Following reports that the military is clamping down on activists to prevent a peaceful protest planned for 4 March in Suva, Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about the ongoing crackdown on human rights in Fiji. About 50 percent of Fiji’s population share an Indian ancestry.
At least 10 politicians, trade unionists, government critics and other Fijians have been arbitrarily arrested and subjected to severe beatings and other forms of torture and ill-treatment in the last two weeks at the hands of the Fijian military.
Although they have all been released there are fears that more people will be targeted in relation to the protest.
Activists in Fiji have told Amnesty International that the climate of fear among the people has increased in recent days.
“Soldiers have been seen marching around Suva’s suburbs and groups of five to seven, in full uniform, were near the supposed venue for the march.
“There is a sad apprehension that a clampdown on pro-democracy activists will begin soon,” one youth activist told Amnesty International.
“As we watch the wave of uprisings sweep across the Middle East and North Africa, closer to home, our neighbours in Fiji are facing violence and intimidation at the hands of the military for demanding the same thing – human rights change,” says Patrick Holmes, CEO of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand.
“People have the right to peacefully protest and have their voices heard wherever they are. But the military is attempting to stop at all costs any demonstrations from taking place.”
Following the release of Sam Speight last Thursday, at least two other politicians were detained and beaten at the army barracks on 26 February and released the next day.
On the same day, seven young men from a settlement on the outskirts of Suva were also reportedly tortured and ill-treated by the military, because they had been discussing plans for the 4 March demonstration.
Some human rights activists and family members who went to ask for the release of the seven young men were threatened and beaten by soldiers at the army camp.
The soldiers warned the young men that they would be killed if they spoke to anyone about their treatment at the camp.
No military officers have been officially investigated or charged over the beatings and neither the military nor the Ministry of Information have answered overseas media queries regarding these cases.
Nearly half of people in Fiji are of Indian origin, having either migrated to Fiji, or taken there as indentured labourers.