3 Jan 2007

Fiji's military commander makes no apology for treatment of activists

4:37 pm on 3 January 2007

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Bainimarama has told the Fiji Times that he makes no apology for the treatment of five pro-democracy activists allegedly beaten by the military early Christmas Day.

But the Times reports that when questioned as to why the women were not just spoken to instead of beating, the Commodore said he did not know they were beaten and couldn't comment because he wasn't there.

The demonstrators which included Fiji Women's Rights Movement Executive Director Virisila Buadromo were taken from their homes, and allegedly subjected to physical and verbal assault, before being sent back to Suva in the rain.

Television pictures subsequently show one demonstrator wearing a neck brace and sporting what appeared to be a facial injury.

Meanwhile, Ms Buadromo who is one of the five whose had an international travel ban placed on her would not comment on the incident.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Council for International Development, or CID, is condemning the Fiji military's use of violence against five Fijians and the commander's unwillingness to apologise for it.

The CID's executive director, Rae Julian, says the mistreatment could be seen as a form of torture and is calling on the military to reinstate human rights.

"We are expressing our solidarity with our colleagues in Fiji and are saying that we support their rights to speak out and speak in support of human rights and democracy. And we are calling for an immediate restoration of just the basic principles of human rights in Fiji."