Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

Fiji: Availability of state protection for Indo-Fijians, including protection available to women victims of sexual violence (2007 - 2009)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 18 November 2009
Citation / Document Symbol FJI103289.E
Related Document Fidji : information sur la protection offerte par l'État aux Indo-Fidjiens, notamment la protection offerte aux femmes victimes de violence sexuelle (2007-2009)
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Fiji: Availability of state protection for Indo-Fijians, including protection available to women victims of sexual violence (2007 - 2009), 18 November 2009, FJI103289.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50b744cc2.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to a March 2009 report by the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an international association of legal practitioners which works to promote judicial independence (n.d.), "the rule of law in Fiji is in dire straits" (IBAHRI, 7). Amnesty International (AI) states in a 2009 report on human rights in Fiji that, on 10 April 2009, the constitution of Fiji was abrogated and the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) were instituted (AI 2009, 6-7). According to AI, the PER grants authorities several powers, including censorship as well as the ability to detain individuals for extended periods, restrict the movement of persons and impose curfews (2009, 15). A professor of Development Studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji provided the following information on the abrogation of the constitution, the PER and the availability of state protection in correspondence with the Research Directorate:

… [T]he constitutional rights (including the Bill of Rights) of all Fiji citizens have been abrogated and the ‘Public Emergency Regulations' (PER) is in force. People live in fear of the security forces and are deprived of their fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and association. NGOs such as the Fiji Women's Rights Movement and the Fiji Womens Crisis Centre have to be especially cautious.

While prior to the December 2006 coup and even up to April 2009 when the Constitution was abrogated, one could say that on paper and by law, state protection was available to all citizens, now there is nothing except for the assurance of the unelected Prime Minister Commodore J.V. Bainimarama. There are issues in Fiji about the ‘Rule of Law' and the extent to which state protection is available to any individual or community.

… when some predominantly Indo-Fijian neighbourhood has been subjected to regular robberies and harassment, or there is a major violent robbery, it is not uncommon for Indo-Fijian victims and community leaders to appeal for the military to be brought out on to the streets. They usually say that they do not have much confidence in the police. (16 Oct. 2009)

According to the USP Professor, "[f]or a clear majority of Indo-Fijians there would be issues … obtaining police protection, if harassed" (16 Oct. 2009). The USP Professor further stated that the police "are generally incompetent, corrupt, poorly trained and equipped, and ineffective" (16 Oct. 2009). A 2009 Overseas Security Advisory Council report on crime and safety provides the following information on the Fijian police force:

Unfortunately, since the coup, many senior and experienced police officers have left the force. The current police commissioner is the former deputy military commander and has no previous civilian law enforcement experience. The coup has also negatively affected training and equipment assistance that the police previously received from foreign donors. The organization has problems with equipment shortages and possesses only semi-effective criminal investigative units. Street-level patrols and police response to serious incidents are hampered by transportation, communication, and manpower limitations. Police officers in Fiji are not armed, and few carry batons or handcuffs.

… Callers requesting police services are routinely told that police cannot respond for lack of transportation…. Expatriate residents of Fiji often voice their frustration at the amount of time it takes the police to respond to emergency calls. There have also been numerous instances when the police have arrived during the commission of a crime, but because they were out-numbered and out-armed, were not able to make arrests or summon reinforcements. (US 11 Aug. 2009)

Media reports state that, in 2009, police commissioner Esala Teleni launched a Christian crusade within the Fijian police force (ABC 24 June 2009; Stuff.co.nz 22 Feb. 2009) urging all police personnel to participate regardless of their religion (ABC 24 June 2009). Most Indo-Fijians are Hindu (Freedom House 2009; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 2c). Stuff.co.nz, a New Zealand news and information website (stuff.co.nz 20 Aug. 2008), reports that Teleni stated on Fiji TV that any Indo-Fijian police officers "who oppose his Christian mission will be booted out of the force" (ibid. 22 Feb. 2009).

Freedom House and the United States (US) Department of State indicate that there were attacks on Hindu temples in 2008 (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 2c; Freedom House 2009).

According to Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), "Indo-Fijians are marginalized in most spheres…" (n.d.). Freedom House provides the following information on relations between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians:

Race-based discrimination is pervasive, and indigenous Fijians receive preferential treatment in education, housing, land acquisition, and other areas; some jobs are open only to them. Discrimination and political and economic troubles have caused more than 120,000 Indo-Fijians to leave Fiji since the late 1980s. (2009)

The US Department of State's Background Note on Fiji states that "Indo-Fijians … dominate the professions and commerce while ethnic Fijians dominate government and the military" (May 2009). Freedom House corroborates that Indo-Fijians are heavily involved in commerce (2009). With respect to political offices, Fiji Government Online reports that, according to the Fiji Sun, the position of president can now be filled by an individual of any race, not just indigenous Fijians (10 Aug. 2009). Of the 72 seats in Fiji's House of Representatives, 19 are reserved for Indo-Fijians (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 3; Freedom House 2009). A 17 April 2009 article from Fiji Government Online states that, according to Fiji TV, Military Commander Frank Bainimarama stated that the position of ombudsman is to remain vacant.

Information on protection available to Indo-Fijian women victims of sexual violence could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) for Fiji states that violence against women is "common" (n.d.). According to Freedom House,

[d]iscrimination and violence against women are widespread. The number of rape, child abuse, and incest cases continues to rise. Women's groups claim that many offenders use traditional reconciliation mechanisms and bribery to avoid punishment. (2009)

According to SIGI, Fijian women are not adequately protected "often because the law is not applied consistently in day-to-day reality" (n.d.). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 notes that there were inconsistencies in the sentences of individuals who were prosecuted for rape (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Spousal rape is not criminalized (ibid.).

The USP Professor provided the following information in correspondence with the Research Directorate:

Assault and rape within marriage tend to be ignored by the police even though a previous Commissioner of Police had agreed to ‘zero tolerance' against domestic violence and sexual abuse. Women have been assaulted and even murdered by their husbands or partners even when the courts have instituted ‘restraining orders'.

Police are supposed to investigate and prosecute those who commit rape and assault in Fiji, which they do but not effectively. Police as a rule do not provide protection for women in cases of rape and assault.

Police may themselves intimidate and even assault women… [.] (16 Oct. 2009)

In a 12 February 2009 Fiji Times Online article, the coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre stated that the crisis centre's records reveal greater numbers of cases of domestic violence than do police records.

Fiji Government Online and the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) state that, in August 2009, a Decree on Violence Against Women and Children came into effect (Fiji 4 Aug. 2009; FBC 10 Aug. 2009). The decree is aimed at addressing and preventing domestic violence (Fiji 4 Aug. 2009; FBC 10 Aug. 2009). Further information on the implementation and the effectiveness of this decree could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 2009. "Fiji: Paradise Lost." (ASA 18/002/2009) [Accessed 9 Nov. 2009]

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 24 June 2009. "Concerns Raised Over Fiji Police Christian 'Crusade'." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC). 10 August 2009. "Police Reminds of 'Domestic Violence Decree'." (Radio Fiji Two) [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

Fiji Government Online. 10 August 2009. "Mon - Aug 10 '09." [Accessed 13 Oct. 2009]

_____. 4 August 2009. "Cabinet Approves Domestic Violence Decree." [Accessed 3 Nov. 2009]

_____. 17 April 2009. "Fri - Apr 17 '09." [Accessed 13 Oct. 2009]

Fiji Times Online. 12 February 2009. Harold Koi. "Domestic Violence." <&lt;http://www.fijitimes.com.fj/story.aspx?ref=archive&id=114134> [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

Freedom House. 2009. "Fiji." Freedom in the World 2009. <&lt;http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2009&country=7607> [Accessed 7 Oct. 2009]

International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI). March 2009. "Dire Straits: A Report on the Rule of Law in Fiji." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

_____. N.d. "About the IBA." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2009]

Minority Rights Group International (MRGI). N.d. "Indo-Fijians." World Directory of Minorities. [Accessed 14 Oct. 2009]

Professor of Development Studies, University of the South Pacific (USP). 16 October 2009. Correspondence.

Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). N.d. "Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Fiji." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

Stuff.co.nz. 22 February 2009. Michael Field. "Fiji Police Chief Attacks Indian Police Officers." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

_____. 20 August 2008. "About Stuff." [Accessed 2 Nov. 2009]

United States (US). 11 August 2009. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Fiji 2009 Crime and Safety Report. [Accessed 9 Nov. 2009]

_____. May 2009. Department of State. "Background Note: Fiji." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2009]

_____. 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Fiji." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 7 Oct. 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact three other professors at the University of the South Pacific (USP), a representative of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, a representative of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, a Simon Fraser University (SFU) professor specializing in the South Pacific, a representative of the Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF), an official with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Fiji, a representative of the Sydney Fiji Times and an official with the Fiji Human Rights Commission were unsuccessful. A professor at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Asia and the Pacific was unable to provide information.

Internet sites, including: Asia Observer, Asia Society, Asia Times Online, Asian Human Rights Comission (AHRC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Fiji Law Reform Commission, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Division for the Advancement of Women, UN Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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