Freedom Under Threat in Fiji

7 April 2015, 12:01 UTC | Fiji
© Vlad Sokhin

In September 2014, Fiji held its first elections since the 2006 military coup. Fiji’s former military leader Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama was elected Prime Minister after securing 59 per cent of the vote. Now is the perfect opportunity for the newly elected Government to ensure human rights are respected and protected in Fiji. 

Amnesty International calls on Fiji to:

  • stop torture and other ill treatment by security forces
  • respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association
  • uphold worker’s rights and end the harassment of trade unionists
  • strengthen human rights in the national legal framework.

Torture by armed forces

In February 2013, we exposed shocking video footage of two men being beaten and sexually assaulted by security forces. Forced to undress and set upon by a dog, they are filmed as men nearby laugh. No arrests have been made in relation to this case, despite claims that the atrocities are under investigation.

In June 2014, Brigadier General Moses Tikoitoga admitted to the military beating and torturing citizens to discourage civil disorder. Despite this admission, past torture allegations have yet to be investigated.

Freedoms under threat

Public debate opened up significantly as a result of the elections, but laws that criminalise freedom of expression remain in force. Journalists still face heavy fines or imprisonment if in breach. Though some improvement has been made by removing military censors from newsrooms, a climate of fear and self-censorship remains.

In June 2013, a market seller was arrested and charged with committing a “malicious act” - simply for expressing anti-government views. The market seller allegedly suffers from a psychiatric condition and was beaten by police on arrest.

In August 2014, the University of South Pacific and Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) were denied the right to hold a series of public lectures. These lectures were about civil and political rights under the new Constitution. CCF was investigated for breaching laws that restrict the freedom of expression, but no charges were laid. 

The Good News

In February 2015, Fiji became the 11th country in the Pacific to fully repeal the Death Penalty. Enforced only for perpetrators of military crimes in recent years, this is still a huge step forward for Fiji in its move towards better protection of human rights.

Eight police officers and one military officer have been arrested and charged with the death in custody of Vilikesa Soko in 2014, a positive step towards ending a culture of impunity within the security forces.

Fiji has also taken positive steps towards ratification of the UN Convention against Torture.

Amnesty International will continue holding Fiji to account for abuses and pushing it to protect the rights of its people.

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