7 Feb 2007

American Samoa Senators challenge bill allowing customs officers to strip search suspected smugglers

10:30 am on 7 February 2007

American Samoa Senators have raised objections to a provision in a new customs bill under review in the Fono that would authorize customs officers to conduct strip searches of people if there's reasonable suspicion that they are carrying contraband.

Senator Pulefaasisina Palauni Tuiasosopo was concerned that the provision would infringe on a person's privacy.

Senator Alo Stevenson did not agree that customs officers should make the call on what INS considered reasonable suspicion.

He said conditions must be imposed to ensure that before a strip search is carried out, there is sound justification.

Senator Muagutitia Vaiula also objected to giving customs officers such authority.

He said he would not allow his daughter or himself to be strip searched and believed that only medical doctors should be able to make bodily searches of a person suspected of carrying prohibited substances

Senator Tuiagamoa Tavai, on the other hand, said he did not believe the proposal to be unreasonable.

He said customs officials must be given the full authority to conduct searches of cargo and people to stop the smuggling of prohibited materials into the territory.