Pacific Media Watch

6 March 2013

FIJI: Corrections officers responsible for beating, claims anti-regime blog

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AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Fiji corrections officers have been accused by an anti-regime blog of assaulting two defenceless handcuffed men in a YouTube video posted two days ago.

According to Coupfourpointfive, the officers were chasing an escaped prisoner, who they subsequently molested after his capture.

The nine minute YouTube video of the beating has led to strong reactions across the Pacific region.

In the video, a man named by news media as Iowane Benedito is seen on the back of a pick-up truck repeatedly being hit by wooden and metal poles. He is stripped of his shorts and underwear, and is left with several visible bruises on his thighs at the end of the video.

Another man, who is believed to have been helping the escaped prisoner, is forced to kneel on the ground before being dragged by a dog. The escape reportedly infuriated the police, who then commenced a vengeful mission to bring back and punish the escaped inmates.

The incident reportedly took place late last year, but it was not until this week that the video of the beating surfaced.

According to the Fiji, police in Fiji have started a thorough investigation to find out what exactly happened. Police spokesperson Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri stressed that there would be no speculation about who were involved in the beating, but did say that the abused persons in the video appeared to be escaped prisoners.

'Disturbed by video'
"Like every Fijian, we were disturbed to see the video that has emerged of what appears to be the abuse of two men who, at this stage, we understand to be recaptured prisoners," the Fijian police force said in a statement.

"[…] [W]ecan assure you all that we are determined to expeditiously resolve this issue and indeed our investigations have already commenced."

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has spoken with his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, about the video.

Prime Minister John Key has also taken an interest in this story and has described the footage as “very alarming”, according to ONE News. Key stated that he expected the perpetrators would be held to account, and also said that this was the sort of thing New Zealand "worries an awful lot" about.

Amnesty International has stated that last December it was aware of five incidents of prisoners being tortured in Fiji. The human rights organisation was able to verify this information and sent an open letter to the Fijian government demanding that they condemn these crimes and set up an independent investigation. 

One of the alleged torturers of escaped prisoner Benedito has been identified by Coupfourpointfive

Other torture video stories on Pacific Media Watch

Cafe Pacific on the Fiji torture

Read Graham Davis's thoughts on how Fiji is tackling a culture of violence


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Daniel Drageset

PMW contributing editor 2013

Daniel Drageset is a Norwegian radio journalist who graduated with a Master in Communication Studies degree at AUT University.