Sep 9, 2009

Amnesty International confirms what the world needs to know about Fiji

Fiji is violent and repressive, says Amnesty.

The military regime that has tightened its grip on power in the Pacific island nation of Fiji in recent months is guilty of human rights abuses, severe violence against its citizens and repression, a damning report by Amnesty International has warned.

The report "Fiji – Paradise Lost" claimed the country had been caught in "a downward spiral of human rights violations" since its constitution was scrapped in April.

It described a "climate of fear" in Fiji, which had not been reported because the military regime had censored and intimidated the local media.

Fiji is currently governed under Public Emergency Regulations (PER), brought in by Frank Bainimarama, the self-appointed interim prime minister, who announced in August that emergency rule had been extended yet again until the end of the year . As a result of refusing to hold democratic elections until 2014 , Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth.

Under PER imposed in April, Amnesty says
"Fiji's military and security forces retain absolute control over the country's population, and soldiers and police enjoy complete immunity from prosecution for their actions, including serious violations of human rights".
The organisation also describes
"a pattern of government interference in the judiciary, severe censorship of the media, and the harassment and arrests of government critics".
Among the incidents of particular concern were the release, after six weeks, of eight soldiers who beat a 19-year-old man to death. Broadcasts or publications that "promote disaffection or public alarm" had been banned and several journalists had been arrested and deported.

The report urged international donors and investors to press the Suva government to return to the rule of law.

"In particular, China, which has massively increased its financial assistance to Fiji since the 2006 coup, should use its influence to resolve the constitutional crisis," it said.

China's donations had filled a void created by sanctions imposed by major donors such as Australia and New Zealand, it said.

"China has long claimed that it doesn't interfere in other country's affairs, but, in Fiji, China has clearly favoured one side of a long political dispute and in the process ignored the country's human rights situation," Donna Guest, Amnesty Asia-Pacific deputy director, said in a statement.

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