Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Justice for torture in Fiji

Back in 2012, Fijian police and military personnel captured a group of prison escapees. They then beat and tortured them so severely that one of them subsequently had a leg amputated. Today, three police officers and two soliders have been charged over the incident:

Fiji's director of public prosecutions has charged three police officers and two military personnel for the beating of a man which was shown in a video leaked online.

The video showed Iowane Benedito and another man handcuffed and being beaten by police officers in November 2012 after they were recaptured following their escape from prison.

The video received worldwide condemnation.

The director, Christopher Pryde, says four men are in custody and will appear in the Suva Magistrate's Court tomorrow after they were charged with unlawfully and indecently assaulting Mr Benedito.

But note what they're not being charged with: torture. And the reasonf or that is that Fiji's Crimes Decree says that torture is only a crime if conducted as part of a widespread attack against a civillian population. This is because their torture law is based on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, not on the Convention Against Torture (which Fiji only agreed to ratify the Convention this year). But the net effect is that these soldiers and police officers get to avoid being labelled what they really are: torturers.

And while we're on this topic, let's remember what Fiji's dictator (and now elected Prime Minister) Voreqe Bainimarama said about it:
"At the end of the day, I will stick by my men, by the police officers or anyone else that might be named in this investigation," he told Fijivillage.

"We cannot discard them just because they've done their duty in looking after the security of this nation and making sure we sleep peacefully at night."

Yes, Bainimarama explicitly supported torture. Someone should really ask him whether he still supports it. And we should all watch for signs of the Fijian government interfering in the judicial process to protect Bainimarama's pet torturers.