Outcry over torture in Fiji, NZ hypocrisy

by Byron Clark

On March 15 protests took place in Auckland and Wellington against police brutality and torture in Fiji. While allegations of torture have cropped up in Fiji since the coup that put Bainimarama in power, the latest outcry follows the leaking of video depicting two handcuffed men being beaten by plain clothes police.

An editorial in the Fiji Times described the video as“[D]isturbing and shocking. It is gross, painful and will leave an indelible impression on all those who have witnessed it.” The father of one of the victims, Vueti Sanawa, a retired military officer said that in all his life as a soldier in the Middle East, he had never come across any torture such as that he witnessed of his son.

Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation, something Fiji’s ministry of information has promised. Justice seems unlikely though when Bainimarama has stated “I will stick by my men, by the police officers or anyone else that might be named in this investigation. We cannot discard them just because they’ve done their duty in looking after the security of this nation and making sure we sleep peacefully at night”

New Zealand political parties across the spectrum have been quick to join the condemnation of Fiji, a motion in parliament to do so was passed without dissent. While in and of its self this is a positive thing, it demonstrates the hypocrisy of many New Zealand politicians. When it comes to police brutality happening in neighbouring countries, latest Corruption and Crime Commission figures in Australia show that police brutality is increasing, up from 175 complaints in 2007 to of 201 complaints in 2012.

Police brutality in Australia is often directed at indigenous communities. Recently brutality at Sydney Mardi Gras drew parallel community protests in Sydney and Wellington (Aotearoa/NZ).

Amnesty International has noted another area where abuses in Australia are covertly tolerated by the government of Aotearoa/NZ, specifically the deal struck on asylum seekers;

“Amnesty International thinks that this move shows that another country is down the wrong path of refugee policy, and is taking these steps to deter refugees from seeking protection, rather than living up to its obligations under the Refugee Convention.” Amnesty International spokesperson Alex Paliaro told media.

Parliamentary censure of abuses is applied selectively, and has more to do with New Zealand’s imperialist interests – be it trade or military alliances – than it does with “human rights.”

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