Fiji forces 'get away with torture' - Amnesty International

Major institutions are still under military control 10 years after the coup (Getty)
Major institutions are still under military control 10 years after the coup (Getty)

Fiji man Vilikesa Soko was suspected of robbery, but never got a chance to defend himself in court - he was beaten and raped in custody by officers and later died.

The 30-year-old father-of-three's case was one of several documented in a graphic Amnesty International report documenting the routine use of torture in the Pacific island nation.   

The 'Beating Justice: How Fiji's Security Forces Get Away with Torture' report, released on Monday, says there's an "ingrained culture of torture" in the Pacific holiday hotspot, with the military in charge of key institutions since the 2006 coup.

Amnesty is calling for that to end, and for members of the military to be held accountable under the law.

The report says beatings are the most common form of torture, with five reported cases where people were beaten to death while in custody.

It details the use of threats to intimidate people and coerce confessions.

There are also accounts of routine violence against those suspected of crime, including beatings, rape, sexual violence, attacks by police dogs and shootings.

Mr Soko died in August 2014, four days after being beaten. He'd developed a blood clot in one of his lungs, a result of the traumatic injuries he received.

The details of his death were made public after an autopsy report was leaked online.

"Torture does not just humiliate the victim. It also debases the torturer by hollowing out their humanity," said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's pacific researcher.

"Not only do the security forces know that torture is taking place, they have stood in the way of accountability. While the Fijian authorities have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and pledged to end this cruel practice, it will remain an empty gesture until decisive action is taken."

In January 2007, two people died after being beaten by military officers - those responsible were released within a month of being sentenced to four-year terms.

The report also documents a case of five men, accused of robbing a Nadi shop, having crushed chilies rubbed on their bodies, water poured in their ears and rocks dropped on their backs. They were beaten until they confessed.

Lawyers of torture survivors have also been targets of violence.

Amnesty says Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama condones the behaviour and the "climate of near-impunity", where officials don't face justice for human rights violations.

Torture details are often  suppressed by authorities, but videos and autopsy reports are later leaked online

"In the face of these reports, the government has not only refused to condemn the torture that took place, but in some cases have offered the security officials its unequivocal support," the report says.

Amnesty International report: 'Beating Justice: How Fiji's Security Forces Get Away with Torture' by NewshubNZ on Scribd