By Nasik Swami
THE New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on its member states to apply pressure on the Fijian Government during its UN human rights review underway in Geneva.
The HRW says applying pressure on the Government will contribute towards ending ill-treatment in detention, cease harassment and arbitrary arrest of its citizens.
The international body told the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review that it needs to inform the Fijian Government to guarantee protection of human rights defenders, respect freedom of expression and order investigations into allegations of security forces abuses.
“The UPR review in Geneva is a unique occasion to test whether the new Fiji Government can seriously address its human rights problems,” HRW said.
It said the Constitution granted “absolute and unconditional immunity” to all members of public services and security forces, as well as public office holders, for actions taken during the 2006 coup d’Ã©tat until the formation of the new Parliament.
The HRW claimed that during its 2009 UPR review, Fiji accepted recommendations to take active measures to investigate and prosecute those responsible for acts of torture and ill-treatment, and put an end to immunity for members of the military and police force.
“There is little evidence to suggest that Fiji has implemented these recommendations.
“For example, the Fiji Government took no action when a video surfaced in March 2013 depicting what appears to be Fijian soldiers torturing and beating two men.
“When asked whether there would be an investigation, then-Commodore Bainimarama responded that he would stick by his men and officials implicated in the incident.”
The HRW urged member states to make concrete, time-bound recommendations to the Government of Fiji to respect basic civil and political rights.