31 Mar 2010

Vanuatu government defends VMF activities in face of criticism

11:32 am on 31 March 2010

The Vanuatu Government has partly defended the activities of the police paramilitary unit, the Vanuatu Mobile Force, despite a damning report from the Coroner, Judge Nevin Dawson.

Justice Dawson had investigated the death of a prisoner after police had interrogated him and said the VMF had placed itself above the law.

Don Wiseman has more:

"The Coroner condemned the lack of a proper police investigation into the man's death and the disappearance of another prisoner - two of a number who had been on the run for about a month. He recommended changes, including the government reining in the VMF. In its first official response to the report, the government says it's concerned at the criminal allegations and says the rule of law must prevail. It will review internal security practices and the need to harmonise that with human rights particularly when people are being detained and the right to innocence until proven guilty. But the government says circumstances at that time, that is, following a mass prison escape, required the law enforcement agencies to take urgent steps to recapture the detainees. The government is promising to improve interrogation procedures and better training for police staff. It will also implement legislation that clearly prescribes the functions of the VMF and its role in the country's internal security. And it is reassuring citizens, visitors and investors that law enforcement must equate with the right to protection under the law."