Fiji police making progress with torture video investigation
Fiji Police has confirmed some of its officers are being investigated over the brutal bashing of prisoners, which was caught on video.
When the video surfaced, police said they would investigate, but the interim prime minister, Commodore Bainimarama, said shortly afterwards that he would stick by his men. He said they could not be discarded just because they did their duty in looking after the security of Fiji and making sure people sleep peacefully at night.
Assistant Commissioner Police Rusiate Tudravu confirms that the men seen in the video beating the recaptured prisoners do appear to be members of the police, but he says the investigation needs to take its time and witness statements will now be forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Department for further action.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speakers: Rusiate Tudravu, Assistant Commissioner Police Rusiate Tudravu; Charlie Bezzina, former Victoria Police detective
TUDRAVU: Our investigators are doing further inquiries into that, analysing the video and then looking at people that have been identified, taking statements, those are the things that we’re currently doing.
HILL: So you’ve identified the people that were in the video conducting the beating?
TUDRAVU: Yeah, the thing is that we have to confirm the video tapes and the people and [inaudible].
HILL: Do we know which discipline force they were from, police, military, correction services?
BEZZINA: Yeah, I can confirm that there was some allegations on the police, eh, but we have to verify that through this investigation.
HILL: It’s taken awhile, this happened in March, it’s now December?
TUDRAVU: Yeah, you cannot speed up the investigation, it depends on them, because we need to, where we take this thing up for further level. We need to verify it, we do not rush this investigation.
HILL: It’s always a difficult thing investigating your own people, isn’t it?
TUDRAVU: It can be difficult, depends on the situation that we are facing, because we would like to have it… These are all individual clips, it’s not, we have to have get other independent witness into it. We cannot rely only video clips. We would like to be transparent in all the things that we do, should there [be] all these things that are coming up, we’ll investigate. And if anyone is found guilty or proven that there is evidence against him, then we’ll have to follow the normal channel that is in place with us.
HILL: Fiji’s Assistant Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu.
Meanwhile, former Victoria Police detective Charlie Bezzina, who has 38 years experience in force, says sometimes internal police investigations into allegations of brutality take a while. He believes Fiji Police are probably taking their time to ensure they do a thorough job.
BEZZINA: Well, it’s certainly good news, because if you want to get statements from all the players, what’s disappointing is the length of time it’s taken. Now, whether that was a situation that they couldn’t identify the people involved, but I think that was quite clear in the video that I saw. But unfortunately with witnesses and the passage of time, memories do deteriorate unfortunately.
HILL: Why would it take so long. This actually happened in March and it’s now December?
BEZZINA: Look, it could be any number of reasons. Ultimately, if they work under the premises that we do over here, you’ve really got get your powder dry in relation to what you’re going to be starting alleging, especially against your own people. So look, it’s not highly unusual and with all the deaths in police custody, fatal police shootings here that I’ve investigated. It would take a number of time. But clearly, that what’s paramount in any investigation one would do is to get those people who are involved from the services committed to statements within that first week and it’s taken this long, and that’s a little bit concerning.
HILL: There is, of course, a political aspect to this which is that the interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, came out with a statement a few days after this surfaced saying that he was going to look after their boys, that protects the civilians of Fiji. Would that have played a role in the decision making by the police?
BEZZINA: Oh, it may have done. It seems to me, comments such as that sounds a little bit biased towards his own people and I think it’s a bit of a carefree, throwaway comment to be making I think. If they want to be independent and be taken seriously, you just can’t be making comments like that and [you need to] have an independent body looking at the allegations.
HILL: It’s never easy when the disciplined forces investigate they’re own, is it?
BEZZINA: Well, it’s never easy, but then again, we’ve tried it over here, and we’ve been criticised about investigating our own. But who are the best people to investigate it? It’s a matter of you can look at foreign investigators that are ex-police force, well, that’s one avenue you can have, but then they don’t have powers to do the investigations as a sworn police officer can. So there are pros and cons in relation to investigating your own, absolutely.