Fiji: Investigate military’s alleged beating of 60-year old man over texts to Prime Minister

Fiji authorities must urgently investigate allegations that a man was severely beaten by army officers after he had sent a series of angry text messages to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International has received credible information that four army officers turned up at the home of the 60-year old teacher in a town outside the capital Suva on 27 September, dragged him to a nearby alleyway and assaulted him. Earlier on the same day, the man had an angry exchange of text messages with Bainimarama alleging that his songs were used without permission during the recent election campaign.

“It is shocking that someone should be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment by military officers just for sending text messages to the Prime Minister. This case must be urgently and independently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice,” said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher. 

“The investigation should cover not only the physical perpetrators but those, if any, who gave the orders to attack the man.” 

“This case points to the wider culture of violence among Fiji’s security forces, which authorities have shown little interest in addressing. Fiji’s government has to date failed to properly investigate almost all past allegations of torture, other ill-treatment and excessive use of force by security forces.”

The 60-year old man remains in hospital recovering from his injuries. 

This incident comes just weeks after robbery suspect Vilikesa Soko died in police custody shortly after his arrest in August 2014. Soko was arrested in connection with a robbery, and an autopsy report revealed that he suffered multiple organ failure as a result of serious assault injuries. While four police officers have been suspended, no one has so far been charged over his death. 

It also follows the circulation of a video in March last year, showing Fijian security forces torturing a recaptured prisoner, repeatedly and severely hitting him with sticks and batons, while another man was dragged along the ground by a dog. In reference to the video, Bainimarama reportedly said he would “stand by his men”.

“There must be clear public assurances that show Fiji’s government will not tolerate torture and other ill-treatment by military, police or prison officers, under any circumstances,” said Kate Schuetze.

“Prime Minister Bainimarama and his government should act now to address the impunity of security forces that continues to plague his government.”

This latest allegation of torture and other ill-treatment by security forces comes just weeks before Fiji’s human rights record will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 29 October 2014.