Following the arrest of these individuals, I met with the Commissioner of Police in my capacity as the Director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission that their constitutional rights as arrested and detained persons pursuant to Section 13 of the Constitution is protected.
These include their right to be informed promptly of the reason for their arrest, their right to be able to communicate with their lawyers, to not be compelled to make any confession and admission that could be used in evidence against them, to be able to communicate with their family and that the conditions of their detention is consistent with human dignity.
The Commissioner of Police was very receptive in facilitating my request to visit Hon. Biman Prasad, Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka, Mr. Attar Singh, Mr. Tupeni Baba, and Jone Dakuvula who are held at various police stations around the central division. I checked on whether they had been fed, needed any medical attention, were able to communicate with their family and had access to their legal counsel. I understand that they will be held overnight for the purposes of being interviewed and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission will be monitoring the progress of these investigations as well as the welfare of these detained individuals.
It is imperative that these individuals be brought before a court as soon as reasonably possible but not later than 48 hours unless the police seek an extension from the court. The Fijian Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of assembly but both these rights come with justifiable limitations in the interests of national security, public safety and public order. These limitations must never be used to quell dissenting opinions and must be proportionate to the goal of protecting human rights. All expression, dissenting or otherwise needs to be within the bounds of law and promote democratic values.