Fiji: Release five men detained for discussing constitution

“Fiji must immediately and unconditionally release the five men detained today for holding a meeting to discuss Fiji’s Constitution on Constitution Day. This is a brazen crackdown on people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

This is a brazen crackdown on people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression
Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International's Director for South East Asia and the Pacific

“The men appear to have been detained under Fiji’s repressive Public Order Amendment Decree which restricts the ability to hold ‘public’ meetings. There is no evidence to suggest that the event posed any threat to national security. Fijians should be free to openly discuss their supreme law and even criticize without fear of reprisals.”

Background

Five men have been detained by the police on Saturday 10 Septmeber 2016 after holding a discussion about the 2013 Constitution on Fiji’s inaugural Constitution Day, a public holiday, on 6 September 2016.

The detained men are:

Attar Singh, a prominent trade unionist; Sitiveni Rabuka, leader of SODELPA political party; Biman Prasad, leader of the NFP political party; Tupeni Baba, member of SODELPA and Jone Dakuvula from civil society organisation Dialogue Fiji.

The office of the NFP political party has been raided by police, with documents and computers confiscated.

Police claim the panel discussion was held without a permit.  The Public Order Amendment Decree requires that permits be obtained for ‘public discussions’. The law does not apply to private meetings.

This comes after a Fiji Sugar Industry meeting was cancelled on Tuesday for not having a permit.

Amnesty International has previously criticised the 2013 Constitution for failing falling short on human rights protection and for its wide reaching immunities, which cover any government act between 2006 and 2014.