Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Call for independent investigation into custody death

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission is calling on to the Fiji Police Force to independently investigate the death of an elderly woman during her caution interview at the Ba Police Station recently.

Commission chair Pravesh Sharma has expressed concern that the woman was not provided with medical treatment while in Police custody.

“The woman had collapsed during her caution interview and despite family members requesting to rush her to the hospital, Police instead allegedly declined the request of the family members, insisting that they were waiting for their official vehicle.”

“Sadly, the woman passed away before she could receive medical treatment.”

Sharma said Section 8 of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji stipulates that every person has the right to life, and a person must not be arbitrarily deprived of life.

“The Commission acknowledges that Police are empowered to receive complaints, investigate, interview, arrest and charge persons; however, in carrying out such functions, the Police have to ensure that the rights of accused persons are respected and complied with.”

He said a caution interview should be conducted on a day and time mutually suitable to the Police, the accused person, and his or her lawyer.

“The Police need to be mindful that caution interviews are stressful for the persons being interviewed; and moreso for elderly persons; and persons with pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

“The same applies to persons who have been charged and are detained in Police stations
while awaiting their first Court appearance.”

“Before commencing a caution interview, the interviewing officer should ask the person being interviewed, whether he or she is medically fit to continue with the interview.”

“If the person advises that he or she is not fit, then the person should be taken to hospital and the interview deferred.”

“At a caution interview, a lawyer should be allowed to object to questions which could incriminate his or her client.”

Sharma said amongst other conditions, section 13(1)(j) of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, requires that a person who is arrested or detained, if necessary, must be
provided with medical treatment.

“Section 13(1)(j) states: Every person who is arrested or detained has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including at least the
opportunity to exercise regularly and the provision, at State expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, and medical treatment.”

He said during a caution interview, if the person being interviewed only agrees to provide
his or her name and address, and thereafter exercises his or her right to remain silent, the Police should respect that right and terminate the interview and not continue to put questions to the person.

“For appropriate offences, Police should exercise their discretion and release charged persons on Police bail to enable them to attend Court at a later date.”

“If bail is refused, then the Police must record in writing the reasons for refusing bail and the written reasons must be conveyed to the accused person within 24 hours.”

Sharma further stated that Pursuant to the Bail Act 2002, for a person charged with an offence but yet to be convicted of it, there is a presumption in favour of bail, unless there are good reasons for it to be refused.

Reginald Chandar
Reginald Chandar
Head of News & Sports | news@fijilive.com

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