Fiji’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a youth activist for protesting against torture in the Pacific island nation, Amnesty International said today.
On the International Day for Victims of Torture, the Fijian authorities arrested Jope Koroisavou – a youth leader from the opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) – for holding a solitary and peaceful protest, carrying signs bearing the names of Fijian victims of torture as he marched through the capital, Suva.
“Instead of cracking down on peaceful protest, the Fijian authorities should be cracking down on torture. On a day when the world is remembering the victims of torture, the Fijian authorities are arresting people for carrying a sign with their names,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“Jope Koroisavou was holding a brave and dignified protest. As his arrest shows, it is not easy to speak out against torture and other ill-treatment in Fiji. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Jope Koroisavou was carrying signs bearing the names of Iowane Benedito, Tevita Malasebe, Josefa Balailoa, Nimilote Verebasaga and Sakiusa Rabaka – all victims of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the Fijian security forces.
The torture victims mentioned by Koroisavou were detailed in an Amnesty International report Beating Justice: How Fiji’s security forces get away with torture, a report describing obstacles to accountability for torture and other ill-treatment, including constitutional immunities and a lack of political will to effectively investigate cases.
“Fiji’s government prides itself on having ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, but it is has failed to bring legislation in line with international standards, revoke immunities for security forces, and clear away obstacles to accountability,” said James Gomez.
Iowane Benedito’s torture was recorded on a phone and posted on YouTube in February 2013. The investigation into the torture he endured was closed but later reopened by former Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald. Groenewald resigned as Police Commissioner after his officers were prevented from arresting a military officer involved in his torture. While his alleged perpetrators have now been charged, they are yet to face trial with the matter next listed in November 2017.
Malasebe, Balailoa, Verebasaga and Rabaka all died between 2007 and 2008 after suffering horrific injuries arising from torture at the hands of the security forces.