18 Feb 2017

Man dies in Fiji police cell; Mother claims he was beaten

1:58 pm on 18 February 2017
Fiji's Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho. April 2016.

Fiji's Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho. Photo: Fiji PM's YouTube channel.

The mother of a Fiji teenager who died in police custody on Thursday says her son was beaten in yet another case of police brutality in the country.

Ashwini Nand told the Fiji Times that her son, Vikarant, was arrested on Wednesday morning for breaching a domestic violence restraining order against him.

She said that when her son was supposed to appear in court he did not show up, and she went to the police station to find that Mr Nand was still there.

Ms Nand said her son told her that he had been beaten up by officers in the cells, and that he could not swallow food properly as a result of his injuries.

She told the newspaper that when she inquired with officers as to why he had not been taken to court, she was told that they had other investigations and a directive had come from police headquarters.

Ms Nand said she returned to the station on Thursday evening and, after waiting two hours, was told her son had died in the police cell.

In a separate interview with Fiji Village, she said she was told her son had committed suicide, but that different officers at the Nakasi Police Station had given her different stories.

The police commissioner, Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho, said he was aware of the incident and had ordered an investigation.

But if Mr Nand was beaten in custody, he will be the latest in a long line of incidents of police brutality in Fiji by a force that was recently condemned by Amnesty International as acting with impunity.

In a speech in October, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama conceded that torture was an issue in his country.