6 Apr 2021

MP slams arrest, detainment tactics in Fiji

7:31 pm on 6 April 2021

Fiji's Opposition has condemned the manner in which people are repeatedly arrested and detained in the country.

The concerns were raised in parliament following the arrest of a political activist last week over a post on social media the government claimed intended to bring about hatred or excite disaffection in the country.

Ben Padarath.

Ben Padarath. Photo: Facebook

Ben Padarath was detained by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and appeared in court charged with sedition.

He was also charged for attempting to defeat the course of justice, destroying evidence and disobedience of lawful orders.

Padarath was alleged to have acted with seditious intention or uttered seditious words by posting information relating to an ongoing investigation on Facebook by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

The state alleged Padarath intended to bring about hatred or excite disaffection against the administration of justice in the country.

He has also been accused of refusing to comply with a search warrant for his house.

But the National Federation Party said a person suspected of a crime should not be detained unless the "investigators honestly believe that the suspect is a flight risk or there is some other good reason for it".

NFP leader Biman Prasad said Fijian law enforcement agencies "seemed to believe they have a right to detain people for 48 hours any time they want".

The leader of Fiji's National Federation Party, Biman Prasad

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad Photo: RNZI

There must always be good reasons for depriving a person of their liberty, Prasad said.

"Fiji law enforcement agencies, including the police when enforcing curfew breaches, seem to believe they have a right to detain people for 48 hours any time they want.

"That is not true. That right exists only if it is necessary to use it."

Prasad criticised the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission for not speaking up on alleged breaches of human rights.

It was also the job of the Attorney-General and other government law officers, including the Legal Aid Commission, to speak up, he said.

"They too are supposed to protect people from loss of their rights."

Human Rights Commissioner Ashwin Raj said he had urged Padarath to lodge a complaint with his office if "he feels his rights have been violated".

"It is imperative that a court of law determines whether Mr Padarath's right to free speech has been violated and whether his rights as an arrested, detained and the accused person has been violated. If we are going to be an arbiter of who should be charged and who should not and for what reasons, then why are we not doing this in all cases?"

Padarath was remanded and was set to reappear in court next week.

Police in Suva following the election

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

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