Suva, Fiji – The Fiji Police Force is scaling up its initiative to strengthen early access to justice through implementing Video-Recorded Interviews. The digital equipment for video recording, which is based on most recent and top-notch information and communications technology (ICT) solutions specifically designed for law enforcement, was provided to the Force by New Zealand and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to support effective and transparent criminal procedures based on international human rights standards.
Video-Recorded Interviews for criminal investigations will be implemented based on successful pilots and now be extended to other parts of the country. The initiative to strengthen early access to justice is part of the major achievement made by the justice institutions, following Fiji’s ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in 2016.
First batch of the video recording equipment worth FJ$230,000 will enable police officers to record interviews and monitor what takes place in interview rooms. It allows them to operate both remotely and in the interview room and keep records on the server for a defined period.
Human rights protection at early stages of criminal process is ensured through two key interventions: protection of the rights of a person at the time of arrest or detention by police (‘First Hour Procedure’) and during investigation processes by police (‘Video-Recorded Interviews’). The Fiji Police Force has been implementing a Pilot of the First Hour Procedure and trained officers to develop investigative interviewing techniques in partnership with Fiji’s justice sector partners and UNDP.
The equipment was received by Acting Commissioner of Police, Rusiate Tudravu, who said that the Early Access to Justice initiative is a collaborative effort by all key stakeholders of Fiji’s justice sector, in partnership with the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid Commission and Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and supported by New Zealand Police Advisors who are strategically placed within Fiji Police Force.
“The First Hour Procedure commenced in Totogo Police Station and the Criminal Investigations Division in Suva in 2016, and now is to be expanded to other parts of the country. As a result of the initiative, we have seen improvement in communication skills of officers and a reduction in the number of complaints against Police officers for conduct during the interview process.”
Mr Tudravu added, “The video recording equipment we received today will enable us to ensure another key component of Early Access to Justice, which is Video-Recorded Interviews. The Video-Recorded Interviews will be implemented by our investigators who will be trained for investigative interviewing skills.”
The Video-Recorded Interviews are aimed to strengthen transparent criminal procedures and safeguard both the rights of detained or arrested persons and police, encouraging them more evidence-based rather than confession-based investigations.
New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr said, “New Zealand is pleased to support the Fiji Police Force in the areas of capacity development of police officers and procurement of equipment that will assist Fiji Police to meet its international human rights obligations.”
“In expanding the work of the First-Hour Programme New Zealand supports the aim of a transparent, accountable and effective police force. As a close neighbour to Fiji, New Zealand is committed to continuing our deep and long-standing security partnership with the Fiji Police Force”.
Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said, “UNDP’s Fiji Police Force Support project aims to build on the success of the Pilot of the First-Hour Procedure and expand it across Fiji. This is made possible with generous funding from New Zealand Government and technical support by New Zealand Police.”
“Having this modern ICT equipment installed across all police stations in Fiji will protect human rights by reducing instances and perception of misconduct by police officers. It will also ensure evidence is well captured and can be used at the later stages of investigation, prosecution and trial,” said Mr Bouadze.
The UNDP project will also assist Fiji Police Force on the development of curricula at various policing levels within the Force. It aims to ensure that required knowledge and skills are available in the Force to continue such curricula development into the future. The training and curricula will assist development of officers’ skills to conduct investigative interviewing and protection of privacy and human right of suspects with respect for their dignity.
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Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Advocacy and Communications for the Fiji Police Force Support Project, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; tel.: +679 715 8051; email: firstname.lastname@example.org