March 11, 2013

UN calls for independent investigation into Fiji beating

Published: 12:04PM 
Monday March 11, 2013 Source: ONE News

The United Nations has called on the Fijian government to "swiftly and effectively" investigate the beating of two men captured on tape and posted online last week.

It also called for an independent inquiry into the abuse which was shown in a nine minute video, documenting two men being repeatedly beaten with poles, as they lie huddled on the ground handcuffed and screaming in agony.

The video caused outrage across the Pacific, and prompted Fijian authorities to launch an investigation into the incident.

It is understood that the person at the centre of the abuse is escaped prisoner, Iowane Benedito, who was recaptured in November. The second victim is reportedly a man accused of harbouring him.

Sources have told ONE News the men carrying out the beating are army, police and prison officers.

Today the United Nations issued a statement saying it was "shocked by the content" of the video, saying it showed "torture, inhuman and degrading treatment" of the two men.

"While the circumstances surrounding the video have not yet been ascertained, the acts being carried out in it are clearly illegal, and we condemn them in the strongest terms," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

The video, which has since been taken down, shows a handcuffed man being physically and sexually assaulted, beaten and humiliated by a group of men while lying helpless in the back of a pick-up truck.

The terrified man is repeatedly struck on his feet, legs, body and head with a number of different implements, including a length of rubber pipe, a metal rod, a stick and a hammer.

A second handcuffed man is shown sitting on the ground nearby and is also struck on his body, legs and head with a stick and a rod. A dog is encouraged by its handler to seize him by the shirt and drag him several metres across the ground.

The UN statement said it welcomed the commitment by the Fijian police to establish the facts of the case, but went further saying it urged the government to "ensure the apparent serious human rights violations are swiftly and effectively investigated by an impartial and competent authority", and the findings made public.

"We also call on the authorities to ensure that perpetrators - who are clearly visible in the video and should be easily identifiable - are brought to justice, and that a concerted effort is made to ensure that this type of treatment is not repeated," Colville said.

"Victims of the abuse must have access to the necessary medical and psychological support, as well as redress."

He said the UN "stands ready to assist" the Fijian government in its efforts to eradicate torture and ill-treatment of prisoners.

"We will continue to follow this case closely as well as the outcome of the police investigations," he added.

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