A total of 191 (of which 61 were women) recruits of the Fiji Police Force received specialized human rights training to enhance their knowledge on various aspects of human rights such as prohibition against torture, anti-discrimination, first hour procedure, rights of a person detained, accused or arrested and safeguarding the rights of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The Basic Recruits Human Rights Training was organized by the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific in partnership with Fiji Police Force, UN Women Pacific, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), ILGA Oceania and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji at the Fiji Police Academy in Suva from 11 – 13 April 2022.
The new recruits of the Fiji Police Force received specialized training on the importance of early access to justice through the sessions provided by UNDP in collaboration with the Legal Aid Commission during the three-day human rights training for police recruits.
The Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific Regional Representative Heike Alefsen said in her opening remarks, “Law enforcement officers must be the first line of defense for the protection and promotion of human rights in Fiji. Police officers and law enforcement agencies that respect human rights reap benefits that advance the very objectives of law enforcement and contribute to building credible institutions that uphold professionalism, legality and non-discrimination.”
Through dedicated sessions on the use of force and prohibition of torture, cruel and inhumane treatment when dealing with suspects and detainees, the 191 recruits also received training on the principles of proportionality, legality, accountability and necessity when using reasonable force in their line of work.
The Assistant Police Commissioner, Mr. Surend Sami stated during the opening that all police officers should not only undergo human rights training but also implement the teachings in their daily line of work. “Public confidence in the reliability, legitimacy and integrity of state institutions and their law enforcement officials is the most valuable commodity of any peaceful society and the very foundation of democracy and the rule of law,” he remarked.
The recent 2021 OHCHR report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in selected Pacific Island Countries found that two out of three women on average in Fiji experience some form of violence in their lifetime. Transgender persons in particular are at risk of abuse. Through dedicated gender training by FWCC, the training also sought to sharpen approaches, dialogue and interactions of the new police officers with survivors of domestic violence. ILGA Oceania sensitised officers on communication and interaction with LGBTI persons, including how to conduct body searches of transgenders.
The three-day training also featured sessions for formal consultations with police officers led by Ministry of Women, towards formulating the National Action Plan on Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Fiji.
More specifically, the training sessions focused towards gaining a deeper understanding on the practical approaches to implementing the First Hour Procedure combined with real life examples on how best to protect the rights of citizens who are either arrested or detained.
“First Hour Procedure is vital because it enables the person to be aware of her/his rights and be treated in accordance with the law of human rights. Everyone has the right to protection and fair treatment no matter how the circumstances.”
“The arrested person has the basic human rights and they would need legal support. I would like to have further training as it is very important for every police officer to understand and practise First Hour Procedure.”
Rustam Pulatov, Project Manager for the UNDP Fiji Police Force Support Project funded by New Zealand Government, said that partnership across the justice and security sector is important for strengthening the access to justice.
“In the criminal process, the police, judiciary, prosecution and legal counselling all play their important role in justice service delivery. The Police is one of the key actors in this process, as it is the first formal institution both the accused and survivors encounter in their justice journey,” said Mr Pulatov.
UNDP and OHCHR will continue working in partnership to strengthen human rights based- and survivor centred- approach in the security and justice sector in Fiji.
The Fiji Police Force Director Training at the Police Academy, Senior Superintendent Vusonilawe Kasiano in closing the training workshop stated, “Police officers all too often consider human rights an obstacle to, rather than the foundation of, their work. It is important for all police officers to undergo these human rights training that is provided by OHCHR in cooperation with other UN agencies.”
“The trainings are necessary to change fixed draconian mindsets and to well-equip police officers to deal with challenges and serve the people better. However, trainings are futile if officers do not implement their knowledge on the ground. It is hoped that with these trainings, there is improved professionalism amongst the police officers and a marked decrease in the number of complaints concerning human rights violations and excessive use of force by the police.”
The police training aims to contribute to Fiji’s advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through strengthening SDG5 for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls and SDG16 to advance peace, justice and strong institutions.
For media queries, please contact:
Releshni Karan, National Legal Adviser for the Pacific, Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Yee, National Project Support Specialist | UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | Email: email@example.com