Human Rights and SGBV Training for Fiji Police in the Eastern Division

June 13, 2022

Police Commissioner, Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho 

New Zealand High Commissioner Secretary, Courtney Rose

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Regional Office in Pacific Deputy Head, Stefano Sensi

Distinguished guests, participants, colleagues and friends 

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I am extremely delighted to be here this morning to say a few words – let me just say that this is my first visit to this beautiful town and yesterday (Sunday), I took to the 99 steps and visited some of the historic sites and hope to see more of the place before I leave. 

Let me just say that this training and talanoa event would not have been possible without the generous support from the Government of New Zealand. 

UNDP’s support to the Fiji Police Force has been rooted in two key pillars – first, the prevention of torture, and  second - addressing violence against women and children.

As the first point of contact with the formal justice system, it is imperative that the Fiji Police Force has the capacity to carry out its mandate in a transparent, accountable, and effective manner ensuring access to justice for all.

Let me briefly talk about these issues, so you can understand why the Fiji Police Force, UNDP and NZ High Commission have agreed to address these two matters as a priority. 

The Prevention of Torture: First Hour Procedure and Video Recording of Interviews

The 2014 National Report submitted to the Human Rights Council acknowledged allegations of torture and police brutality in Fiji. And following the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in 2016, the Government of Fiji has taken an obligation to address the issue of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. 

Based on national consultations (also supported by UNDP), all justice sector stakeholders including the Fiji Police Force, Judicial Department, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the Legal Aid Commission and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission identified two priority criminal justice issues related to prevention of torture:  

  1. rights of person during arrest and detention by the police (the First-Hour Procedure) 
  2. rights of person during the interview by the police (Video-Recorded Interviews)

To address this issue, UNDP supports strengthening the early access to justice processes in criminal proceedings across the justice sector to ensure individual rights are upheld, reduction in pre-trial detention and the promotion of transparent and accountable police practices. I hope you will learn more about this in the coming days. 

On Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Violence against women and children, whether it is intimate partner violence or sexual violence in broader societal settings, is a violation of human rights. In the Pacific Region, GBV is reported at near epidemic levels, and the percentage of women in Kiribati, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who have reported experiences of sexual violence in their life is reported as averaged between 60 and almost 70 percent. 

The Fiji Five-Year and Twenty-Year National Development Plan: Transforming Fiji notes that sexual and gender-based violence is of particular concern to the country and outlines several areas of engagement for the Fiji Police Force to focus on in its development. 

Despite this and other numerous national and international commitments, most women who experience intimate partner violence do not seek help from police, other authorities or services. Research conducted in Fiji has revealed that 60 percent of women surveyed faced difficulties in reporting alleged domestic violence to the police as ‘police told them to resolve the issue within the family or village or the police did not take what they said seriously’. 

Of the women who reported their cases to the police, 50 percent said they felt safe in the police station; 18 percent said the police had sexually harassed or threatened them; 38 percent were referred to other services such as safe housing, medical and counselling services; and 40 percent said the police tried to act as counsellors and reconcile them with their partner, refused to take any action following their complaint, and delayed serving the domestic violence restraining order. 

To address this urgent issue, UNDP supports FPF and other justice stakeholders to improve availability, accessibility, responsiveness and quality of the services provided to the survivors of the violence. I am glad that we have many partners in this room, from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women, MSP and others who are integral part of the solutions, so you will be able to hear about process from first hands and ask any questions that may arise during this training. This is a precious occasion to fight social stigma and concretely discuss ways to improve prevention and response to GBV, let’s all use this opportunity to ensure women do not fear to report and can live a life without violence.

I am also very pleased that this pilot training is a result of the partnership between OHCHR and UNDP, where each agency can bring strong expertise and practicality of the application of the human rights obligations in law enforcement. 

With these words, I wish you all a productive two days and I look forward to learning of the outcome of the workshop and consultation.

Vinaka vakalevu.