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Fiji

Fiji police, military have 'culture of torture': Amnesty International

An "ingrained culture of torture" has taken root among the police and military of the Pacific island nation of Fiji, according to Amnesty International. A new report claims beatings, rapes and shootings are widespread.

A report released by Amnesty International on Monday has detailed the use of beatings, shootings and attacks by police dogs as torture against criminals by Fijian police and military forces.

The report blames an "ingrained culture of torture" in security forces on the island nation, detailing uniformed officials being involved in acts of extreme violence, rape and sexual assault and even murder with "near impunity."

"Torture does not just humiliate the victim. It also debases the torturer by hollowing out their humanity ... Not only do the security forces know that torture is taking place, they have stood in the way of accountability," said Kate Schuetze, a researcher for Amnesty International.

Amnesty says Fiji's current constitution gives immunities to security forces for action between 2006 and 2014. When a security official is convicted of a crime, they are pardoned and released from prison. "In Fiji, accountability for torture is the exception rather than the rule. This amounts to a climate of near-impunity," said Schuetze.

'Rule of law attacked at highest level'

Amnesty said it interviewed 48 people for the report, including lawyers, civil society groups and members of the Fijian government. Torture has been blamed in at least five deaths since 2006, and one person had to have a leg amputated. Officers involved in two deaths at the hands of the military in January 2007 only served one month of four-year sentences.

Ten years after a coup put Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in power, the military remains in control of the justice system, and has passed many decrees under martial law that remain in place. Bainimarama was elected prime minister in 2014 after years of military rule. 

Roko Tupou Draunidalo, president of the opposition National Federation Party, told the Reuters news agency that torture is widespread in Fiji because the rule of law was attacked at the highest level.

"The leaders of the country have to show the rule of law is paramount. If they're seen to take short cuts, or get to power by means that are violent, obviously it will trickle down," said Draunidalo.

The Fijian government has yet to comment on the report.

kbd/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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