The United Nations Human Rights Office for the Pacific on Friday welcomed Fiji’s ratification of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). On 14 March, Fiji became the 159th State to ratify the Convention which was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1984.
“By ratifying the Convention against Torture, the Government of Fiji has committed to eliminate one of the most serious and pervasive human rights violations of our time – torture. This is an encouraging step with regard to the protection and promotion of human rights in Fiji”, said Catherine Phuong, Acting Head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Pacific Regional Office.
By ratifying the Convention against Torture, the Government of Fiji is signaling its clear intention to break with past practices. In March 2013, for example, video footage showed two men being tortured by police officers – an act that was publicly condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time.
The Government of Fiji ratified the Convention against Torture with a number of reservations on the definition of torture (article 1), the right to obtain redress and to fair and adequate compensation (article 14), the competence of the Committee against Torture to conduct confidential inquiries (article 20), to receive communications by individuals alleging torture (article 21) and to receive communications from States about another State’s failure to fulfil its obligations under the Convention (article 22), as well as the recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (article 30).
Ms. Phuong noted that the UN Human Rights Office is urging the Government of Fiji to review and withdraw the reservations in the near future.
“Under international law, there is an absolute prohibition against torture at any time, for any reason and under any circumstances,” Ms. Phuong said. “By removing all the reservations, Fiji would show it is truly determined to eliminate this practice once and for all.”
So far, only five countries in the Pacific have ratified the Convention against Torture, and the UN Human Rights Office in the Pacific is strongly encouraging Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands to also ratify this important international convention.
Over the last year, the UN Human Rights Office has engaged in a number of activities to increase awareness of the Convention against Torture among the Fiji Police Forces. Ms. Phuong said that the Office stands ready to support the Government of Fiji in its efforts to implement the Convention.