UN wants Fiji police to maintain human rights commitment
The United Nations hopes that Fiji police will maintain the commitment to human rights and accountability that had been fostered by Ben Groenewald.
The regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says it hopes Fiji's new acting police commissioner maintains his predecessor's commitment to accountability and human rights.
Ben Groenewald resigned suddenly from the post this week amid comments over the military's interference in the work of police.
His replacement is Sitiveni Qiliho who had been the Land Force's commander.
The OHCHR's acting head of office, Catherine Phuong, told Don Wiseman her office had developed close links with the Fiji police under Mr Groenewald.
CATHERINE PHUONG: Well our office has worked quite closely with the Fiji police force in the last few month and clearly Mr Ben Groenewald was instrumental in efforts to promote the culture of respect for human rights within the Fiji police force. I think he was also very focused in his efforts to ensure accountability for past cases of police ill treatment. And he was really a good partner for our office and I have to say we are sad to see him leave. Now the reasons for his resignation are not entirely clear but it is true that he has recently expressed concerns about interference from the military. Now the position from our office remains the same. I think for us the bottom line is really that there should be no impunity for acts of ill-treatment. The video of the two men being beaten by law enforcement officers as I remember has shocked many people both in Fiji and abroad. And this is really a test case and we are encouraged to see that five men were finally charged in this case and that took a long time. And we continue to call on the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
DON WISEMAN: How confident are you that this degree of cooperation and investigation will continue?
CP: Well we haven't met with the acting police commissioner yet so I don't think it would be appropriate to comment at this stage. But our office is encouraging him to pursue efforts to promote accountability at all levels within the Fiji police force and to prevent future cases of abuse. So we look forward to our ongoing cooperation with the Fiji police force and with the acting police commissioner.
DW: As you say there is this level of accountability that has become apparent in recent time particularly under Mr Groenewald. Do you fear that this is now going to disappear?
CP: I hope that the work initiated by the previous police commissioner will continue. We have been involved in several human rights trainings for the police in the last few months. And even just a couple of weeks ago our office delivered another police training on human rights at the police training academy. And we had top officers from the Fiji police force participating on the last day. And I have noticed that many of them are fully committed to human rights and to the principle of accountability within the Fiji police force. And they know that the Fijian people expect that for them and so I hope that this will continue and I know that there is still a lot of work to do.
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