are observers.

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