Pacific Media Watch

8 March 2013

FIJI: Police confirm 'security personnel' responsible for brutal beating

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AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Fiji police have now established that the YouTube video showing two handcuffed men being severely beaten was carried out by “security personnel”.

It had been widely reported that the abusers were believed to be either police, military or corrections officers prior to the latest police statement.

According to Radio New Zealand International, the police also say they will not allow an independent investigation into the shocking video, because they say it is normal practice for governments around the world to conduct their own investigations into such matters.

This comes as a response to human rights group Amnesty International’s call for an independent investigation earlier this week. The police also say they will not come with further statements before the investigation into the abuse video is finished. 

The government of Fiji has refused to comment on the video. Former Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who was toppled in the May 2000 coup, said it was unlikely that the government would intervene and ask for an independent investigation.

“These things are carried out with their [the government’s] full knowledge, and of course, a number of times, the officers who harass or intimidate people admit that these are [ordered] from the top. So, you cannot expect anything from the regime in Fiji,” Chaudhry said.

The former Prime Minister also said the international community needed to take a serious look at what was happening in Fiji.

According to Chaudhry, similar abuses have been happening in Fiji for a long time, but behind closed doors.

In the video, a man, widely identified as 24-year old Iowane Benedito, is beaten with metal and wooden poles. His shorts and underwear are removed, and he is left with several visible bruises at the end of the nine minute video. Benedito had earlier escaped from prison, and was met with several vengeful officers on his capture.

The Fiji Times reported that the mother of Benedito, Viriseini Sanawa, was sitting in a chair weeping as the newspaper met her. Asked how she reacted when she first found out about the video, she said:

“I knelt down and cried asking the Lord to give me peace.”

Benedito’s younger brother, Samisoni, begged his mother not to watch the video, but she did not follow his advice:

“My heart aches when I watch how my son was treated like an animal. I can’t rest because I did not expect that what cannot be done to any human being was done to my son” she said.

The 42-year old mother acknowledged that her son had done wrong, but she said she would have accepted him being locked up for a long time instead of being brutalised.

Anti-regime website Coupfourpointfive has now named an additional two officers who they claim participated in the abuse of Benedito and a 20-year-old man helping Benedito in his prison escape.

They have previously named another officer who allegedly took part in the torture. The blog alleged that there were police, army and corrections officers involved in the beating.

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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.