Questions Over Social Media Photos Showing Alleged Fiji Police Brutality

One alleged victim says photos taken in 2009 during police marijuana raid

By Aqela Susu And Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 13, 2016) – Shocking and graphic pictures circulating on social media that allege police brutality as recently as 2014, may have actually been taken in 2009.

The pictures were posted on a social media site by a user who initially claimed they were taken in 2014. But one of the alleged victims, Vilimoni Mateiwai, of Nakoro Village in Navosa, claims the incident actually took place in 2009.

Mr Mateiwai claimed he was with two farmers in the pictures, alleging they were tortured with knives and sticks and had hot water poured on them by police officers during the raid.

"Keitou se victims' ga mai na 2009 koya sova vei keitou na waikatakata (We were victims from 2009 who had hot water poured on us)," Mr Mateiwai claimed.

"It was in May or June. Keitou a tikoga na farm, rauta na lima na kaloko ratou sa rai tiko yani. Ratou davo tu dua na vanua ya I loma ni veikau. Ratou waraka saraga o ratou me keitou curu I loma ni vale laca ratou qai lako mai. Na ti a toka tu I tuba me keitou varau gunuti. (We were at the farm at about 5 o'clock and didn't know that police were observing us from a distance. They were waiting for us to go into our tarpaulin tents before they came. Our tea was still boiling outside)," Mr Mateiwai recalled.

He claimed the group, comprising about 20 policemen and soldiers, raided the farm and the three were all found in possession of marijuana.

"Au a kama vakadua na dakuqu kece qo. It was still very hot. Na torture iko sa kila ga na torture with the sticks and knives." ("I had hot water poured on my back. It was still boiling. You know how one is tortured; it was with knives and sticks").

"I think there were about 20 of them. I still have scars on my back."

"Io sometimes, kila ni dua na ka va ya na yaco vei iko, iko na rawa ni dau vakasama taka lesu. Kila so na gauna dau yaco vei keda so na ka qai da dau nanuma lesu (Sometimes I have flashbacks of what happened, when people experience these things they sometimes have flashbacks of the incident")

Mr Mateiwai claimed he was admitted for three weeks in hospital after the alleged incident.

"Au tolu tu na macawa i valenibula. (I spent three weeks in hospital after that)."

Mr Mateiwai further claimed their case was later dismissed and there was a reconciliation done.

"Qai dismiss neitou kisi qai caka dua na reconciliation. (Our case was then dismissed and we reconciled).

Commissioner of Police, Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho said yesterday he had been alerted to the photos, but was still trying to find out whether they came from their recent Operation Cavuraka in Nadroga and Navosa.

"I can assure members of the public that I have ordered a thorough investigation be conducted to determine what took place," Brig- Gen Qiliho said.

"During an earlier visit to the Operation team in Keiyasi, I stressed the need to respect the rights of suspects and any reports indicating otherwise will be dealt with accordingly.

"I do not condone any of my officers abusing their powers and necessary disciplinary action will be taken against those who do."

The Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj, welcomed the decision by the Commissioner of Police to order fresh investigations in relation to the allegations of police brutality in order to ascertain the veracity of the claims.

Mr Raj said that human rights of all persons as outlined in the Constitution must always be protected and preserved, including the rights of arrested and detained persons.

Fiji Times Online.
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