Feature

Fijian Lawyer’s Experience Against Terror In Iraq

Having done her family proud, she is now doing the same for Fiji. Once the borders open, Ms Navia will again be in Iraq fighting for the common good.
24 Jul 2020 11:46
Fijian Lawyer’s Experience Against Terror In Iraq
Siteri Navia (centre) with her mother Litia Navia and father Moape Navia and her nieces at their home in Suva.

Siteri Navia is back with an interesting story to tell about her experience as part of the United Nations International Team of experts investigating war crimes of extremists in Iraq.

Ms Navia, a former senior legal officer for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was selected by the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote accountability for crimes committed by Daesh/ISIL or ISIS (UNITAD) last year.

The Ra native with maternal links to Tailevu said while she was assigned to the Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Children’s Unit under UNITAD and also had court experience in such cases, she wasn’t quite prepared for the job at hand.

“The scale and cruelty of the brutality is beyond human comprehension. Whole communities were enslaved,” Ms Navia said.

“Properties, infrastructure and cultural heritage sights were systematically and deliberately destroyed. Religious and ethnic groups such as the Yazidis, Christians, Shia, Sunnis, Turkmen and Shabak were captured, men were killed while women and children were enslaved.

“Vulnerable orphans, widows, bereaved parents lived with these atrocities daily. The victims of these unspeakable horrors continue to suffer,” she said.

UNITAD is led by the Special Adviser Karim Ahmed Khan QC, a renowned international lawyer with vast experience in international and criminal law and has successfully defended high profile cases all over the world.

And while on the one side, the war crimes are hard to comprehend, on the other side of the coin, she said: “I find that Iraqis are some of the nicest people you will meet and some of their traditions are similar to ours.”

Ms Navia said also stayed in contact with Fijian soldiers serving in Iraq. They provided her with the support she needed.

Her family and friends were sceptical when she decided to take the job. She said this was due to the portrayal of the Middle East in western movies.

“I am fortunate that I live with the RFMF contingent and their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jofiliti Talemaibau always made sure that I am okay,” she said.

“I would join them for a grog session after a hectic week or celebrate various events such as Fiji Day, Christmas. These get togethers made me feel right at home.”

Ms Navia knew she always wanted to be different. Inspired by her parents, she became the first in her family to become a lawyer.

“I grew up in a family where we did not have much and my dad was the only breadwinner. There are four of us in the family and I would see my parents do their best to provide for us,” she said.

“While growing up, I told myself that I will work hard, get a good job so I can always provide for my family and my parents would not have to worry about anything.”

Having done her family proud, she is now doing the same for Fiji.

But her job at UNITAD has only begun. Investigations are still continuing and given the COVID-19 pandemic, she was able to come home.

However, once the borders open, Ms Navia will again be in Iraq as part of the international team of lawyers fighting for the common good.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

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