18 Mar 2016

UN welcomes Fiji's ratification of anti-torture treaty

8:10 pm on 18 March 2016

The United Nations has welcomed Fiji's ratification of the Convention Against Torture but is urging it to go all the way.

Video footage of a man allegedly being beaten by Fiji security personnel in 2012.

Video footage of a man allegedly being beaten by Fiji security personnel in 2012 Photo: RNZ

Earlier this week Fiji became the 159th State to ratify the Convention which was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1984.

Head of the Pacific office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Suva, Catherine Phuong, said by ratifying UNCAT the Fiji government was signaling its clear intention to break with past practices.

She said it was an encouraging step with regard to the protection and promotion of human rights.

Fiji has placed some reservations on the definition of torture and Ms Phuong is urging the government to review and withdraw these in the near future.

"But actually when you look at the Fiji Constitution and in particular if you look at Section 11 of the Fiji Constitution, it does lay the basis for a prohibition of torture," Ms Phuong said.

"But it does not actually provide a definition of torture. It simply states that every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind. So we would strongly encourage the government to withdraw that reservation."

She said under international law, there was an absolute prohibition against torture at any time, under any circumstances, and by removing all the reservations Fiji would show it was truly determined to eliminate the practice once and for all.

The office is strongly encouraging Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands to join the five Pacific states that have now ratified UNCAT.

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