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Violence against escaped prisoners: what the Fiji Times won’t print, and the Fiji Sun edited

01/10/2012

Letter to the Editor (Fiji Times and Fiji Sun)

Professor Wadan Narsey

 Violence against escaped prisoners

Many letters have been written to the Editor, attacking Shamima Ali’s call for the protection of the human rights of prisoners, while the police have also responded defending their actions.

It is understandable for decent law-abiding citizens to not care how prisoners are treated.    We all know of innocent people who have been robbed, physically and mentally traumatized, by criminal elements, without any compensation, or contrition from criminals.

Neither is there much compensation or thought for officers who are injured in the call of duty, while trying to apprehend escaped criminals.

Even though it is hard to define what constitutes “reasonable force” the police (and the army) also need to ensure that apprehending officers do not take the law into their own hands, by becoming prosecutors, judge and jury.

We sympathise with the Police Force who come under huge pressure whenever prisoners escape, when we all know that it is society which ultimately creates the criminals and the crimes, which we then demand the Police Force deal with.

But a just society has to ensure that escaped prisoners, however badly they may have treated society, are also given a fair trial by our judiciary, and suitably punished if they are found guilty,  but according to law.

Prisoners also have human rights and they also have loved ones, who are often filled with despair and shame at the crimes that their family members commit.

The Police Commissioner and the Commander of the Military Forces would be protecting  the integrity and humanity of their own forces if they conveyed a strong message to their apprehending officers: please do not lose control of your emotions, do not take the law into your own hands, when apprehending escaped prisoners.  Leave that to the courts.

The condemning public might think more about the message and not shoot the messenger, Shamima Ali, who has been a brave Commissioner for Human Rights of all people in Fiji, prisoners or otherwise.

However much pain escaped prisoners may cause us (and they surely do), for us to deny their human rights to justice according to the Fiji laws, is to become inhuman ourselves.

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