The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission has expressed concern over recent reports of the treatment of certain accused persons by the Fiji Police Force.
HRADC chair Pravesh Sharma said the Police should treat all accused persons in the same manner irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, political or partisan affiliations, race, and social status/background.
“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 while the Police are entitled to detain persons for 48 hours, they should try to process accused persons within a reasonable time.
“If possible, the practice of taking accused persons into custody on Friday afternoons and the weekends should be avoided, since access to private lawyers and the Courts are limited during the weekends.”
“Ideally, the Police should carry out and complete their investigations before taking accused persons into custody for caution interviews.”
“The purpose of caution interviews is not only to enable the Police to obtain relevant evidence to strengthen the prosecution case; but also to permit the accused persons to provide their alibis or explanations.”
“The Police should investigate the alibis or explanations before proceeding to charge accused persons.”
“During a caution interview, if an accused person 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 accused person.”
“If a caution interview continues beyond one day, the accused person should be permitted to go home and return the next day for the continuation of the interview unless the Police have a good reason to keep the accused in remand overnight, in which case proper facilities such as a separate cell, bed, clean linen, bathroom, toilet and meals should be provided.”
Sharma said for appropriate offences, Police officers should exercise their discretion and release charged persons on Police Bail to enable them to attend Court at a later date.
“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.”
“At all times, the Police should comply with the Rule of Law.”