According to Section 8 of the 2013 Constitution of Fiji: "Every person has the right to life, and a person must not be arbitrarily deprived of life." The Constitution also protects the rights to security and to freedom from inhumane treatment:
(1) Every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.
(2) Every person has the right to security of the person, which includes the right to be free from any form of violence from any source, at home, school, work or in any other place.S. 11(1) and (2), 2013 Constitution of Fiji.
Under Section 18:
(1) Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, demonstrate, picket and to present petitions.
(2) To the extent that it is necessary, a law may limit, or may authorise the limitation of, the right mentioned in subsection (1)—
(a) in the interests of national security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the orderly conduct of elections;
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of others....
The Constitution further provides that the Fiji Police Force "established under a written law continues in existence"S. 129(1), 2013 Constitution of Fiji.and that "A written law may prescribe provisions relating to the Fiji Police Force."S. 129(1), 2013 Constitution of Fiji.Similar provisions apply to the Fiji Corrections Service.S. 130(1) and (9), 2013 Constitution of Fiji.
The Constitution does not specifically address the use of force by the Fiji Police Force or Corrections Service, which are dealt with in national legislation and administrative regulations.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||No|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Pacific nations can adhere despite discussions going back decades as to the possibility of establishing a regional mechanism.
Police Use of Force
The Fiji Police Force is governed by the Constitution, national law, and administrative regulations. Section 10(2) of the 2009 Criminal Procedure Decree stipulates that if a person forcibly resists an arrest, or attempts to evade an arrest, a police officer may use "all means necessary to effect the arrest".
With respect to the use of firearms, Section 9(3) of the Public Order Act (as amended by the 2012 Public Order Amendment Decree) provides as follows:
Any police officer, if in his or her opinion such action is necessary for the public safety, after giving due warning, may use such force as he or she considers necessary, including the use of arms, to disperse the procession, meeting or assembly and to apprehend any person present thereat, and no police officer nor any person acting in aid of such police officer using such force shall be liable in criminal or civil proceedings for any harm or loss caused by the use of such force.
These provisions do not comply with international law and standards, which provide that firearms may only be used where an imminent threat exists to life or of serious injury or a grave and impending threat exists to life and less-lethal force will be ineffective.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Use of force in prisons is governed by the 2006 Prisons and Corrections Act. Specifically, Section 40(1) provides that officers may not use force against any prisoner, except:
(a) for self-defence or the defence of any person;
(b) in the event of an escape, or attempted escape; or
(c) when a prisoner uses actual or passive resistance to any officer acting in the lawful discharge of his or her duty.
Where the use of force is permitted under subsection 1, an officer
may not use more force than is necessary in the circumstances, and must make an immediate report of all relevant matters to the officer in charge.
Under Section 41(1) of the 2006 Act, firearms may only be used for the purpose of preventing:
(a) any escape or attempted escape, if the use of arms is the only means of preventing the escape;
(b) any combined outbreak or any attempt to force or break open any door, gate, enclosure, wall or fence of a prison, if the use of arms is the only means of preventing such actions; or
(c) any violence to a prisons officer or other person, if the officer or person is in danger of bodily harm.
In addition, subsection 2 requires that warnings be given "before resort is had to the use of arms", and that when firearms are discharged, "the objective shall be to disable rather than kill, as far as practicable".
These provisions do not comply with international law and standards.
There is no independent external police oversight body in Fiji.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Fiji adhered to the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2018 and only signed and ratified the 1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2016.
In its 2014 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under the Human Rights Council, Fiji stated its new legal framework under the 2013 Constitution "allowed steps to be taken to ensure that police procedures were modernized and made more transparent." Fiji acknowledged that torture during interrogation had been a longstanding problem in the country, "owing to cultural misconceptions inherited from attitudes prevalent in Europe within living memory".Report of the Working Group on the UPR, UN doc. A/HRC/28/8, 17 December 2014, para. 18.
It was further reported that the police had
acknowledged deficiencies in police investigations and aspects of police culture that in the past had excused or ignored police brutality, and that training was needed in the areas of domestic violence and interrogations. Specialized organizations had been invited to cooperate with relevant Fijian agencies in the provision of such training so as to improve the human rights standing of the criminal justice system in Fiji. In further response to concerns raised about assaults and brutality in police custody, the delegation explained that, in cases in which evidence had been obtained by means of assault by the police, the prosecution would not continue and the matter would be referred to the Commissioner of Police for investigation and possible criminal charges against the officers. Such cases had most recently resulted in the prosecution and conviction of three police officers who had been convicted of murder by joint enterprise, and two who had been convicted of being accessories after the fact when a young man had died in police custody.Report of the Working Group on the UPR, UN doc. A/HRC/28/8, 17 December 2014, para. 19.
There is no regional human rights mechanism governing acts by law enforcement agencies in Fiji.
In its 2014 UPR, Fiji responded to questions and recommendations from Germany, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea on human rights violations, in particular alleged torture and ill-treatment by the police. Fiji stated that,
in cases in which complaints were made to the police, and in which the Director of Public Prosecutions determined that there was sufficient evidence for prosecution, the perpetrators had been prosecuted. Indeed, some were currently serving terms of imprisonment for such acts....Report of the Working Group on the UPR, UN doc. A/HRC/28/8, 17 December 2014, para. 17.