The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) commends the criminal investigation led by the Police Commissioner, Ben Groenewald, which has resulted in four of his men being suspended while the investigation continues into the death of Vilikesa Soko.
CCF calls on the Commissioner to deliver justice to the victims of this tragic incident and conduct this investigation in a timely manner, without unreasonable delay. The Commissioner should be mindful that the unfortunate circumstances of Soko’s case do not follow the same path as the case of Iowene Bendito, in which a recaptured prisoner was assaulted by security forces. To date, those responsible for Bendito’s assault have not been brought to justice.
According to Soko’s autopsy report, there is no doubt that the circumstances surrounding Soko’s death was inhumane and brutal and a grave breach of article 11 of the Bill of Rights as contained in the 2013 Constitution.
Actions such as these cannot and should not continue to be tolerated by the citizens’ of Fiji. Police officers are officers of the law and have a duty to protect the security of the public.
The numerous cases of brutality against detained persons and lack of accountability within the security and military personnel has been an ongoing problem in Fiji. This reflects a wider issue of a culture of abuse of power within these authorities, and the militarisation that still grips the country. The fact that cases like these are not followed up and authorities are continuously not held accountable for grave abuses of power legitimises such actions, and does not send a clear message that this behaviour is not acceptable.
The authorities have a responsibility to implement measures to ensure constitutional rights are practiced and protected, and that the culture of abuse of power by authorities is addressed.
CCF is hopeful that the Soko’s case is not overlooked, and is thoroughly investigated in an independent and efficient manner.
CCF is of the view that as long as perpetrators of gross human rights violations avoid facing justice, human rights can never be fully realized.
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