Rights front and centre of Police training

The Ministry of Police is dedicating five days' training to improving their respect for human rights when dealing with suspects - an exercise they are carrying out in partnership with their counterparts from Fiji. 

The first day of training initiative was held at the Millennia Hotel yesterday and facilitated by trainers from the Fiji Police Force.

It is being supported by the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P.) in partnership with the British High Commission.

The training aims to educate 25 participants from the Samoan Police Service (six women and 19 men) about international human rights and in policing and the specifics of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Acts of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (U.N.C.A.T.).

The participants are being given a demonstration of techniques that have been adopted in Fiji, such as the "first-hour" procedure (which aims to connect suspects with legal representatives), video-recording interviews and investigative interviewing techniques, including in cases involving vulnerable witnesses. 

According to the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, Samoan Police have moved forward in their regard for fundamental human rights.

“We can’t just arrest people for the sake of arresting,” he said.

“You make the investigations first then you make the arrest if there’s enough evidence and that you followed all procedures and you followed the law, then you make the arrest.”

Fuiavailiili said the force's new philosophy was a reversal of its practice in the past.

The new protocols also involve that Police Officers ensure that all rights of those being detained are given due respect and consideration. 

Fuiavailiili said ensuring the constitutionality of any arrest and its grounding in evidence was paramount

Police will also communicate with the Attorney General’s Office to make sure that everything they do is legal before handcuffs are produced.

“The Attorney General’s office has to be [assured]; that it’s constitutional as well that there is enough evidence to prosecute the case and make sure that it goes beyond reasonable doubt” the Commissioner said.

The new protocols require the Investigating Officer, their supervisor and the person in charge of the jail to sign off when making an arrest.

Without the assent of all three parties, the arrest cannot take place. 

“Just because somebody’s under arrest or being detained doesn’t mean that we abuse them,” Commissioner said.

“We still have to respect them because that’s somebody else’s brother, sister, father and so on.”

Fuiavailiili underscored the importance of the training with reference to the case of a man who was unlawfully arrested at the markets in an apparent breach of rights. 

“It’s good for a reality check and a reminder as well,” he said. 

That's why we continuously do this type of training .”

The Commissioner is urging leaders to educate the people especially when it comes to Police matters into exactly what they need to do.

“Do your job, document everything and [stress] discipline and you’ll be okay,” he said. 

The Fiji Police Force is pleased to share their experience of their efforts to implement the Convention according to a visiting facilitator, Fiji’s Assistant Police Commissioner, Itendra Nair. 

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