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Lawyer speaks out

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, March 02, 2018

LAUTOKA human rights lawyer Aman Ravindra Singh claims the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission failed in its duty to investigate the alleged torture by police officers involving nine youths from Waikubukubu, Tavua in January.

However, the commission stated it had not been able to contact some of the youths or that they had withdrawn their complaints.

Mr Singh is representing the nine youths who claimed they were allegedly brutalised by police at a police station on January 26.

He claimed the father of one of the youths contacted the commission on January 29, three days after the alleged torture happened.

"On January 29, the father contacted a lady at the commission and she was made aware of the allegations and the severity of what had transpired," Mr Singh claimed.

"There were telephone calls on January 29, followed by emails on January 30 and 31 where forms sent by the commission were filled by the father of one of the youths and medical reports were attached and sent. The complainant was then informed by the lady at the commission that they would pay a personal visit on February 6 to conduct investigations.

"This never happened. When the story broke in The Fiji Times on Thursday, February 22, contact was then made by the commission to the victims.

"My question is this — why did it take 21 days for the commission to take the issue seriously?"

Commission director Ashwin Raj said according to a report he had received from his complaints team, the commission received a phone call on January 29 alleging brutality by police officers from the police station. The commission, on the same day, sent complaint forms and on January 31 received official complaints from three individuals alleging police brutality," he said.

"On February 1, the commission was furnished with medical reports from the complainants. On February 5, the commission received an email from one of the complainants that he wanted to involve the media. The commission informed the complainant that the 'Commission's investigations carried out under section 32(2) of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Act of 2009 must be conducted in private'. This is to protect complainants of human rights abuses from further victimisation.

"While a scheduled visit to Waikubukubu Village on February 7 was cancelled due to adverse weather, the commission wrote to the Commissioner of Police on February 8 expressing its concerns on the seriousness of these allegations noting the alleged conduct of the police is contrary to 'Section 11 of the Bill of Rights of the Fijian Constitution on freedom from cruel and degrading treatment and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights'."

Mr Raj claimed attempts to contact the victims were unsuccessful.

"On February 20, the commission called complainant twice to make appointment for interviews but received no response. On February 22, the commission called the same complainant but received no response and then the commission called the second complainant indicating that it will make a site visit on February 23 to conduct interviews, to which the second complainant agreed. The commission visited Waikubukubu Village on the (February) 23rd and was informed by one of the complainants that on February 22 they were advised by their lawyer not to talk to anyone regarding these allegations.

"The commission then called the initial complainant, who informed the commission that their lawyer has advised him to withdraw their complaint.

"The complainant further informed the commission that he will send an email to withdraw his complaint officially."

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