9 Apr 2010

Academic calls for Vanuatu to disband VMF

4:07 pm on 9 April 2010

A New Zealand academic says Vanuatu's paramilitary police unit, the Vanuatu Mobile Force, should be disbanded.

The VMF has been strongly criticised in a Coroner's report into the death of a prisoner following an interrogation by VMF officers.

New Zealand judge, Justice Nevin Dawson, says the VMF had placed itself above the law.

He has since returned to New Zealand after he and his family had been intimidation following the report's release four weeks ago.

Professor Kevin Clements, who holds the chair in Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University in Dunedin, says the VMF should be shut down and New Zealand and Australia should utilise their leverage through development assistance to try and make this happen.

"I think there is ample justification for the New Zealand and Australian governments to make quiet representations to the government of Vanuatu to say that this force should be disbanded. And if they did any particular function that the police couldn't cope with that the police be given the powers to take over those functions from the VMF."

The New Zealand Law Society is encouraging the Vanuatu government and the country's police to follow through on the recommendations in the Coroner's report.

The Society's President, John Marshall, says Justice Dawson has acted with true judicial independence, acted fearlessly and told the story as it is, and the action he's called for needs to be followed through.

The police in any country, including Vanuatu, are required to uphold and enforce the law and not break it and take it into their own hands. I would really like the authorities in Vanuatu adopt the coroner's recommendations that homicide and assault inquiries be held to identify and prosecute the officers who had been involved.