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EDITORIAL: Kudos To Police, Military For Embracing Convention

It is heartening to see the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces endorsing the United Nations convention against torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
26 Feb 2015 09:39
EDITORIAL: Kudos To Police, Military For Embracing Convention

It is heartening to see the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces endorsing the United Nations convention against torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The two organisations have sometimes been targets of accusations about brutality over the years. They join many groups and people in condemning torture or any extreme form of violence. With the submissions made so far to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, there is overwhelming support for the Government to ratify the convention.

Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, the RFMF Land Force Commander, says ratification of the convention will enhance  Fiji’s image not only in the international arena but more specifically as a Troop Contributing Country to the UN – as Fiji bids against other TCC in its aspirations towards global peace.

Deputy Police Commander Sikeli Vuniwaqa says the convention would help the Police demonstrate their resolve to uphold the dignity and democratic rights of Fijian citizens. The convention would help build the trust among the people on law enforcement, he adds.

Section 11 (1) of the 2013 Constitution says: “Every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.”

Subsection (2) says: “Every person has the right to security of the person, which includes the right to be free from any form of violence from any source, at home, school, work or any other place.”

These Bill of Rights provisions are very explicit about the citizens’ rights to be free from any form of violence.

If Police follow the letter of the law, they cannot use violence to extract information from a person in order to get a confession, or admission. At times when they are met with resistance and their safety is at risk, it is the convention to apply reasonable force, to bring the situation to order. One would also assume that reasonable force is proportionate to the level of resistance or defiance. Street riots are an example where Police can use reasonable force to quell disturbances. These are extreme cases.

But in routine Police investigations, where they are in control, there is no reason to apply force or coercion.

False testimonies or confessions can happen when suspects are being inflicted physical and psychological pain.

Justice must be allowed to take its own course in a normal environment. It cannot do that in an atmosphere of fear and pain.

It is generally thought that some Police use the third degree in some interrogations. Third degree is a euphemism for the “inflicting of pain, physical or mental, to extract confessions or statements”, according to Wikipedia.  In 1931, the Wickersham Commission found that use of the third degree was widespread in the United States. The use of the third degree was technically made illegal after the Wickersham report. However, the interrogation method known as the Reid technique, which is now widely used by law enforcement in the US, is seen by many as simply a psychological version of the third degree in that it is equally capable of extracting a false confession through coercion when abused by Police.

In criminal investigation, perhaps it is high time that we build our police capability in forensic science so that we can do our own DNA testing locally instead of sending samples overseas. We also need to train our forensic experts to be able to handle difficult cases.

We have a robust legal system that can rise to the challenge and ensure that justice must be seen to be done. It requires both the prosecution and defence lawyers to step up to the standards required to avoid wrongful convictions and accused freed because of  lack of evidence.

When this happens,the UN convention against torture, will be easily followed. .

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj




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