4 Dec 2006

Tonga soldiers slammed for brutality during riot investigations in NGO report

9:28 pm on 4 December 2006

A damning report which alleges youths in Tonga were systematically tortured and abused following the Nuku'alofa riot last month

says up to 40 children have been held in custody.

Angus McLean - a volunteer with the National Centre for Women and Children, alleges in the report that suspects suffered violence at the hands of the Tonga Defence Services and the police.

Margot Staunton reports.

"The report contains photographs of youths who it claims sustained head and facial injuries during arrest and in transit to the Nuku'alofa police station. One youth described how a soldier drove the butt of his pistol several times into the side of his head, then pointed the loaded gun at him, saying he deserved to die. Another described how prisoners suspected of arson were handcuffed for days on end, even when they ate or went to the toilet. One was found crying uncontrollably because his handcuffs had cut through his skin, exposing his wrist bones. The report says food is scarce in the prison cells, which are overcrowded, with poor sanitation and ventilation. It says the government must take urgent steps to address the serious human rights issues raised in the report. The Tonga Defence Services say the report lacks credibility because it's politically driven."