FIJI MILITARY TO PROBE BRUTALITY ALLEGATIONS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 24, 2000 – Sunday Times/Pasifik Nius)---The Fiji military forces said today alleged acts of brutality by soldiers will be investigated as a newspaper editorial warned there could be no justification for attacks on civilians.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Semi Koroi told the Sunday Times the army had received a complaint and investigations had started.

"Those who are found to be guilty of the act will be disciplined accordingly," said Lt. Koroi.

On Saturday, the Fiji Times reported that Naibita villagers in the western Viti Levu area of Wainibuka had complained of a brutal assault by soldiers who were camped a Rokovuaka in neighboring Ra province.

The villagers told the newspaper they had lived in fear since soldiers stormed their homes in search of notorious prison fugitive Alifereti Nimacere, who was linked to rebels in the recent political insurrection.

They wrote to the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, requesting an investigation.

Lt. Koroi said if villagers at Savusavu, near the national hydroelectric power plant at Monasavu in the rugged Viti Levu highlands, wanted their case investigated, they need to make a formal complaint. The villagers had also accused the military of brutality.

In an editorial today, the Sunday Times said: "There can be no justification of the attacks on civilians by members of the military.

"At least two rebel supporters have been hospitalized in such condition as to warrant a major investigation into the tactics used by soldiers.

"One of the rebels had a broken jaw and cracked ribs. The other is learning to walk...

"The excuse? An operation to find escaped prisoners and rebel supporters.

"But none of these actions are acceptable."

The Sunday Times added that the role of the military -- which provides soldiers for peacekeeper units in the Lebanon and East Timor -- was to restore law and order, not contribute to its demise.

Title -- 3001 FIJI: Military to probe brutality allegations Date -- 24 September 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Sunday Times, 24/9/00 Copyright -- PN/Sunday Times Status -- Unabridged

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