Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum –
The latest Amnesty International report on Fiji is biased, selective and does not reflect the true position in Fiji or the great strides that we have made as a nation to deal with the issue of torture.
Fiji has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture and our institutions and their leaders have made it clear that torture, assault and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees will not be tolerated.
The Prime Minister and the Police Commissioner are both on the public record as having said that there is a policy of zero tolerance for torture. And that policy is being enforced with vigour.
It is no secret that during more turbulent times in Fiji, we had a problem with certain individuals taking the law into their own hands.
But there has never been institutionalised torture in Fiji and the days in which these individuals behaved with impunity are over.
Indeed, there has been no immunity in the Constitution or any other law in Fiji that applies to disciplined forces since 2014.
In fact, the record shows that successful prosecutions have been mounted and the perpetrators sentenced to lengthy jail terms.
This is certainly the case in relation to the death in custody of Vilikesa Soko.
Yet in its media release in which the Soko case is cited to support Amnesty’s case, no mention is made that members of the disciplined forces have been tried and convicted for his rape, sexual assault and perverting the course of justice.
This is clear evidence of the selective nature of Amnesty’s claims.
Not only has Fiji embraced a policy of zero tolerance for torture and signed the UN Convention but we are working hard with our development partners to raise standards in the Fijian Police and reduce the incidence of assault in custody.
First Hour Procedures
Britain and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are working closely with the police on a pilot programme that includes the video recording of police interviews and ‘First Hour’ procedures in which detainees are informed of their rights and gain access to legal representation.
This programme, which is to be implemented throughout Fiji has been praised by UN officials and the Secretary General of the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, Mark Thomson.
Yet, it is not mentioned in Amnesty’s Report at all.
The Report also puts forward a number of generalised claims regarding Fiji’s legal framework and processes that it fails to substantiate.
It is a great pity that instead of highlighting these important positive developments, Amnesty has chosen to be selective in its reporting and sensationalise the issue with its headline ‘A darker side of paradise.’
It is of deep concern that at no stage did Amnesty’s researcher contact the Fijian Director of Public Prosecutions, who could have provided clarity on a number of issues that were raised in the report and outline the progress Fiji is making to dealing with complaints of alleged torture or abuse.
This suggests a predetermined agenda on the part of Amnesty International to ignore the full picture and put politics before principle and objectivity.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is Attorney General of Fiji. The Report of Amnesty International can be viewed at www.amnesty.org.