FIJI SECURITY FORCES CRITICIZED IN U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 28, 2001 - Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's human rights record last year was "generally poor" as people were arrested and beaten at will by civilians, the police and the army, says the annual United States report on human rights.

[SEE: U.S. Department Of State: Fiji Country Report On Human Rights Practices at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eap/index.cfm?docid=699

"Rules governing detention are designed to ensure suspects are questioned fairly," the Fiji section of the report said.

"Incommunicado and arbitrary detention, both illegal, occasionally occur.

"The military forces periodically release then immediately re-arrest persons in order to remain in nominal compliance with the Emergency Powers Decree."

The report pointed out that while a person could be arrested if police felt a crime was about to be broken, that person should be brought before a court as soon as possible.

Under the Emergency Decree, it said, armed forces were allowed to detain people up to seven days before charges were laid.

"There were reports of arbitrary arrests of persons by civil and military authorities, followed by beatings and release in remote places."

The 2000 report gave intimate details of events during and after the May 19 coup and deposing of the government led by Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister.

The report said 16 people died as a result of the political turmoil in Fiji last year.

"Throughout this period, a number of rebel supporters reportedly were beaten in detention and five rebel soldiers, implicated in the November mutiny, were beaten to death," it said.

"Two of the five rebels were not directly involved in the attack on the barracks but were arrested elsewhere and subsequently killed.

"By year's end, no disciplinary action had been taken again the soldiers involved in these incidents."

The report also listed:

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