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11 November 2022

Human Rights group slams Fijian police after the arrest of US man

Tuesday 3 May 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Human Rights group slams Fijian police after the arrest of US man
Nalini Singh Photo: Supplied/FWRM

A human rights group has criticised the actions of Fijian police saying officers breached the basic rights of a man they recently arrested.

NGO Coalition on Human Rights(NGOCHR) has expressed concern over a video uploaded to Facebook on April 26th which showed footage of a fruit seller being hauled by police from his stall and shoved into the back of a police vehicle on Suva's main street.

The man arrested is American Andrew Irvin, a research fellow who collaborates with the University of the South Pacific (USP) and was a PhD student until 2019.

He has since been released but was charged with the indecent annoyance of president Wiliame Katonivere.

NGOCHR Chief executive Nalini Singh said the man was imprisoned for over 48 hours from the time of the arrest.

"The actions of some Fijian police are infringing on the rights of individuals and silencing the voice of citizens.

It exposed cracks in the nation's democracy, she said.

Around the same week of the incident, the Fiji police had a two-day human rights training led by the UN Human Rights Pacific.

Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho said the police force planned to establish a dedicated Human Rights Cell which will independently investigate and report on complaints against Police officers regarding the breach of human rights.

Fiji Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho
Fiji Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho Photo: Fiji police

The University of the South Pacific's union president in Fiji said the violence police used against Irvin during a recent arrest was inexcusable.

"We are horrified at the physical violence. I've heard from friends who said he was collating his takings for the day and he raised his pen to tell them to move on and it was interpreted as disrespectful," USP Spokesperson Elizabeth Fong said.

Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho was reluctant to speak to RNZ Pacific, but said: "the matter is before the courts and that it would be improper to be talking about the issue."

He would not confirm details of the arrest, and instead referred RNZ Pacific to the Fiji courts.

The hearing for Andrew Irvin will be held in June.