Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[pima.nius] NZ: Democracy group files police complaint against Mara over alleged torture

2:29 PM |

Title – 7543 NZ: Democracy group files police complaint against Mara over alleged torture
Date – 20 July 2011
Byline – None
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, 20/7/11
Copyright – CDF/PMW
Status – Unabridged
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DEMOCRACY GROUP FILES POLICE COMPLAINT AGAINST MARA OVER ALLEGED TORTURE

AUCKLAND (Coalition for Democracy in Fiji/Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji has filed a criminal complaint with the police against former Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara for his alleged role in the torture of hundreds of Fiji citizens

The CDF is adamant that those like Ratu Tevita Mara who are accused of serious allegations of torture on Fiji civilians must be held to account in an independent, impartial and fair justice system.

The New Zealand justice system, under the NZ Crimes of Torture Act (1989), and the UN Convention against Torture, which NZ has ratified, provides for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of crimes against torture committed outside New Zealand by non-New Zealand citizens.

Ratu Tevita, who fled Fiji to Tonga on May 20 after facing charges of sedition, was recently granted a five-day New Zealand entry visa by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite strong opposition from pro-democracy and human rights groups in New Zealand and Fiji.

Spokesperson Nik Naidu said CDF had been ready for Mara's arrival in New Zealand late last night.

"It is the legal duty of the NZ police, under the Crimes of Torture Act to investigate Ratu Tevita as a matter of public interest, as New Zealand guards and safeguards its human rights protections and minimum standards against its neighbours' flagrant actions against and assaults on human rights of its citizens," said Naidu.

CDF said that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mara has allegedly committed an act of torture in Fiji, and therefore it is incumbent on the NZ police to immediately launch an impartial and effective investigation in compliance with the obligations and duties under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 and Crimes Act".

Naidu cautions "that the torture and human rights abuse by the military that is arbitrary and prevalent against defenceless Fiji civilians will only stop if governments such as NZ are prepared to honour their commitment and legal obligation under international and domestic human rights laws to prosecute those such as Ratu Tevita Mara for alleged crimes of torture".

CDF said that the filing of the police complaint against Tevita Mara was based on several grounds:
- Regardless of the rank or position of the person(s). If they are alleged to have been involved directly or indirectly in the torture of Fijian civilians, they will be subject to the lodgment of criminal complaints under the relevant NZ laws, once they enter NZ jurisdiction.

- After the first military coup in 1987, the military coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka gave himself and his supporters immunity from prosecution. The same applied in the coup of 2000, and prior to the abrogation of the Fiji 1997 constitution in 2009, the former Fijian President passed a decree giving everyone involved in the coup blanket immunity. The military regime is in the process of drafting a new Constitution, which among its key provisions will give those involved in the coup and in the formation of the regime immunity from prosecution. This will irrevocably mean that those such as Tevita Mara and others like him accused of alleged torture will never be held to account in a court of law in Fiji, under the proposed new Constitution.

- It is imperative therefore that a strong message be sent to those in the military regime that in countries such as NZ that has existing laws that allow for the arrest and prosecution for crimes against torture, there will be no immunity against such crimes, despite giving themselves immunity in Fiji.

Ultimately, the aim of this criminal complaint against Ratu Tevita Mara is to stop the use of torture by the military regime against Fiji civilians.

Naidu said that on the domestic and international stage, New Zealand, despite its relative size, had a proud and pioneering history of advocating and defending human rights.

Therefore the NZ government in protecting its domestic and importantly international reputation as being a defender of human rights cannot allow political expediency to dictate how it treats the criminal complaint against Ratu Tevita Mara.

To allow those like Tevita Mara, allegedly accused of gross human rights abuse and  torture to enter and leave New Zealand with impunity will send a dangerous signal to that the NZ government provides a safe haven for those accused and involved in crimes of torture.

* See other PMC reports on Ratu Mara's visit to NZ on Pacific Scoop.

* Comment on this item pmediawa@aut.ac.nz 

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