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Fiji: Convicted soldiers freed on supervision plan

Fiji’s government admitted that eight soldiers and one policeman who had been found guilty of manslaughter have been released from prison, two months into their four-year sentences.

A government spokesman said the Minister of Justice ordered their release under a compulsory supervision order, which allows certain criminals to serve the remainder of their sentences outside of prison. Fiji Law states the Minister of Justice may have a prisoner released on compulsory supervision granted the prisoner has (1) not been imprisoned twice before; and, (2) is serving a sentence longer than three years.

In January 2007, the eight soldiers and one policeman suspected that Sakiusa Rabaka and three other youths were trying to purchase marijuana. They took the young men to a nearby military camp, told them to strip to their underwear and subjected them to difficult physical exercises. When the men started to stumble, they were beaten and kicked. In court, the young men later testified Rabaka was groaning in pain, but the group continued to torture him. Rabaka eventually passed out; members of the military group forced two of his friends to perform oral sex on the unconscious Rabaka.

After the young men were released, Rabaka continued to have medical problems, complaining of headaches and a swollen head. His mother testified her son had “visible straight marks and boot marks” on his back. Two weeks after the incident, Rabaka was admitted to the hospital in Nadi, Fiji, where doctors operated on him. The pain continued after leaving the hospital. A week later Rabaka collapsed in front of friends at his home. He died shortly thereafter. He was 19-years-old.

The incident took place a few weeks after military commander Frank Bainimarama dissolved Parliament and deposed the government of Lasenia Qarase, which he said was corrupt and racist.

A High Court judge convicted the nine men in March 2009 and sentenced them to four-year prison sentences.

From the blog at Soli Vakasama Worldwide site

We feel the utmost disgust that the guilty men are allowed to walk free while the families of the young man killed and the other men tortured are left to suffer in silence and despair.
Our heart breaks at the suffering of the Rabaka Family and the men that were tortured.
We hope the healing process is swift and we wish them peace and goodwill forever.

It is so hard to believe that the stories we read of killings and tortures that happen overseas are actually happening in Fiji and has only occurred since the hijacking and rape of this Nation Fiji on 5.12.06. One wonders what type of upbringing these guilty but illegally freed so called soldiers and police personnel had and just how the Fiji military has gone from a respected institution to the most appalling example of the vilest disgusting atrocities that another man can heap upon another.

No Right Turn in New Zealand.

And so the Fijian military protects its own. It's not the first time – Bainiramarama himself ordered the release of his son-in-law, Francy Kean, after he had been convicted of manslaughter for beating someone to death at a wedding. But the precedent it sets is astounding. Thanks to the coup, Fiji's military thugs are now above the law, able to beat, rape, torture and kill with impunity.

Fiji Today agrees.

This follows the pattern of any criminal associated with the military having special privilages as the Commander shows the rank and file soldier that they above the law and are protected in all their actions
The use of the yellow ribbon program and CSO to override the decisions of the court is corruption plain and simple.

Fiji Today argues this could be a long-term problem for Fiji’s government, which is still searching for judges to fill its High Court more than a month after the country’s president annulled the constitution, fired the entire judiciary and appointed the government of Frank Bainimarama to a five-year mandate.

One of the reasons the dictatorship is having problems finding senior judges to appoint because of the decree allowing no legal challenges to any decrees of the President.
The judges are scared they would be seen as puppets of the regime as they realise that the courts would be neutralised with any contraversial cases having a decree issued before the case came to court.

The release of the soldiers was widely expected after the abrogation of the consitution, argues Coup And A Half.

Ironically, one of the reasons given by Frank Bainimarama for carrying out a military coup and toppling Laisenia Qarase’s Multi-Party government was that the administration was allegedly abusing the criminal justice system and interfering in the judiciary, with the then Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale liberating high profile chiefs Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and former Vice-President, Ratu Jose Seniloli from prison under the Compulsory Supervison Order (CSO).

The two were jailed for their roles in George Speight’s coup against Mahendra Chaudhry’s government in May 2000.

Qarase was also accused of approving Seniloli’s salary while he was in prison.

In another case similar to Bainimarama’s accusation of Qarase, Bainimarama’s brother-in-law Francis Kean jailed in 2008 for bashing to death a guest at a wedding in December 2006. He was out of prison after an year, serving the required two-thirds of his jail term.

Victor Lal, writing in Raw Fiji News, offered a dark reason for the early release.

The murderers have been released to appease the military and to warn critics that if they open their mouths, they will be murdered by the military goons with impunity.

Fiji: The Way it Was, Is and Can Be argues the group’s release “raises serious doubts about the sincerity of the Fiji Government, and does nothing for its credibility.” The blogger called on Fiji’s Attorney General to “correct this wrong.”

No government purportedly intent on justice can condone the unecessary, brutally prolonged and cowardly assault on 19-year old Sakuisa Rabaka, in January 2007 (yes, it took that long to come to court). But the early release of his assailants does just that. The assault may be “written off” as a one-off abuse of power by nine over-zealous or sadistic individuals; their release — uncorrected — can only be attributed to one huge misuse of power by the State.

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