17 Mar 2004

Fiji court martial told soldiers not trained to distinguish legal and illegal orders

5:24 pm on 17 March 2004

A court martial in Fiji has heard that soldiers were not taught to distinguish between legal and illegal orders during basic training.

Radio Fiji reports that the admission came from military training officer, Major Inia Seruratu, at the trial of a second group of 23 soldiers charged with the November 2000 mutiny.

It was in response to a question from defence lawyer Sevuloni Valenitabua.

Defence lawyers are contending that the lack of training to distinguish between legal and illegal orders could be the reason for the mutiny.

They are arguing that the soldiers were simply following the orders of their superiors, which, in their opinion, does not amount to mutiny.

30 prosecution witnesses have so far given evidence with most of them saying the rebel soldiers who attacked the army coup on November 2nd, 2000 with automatic weapons wanted the removal of the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

the first group of soldiers found guilty of mutiny by a court martial last year, including their leader Captain Shane Stevens, are now serving their sentences.

The rebel unit, better known as the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit set up by Sitiveni Rabuka after his 1987 coups, has been disbanded.