6 Dec 2015

Fiji lawyer lives in fear as friends 'tortured'

10:51 am on 6 December 2015

A Fiji lawyer says he's living in fear after receiving threats over his involvement in high profile sedition cases in the country.

no caption

Photo: Fiji Government

Aman Ravindra-Singh is representing dozens of people who've been brought before the courts in recent months, some accused of trying to set up a sovereign Christian state in Fiji and others alleged to have taken part in a para-military style group.

The Lautoka-based lawyer says the threats have included three attacks, by men he believes are members of Fiji's security forces, on people close to him in recent weeks.

Two of the attacks happened within hours of each other in Nadi on the night of November 21.

Claims employee injected, stomped on

One of the victims, Mr Ravindra-Singh's employee, was bundled into a car and driven into the bush where for two hours he was subjected to acts of torture including being stomped on, hit with a rod, pricked with pins, and injected with liquid.

Mr Ravindra-Singh says the men were in plain clothes and their faces were covered but he says they were evidently members of the security forces.

"In all of these attacks the men had military boots on, they were well-trained, they were very fit. Apart from that it was the way spoke and it was the questions and also certain things such as 'why is he against the government' and 'you can tell him this is going to happen to him' and 'we're looking for him.'," said Mr Ravindra-Singh.

Mr Ravindra-Singh says he believes the aim of the threats is to stop him representing those accused in the sedition cases.

"In the last week I have been warned on a daily basis that my days are numbered. At the same time third parties have come out and said 'look we have certain people who are in the security forces, you need to watch your back and you need to be very careful, your office is under surveillance. There is a high level of fear in my office right now and I'm very concerned and I'm very worried," he said.

Mr Ravindra-Singh says he and his staff are very fearful after three attacks but he says he will not be put off the cases.

"Litany" of human rights abuse

Mr Ravindra-Singh says he is also concerned at human rights abuses which are happening daily in Fiji and which he sees working as a lawyer in Lautoka.

"In police stations around the country Fiji citizens are slapped, punched, kicked, intimidated, threatened, co-erced into giving confessions, sometimes not fed. There are a litany of cases," he said.

He says he has asked the UN Human Rights Office in Suva to observe what he sees happening in Lautoka but has been told they don't have the resources.

"It's absolute nonsense what the Fiji government says out there in support of human rights and it is absolutely a farce that the Fiji government receives praise from the United Nations and from the European Union because we are on the ground here and we are the ones putting up with the violation and breaches of human rights and I'm personally experiencing this on the ground," he said.

A Fiji government delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October last year outlined efforts the government was making in the area of human rights including police training.

After being urged to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture by several countries at the Universal Periodic Review meeting, the Fiji Parliament unanimously agreed to ratify the treaty in March this year.

Formal ratification of the treaty is still being awaited, though, and the government has indicated it wants several reservations placed.