Fiji’s military regime is using beatings, arbitrary arrests, censorship and intimidation to rule the South Pacific country by fear, Amnesty International alleged on Tuesday.
The global rights watchdog also cited China for going against an international trend of imposing sanctions on Fiji to punish those responsible for a 2006 coup, and urged Beijing to use its new influence to protect human rights there.
Military-installed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama did not immediately respond to the Amnesty report— the latest international condemnation of the military chief’s seizure of power and refusal to restore democracy.
London-based Amnesty International has that said Mr. Bainimarama’s regime has committed multiple human rights violations since April when the constitution was shelved in response to a court ruling that his takeover was unlawful and Public Emergency Regulations (PER) put in place.
“The abrogation of the constitution, the promulgation of the PER, the dismissal of the judiciary, subsequent political arrests and intimidation of activists have led to a climate of fear and desperation amongst human rights defenders, lawyers, the NGO community and society as a whole,” the Amnesty report says.
Beatings, the arbitrary arrest of journalists, activists, lawyers and church leaders, and the strict censorship of news outlets were among abuses being committed in Fiji, the report said. It noted that the government had used special powers to free from prison, nine soldiers and a police officer who were convicted in two separate killings that may have been linked to intimidation tactics.
“The ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, lawyers, clergy and government critics by the authorities under the broad and sweeping provisions of the PER is a tactic used to suppress freedom of epression, including any form of dissent,” the report says.
Amnesty said China had massively increased financial aid to Fiji since the coup, filling a void created by sanctions imposed by major donors such as Australia and New Zealand, which have led to the condemnation of Mr. Bainimarama.
“China has long claimed that it doesn’t interfere in other country’s affairs, but, in Fiji, China has clearly favoured one side of a long political dispute—and in the process ignored the country’s human rights situation,” Amnesty Asia-Pacific deputy director Donna Guest said in a statement.
Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase angered Beijing by allowing then Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian to visit Fiji in 2005 and later by backing Taiwan’s bid to join the World Health Organization.
China and rival Taiwan have for years used money funnelled through aid programs to impoverished nations in their battle for diplomatic support. Beijing seeks to block nations giving diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province.
Amnesty said that Beijing should urge Mr. Bainimarama to end human rights abuses and “put an immediate end to any support for the (Fijian military) in any form or fashion.”
Mr. Bainimarama says he will call elections to restore democracy in 2014, after he has recast the constitution and electoral laws. Critics say he has broken such promises in the past and they don’t really believe that he intends to relinquish power.