March 12, 2013

Oman Daily Observer: Fiji leader shrugs off ‘torture’ video

Sat, 09 March 2013

SUVA — Fiji’s military leader vowed to stick by his men yesterday, dismissing international concerns about an online video that appears to show two men being tortured by officials. The graphic footage posted on YouTube shows one handcuffed man being savagely beaten with batons and metal bars, and another being set upon by a dog as the animal’s handler encourages it. Radio New Zealand reported this week that police in the Pacific nation had determined the attackers in the video, which New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described as “alarming and disturbing”, were security personnel.

Fiji’s leader Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, said yesterday that he would stand by officers implicated in the video, which Amnesty suspects was taken last year and shows prison escapees being abused. “At the end of the day, I will stick by my men, by the police officers or anyone else that might be named in this investigation,” he told news website Fijivillage in his first comments on the video. “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.”

The nine-minute clip, which appears to have been shot with a mobile phone, shows a man being repeatedly struck with bars and batons while he lies in the back of a pick-up truck. Later in the video, a man hammers at the victim’s ankle with the edge of a metal rod and he is shown stripped down to a T-shirt, with raised welts visible on his thighs and buttocks as he curls in a foetal position to protect himself. Another man is dragged around a field by a dog latched onto the collar of his bloodied shirt as his attackers laugh, then falls to his knees as he is punched in the head numerous times.

“Amnesty International considers the sort of abuse that appears to be shown in this video to be torture,” the human rights watchdog’s New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon said last week. Amnesty has called for an independent investigation into the video, which it says is “part of a long list of allegations of torture and beatings in Fiji”. Bainimarama said he was not concerned about demands from non-government organisations (NGOs).

“NGOs are paid by the international community to jump up and down every time we do something,” he said. “That’s their job, they’re paid to do that by the people that fund them. — AFP

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