Fiji’s Commitment to recommendations on Torture and ill-treatment

 

Torture
Picture: sourced

The Fiji civil society organizations’ (CSO) – Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group reminds the government of its support of the conclusions and recommendations made recently in Geneva.  The conclusions and recommendations were made by the UN Working Group on UPR at the Human Rights Council (HRC) during the thirty fourth session held on November 8, 2019.  Fiji examined recommendations made by the following countries and supported to; 

  • adapt the national legislation with a view to guarantee the full implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Uruguay)
  • strengthen measures taken by a robust legislative mechanism to prohibit and prevent all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Madagascar)Fiji is still examining the following recommendations which it needs to provide responses to before the forty-third session of the Human Rights Council in Feb-March 2020; 
  • Ratification of Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Switzerland and Denmark) 
  • Adopt a definition of torture in line with the international legal framework as well as ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Mexico)
  • withdrawing reservations to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Ukraine, Armenia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy and Liechtenstein)5

The Fiji CSO UPR working group joint report submitted in March 2019 to the UN highlighted Torture and Ill-treatment.  The report noted that application of force or ill-treatment continues to surface in Fiji relating to law enforcers.

The death of Josua Lalauvaki led to two police officers getting suspended with one found guilty of manslaughter.  The  most recent alleged brutality case involved 3 police officers in Navua who allegedly seriously harmed a suspect of a crime.

In July 2019, a young man in Labasa was allegedly bashed up by police while in October, the case of a 16 year old boy claiming he was physically abused at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces was reported.  The outcomes of the aforementioned alleged cases are still pending.

While it is commendable that Fiji ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 2016, there  has been slow implementation of the same. The Public Order Act (POA) allows for force to be implemented by Police Officers when needed as per Section 9 (3) which was amended in 2012 (by the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2012).6  The CSO group recommended all provisions relating to force must be reviewed and removed especially from the POA.  The State needs to exhaust the implementation of the CAT.

These implementations must include law enforcers being well and thoroughly trained on laws against torture. The disciplinary and investigative measures on torture related offenders must be  made known and harsher penalties must be implemented to discourage such acts.

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to Geneva had announced at Fiji’s review that Cabinet had approved for the removal of the reservations that were initially in place when Fiji ratified the Convention Against Torture in 2016.  The reservations were:

  • “The Government of the Republic of Fiji does not recognize the definition of Torture as provided for in article 1 of the Convention therefore shall not be bound by these provisions. The definition of Torture in the Convention is only applicable to the extent as expressed in the Fijian Constitution.
  • The Government of the Republic of Fiji recognizes the article 14 of the Convention only to the extent that the right to award compensation to victims of an act of torture shall be subject to the determination of a Court of law.
  • The Government of the Republic of Fiji does not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture as provided for in article(s) 20, 21 and 22 of the Convention and therefore shall not be bound by these provisions.
  • The Government of the Republic of Fiji does not recognize paragraph 1 of article 30 of the Convention and therefore shall not be bound by this provision.”

The Fiji CSO UPR working group urges the government to implement recommendations it has supported and to consider recommendations it is still examining.

Reference:

1 See Page 3 of the Unedited Version of the Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Fiji –  A/HRC/WG.6//34/L.5 2 Ibid – Page 6 3 Ibid – Page 13 4 Ibid  5 Ibid

6 “(3) Any police officer, if in his or her opinion such action is necessary for the public safety, after giving due warning, may use such force as he or she considers necessary, including the use of arms, to disperse the procession, meeting or assembly and to apprehend any person present thereat, and no police officer nor any person acting in aid of such police officer using such force shall be liable in criminal or civil proceedings for any harm or loss caused by the use of such force.” This entails that the use of force is still allowed in Fiji despite the ratification of CAT and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

7 See United Nations Treaty Collection –  Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&clang=_en#EndDec

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