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Human Rights in Republic of the Fiji Islands
Amnesty International Report 2008
Disadvantaged groups continued to be marginalized as a result of high unemployment, widespread poverty and an alarming squatter situation. Unlawful arrests and detentions, violence, and killings by members of the security forces continued. Freedom of expression was severely undermined.
A military coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama in December 2006 triggered serious human rights violations in 2007. The judiciary was compromised as the interim government sought to constrain its independence.
Police and security forces
Killings and excessive use of force
Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
In January, a man died from a brain haemorrhage within hours of being detained by the military. One soldier was charged for the beating, although others were reported to have taken part. In June, a young man fell into a coma and died, following assaults by soldiers in Nadi. Eight soldiers were later charged with his killing. Another man was killed while being interrogated by police officers in June. The coroner's report concluded that he had died from severe internal injuries. Nine police officers were subsequently charged with his killing. In November, several people accused of planning to assassinate key members of the interim government were detained for more than 48 hours without charge. Some were allegedly brutally beaten by plain clothes soldiers.
Prominent political figures including critics of the interim government were arbitrarily arrested, detained and subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by members of the army.
A state of emergency imposed between December 2006 and May 2007 severely undermined freedom of expression. Prominent critics of the government, including lawyers and other human rights defenders, were intimidated by the military and banned from travelling without prior notice.
In August, a prominent lawyer filed a writ challenging his travel ban. The case was still pending by the end of the year. That same month, the interim government threatened to arrest bloggers and those responsible for facilitating pro-democracy blog sites. One popular site was closed down. The interim government warned public servants against reading the blogs. A senior civil servant was suspended without pay in August following allegations that he contributed to anti-military blog sites. After publicly criticizing the interim government, deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was prevented from travelling by sea or air from his home island to Suva.
The Chief Justice was suspended indefinitely after being forced to take leave in January.
The President of the Fiji Court of Appeal challenged the legality of the interim government, prompting the interim Attorney General to call for his resignation in June. In September, six prominent judges of the Fiji Court of Appeal resigned after not being invited to sit on the court.
The integrity and independence of the Fiji Human Rights Commission were called into question after it released a report in January which supported the military takeover.
Violence against women
According to official figures, a total of 127 rape and attempted rape cases were reported in 2007.
Health – HIV and AIDS
People living with HIV or AIDS suffered discrimination and stigmatization.
In August, police in a northern town harassed and abused a person living with HIV, "accusing" her of sexual promiscuity.
A September report showed that 12.5 per cent of the population were living in squatter settlements around urban centres. Appalling living conditions, extreme overcrowding, high inflation and pressure on infrastructure and services meant that the rights of people living in such informal settlements to adequate living conditions, clean water and adequate health services were frequently violated.