How Many Human Rights Abuses are Acceptable?

Not in Fiji
"What level of Human Rights abuse is acceptable? At what point will you say enough is enough?"A reader complains I have not answered this question, despite several promptings. I have delayed because this has the hallmarks of a non-question, that will be considered unanswered whatever is said. Here is my answer:

It is not possible to briefly answer this question to the satisfaction of the reader. What appears to be a simple request for a concrete figure (presumably '0') is in fact a loaded request to put a figure on an abstraction. I am asked to make a value judgment in the absence of common agreement on whether each HR is of equal importance; whether each is always applicable, irrespective of the circumstances; whether everyone's HRs are of equal weight and importance, irrespective of individual and communal circumstances;whether it is ever justifiable to deny some HRs to some people; and whether some HRs can justifiably be temporarily suspended for the 'common good.'

To defuse the political element (which is the obvious point) of the question, I suggest we ask the same questions of "sin" where the answers will be seen to be no less difficult. 

The reader knows my general position on HRs in Fiji. I have criticised abuses when I have known them to have occurred and have recommended better practices. He also knows that the level of the alleged physical abuses have been exaggerated. Anti-Government people have referred to torture but they do not even come near to what people associate with the word "torture", as seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and on TV thrillers. And he knows I have called for the lifting of the emergency regulations.

I suspect the reader's motive for asking the question is because he wants to draw attention to HRs abuses since December 2006.  But the reader must know that the abuse of basic HRs did not suddenly start in 2006; that most physical abuses occurred in the immediate aftermath of the coup; that most people are not affected (on a world scale Fiji abuses might score 5 out of 100), and that the HRs situation appears to be getting better. The reader should also know that those who complain most about the post-2006 abuses were singularly quiet about human rights abuses in 1987 and 2000-01 (presumably because they did not affect them, or their ethnnic group); and even now such people speak only of their chosen "middle class" HRs, saying nothing about social justice and the denial of basic HRs to Fiji's second class citizens.  -- Crosbie Walsh


John Adams said…
"The reader should also know that those who complain most about the post-2006 abuses were singularly quiet about human rights abuses in 1987 and 2000-01 (presumably because they did not affect them, or their ethnnic group); and even now such people speak only of their chosen middle class HRs, saying nothing about social justice and the denial of basic HRs to Fiji's second class citizens...'

What evidence do you base this on? Like your fellow coup apologist Graham Davis you assume that those who criticise the regime are somehow grinding an axe, somehow resentful at losing out on whatever privileges they were supposed to have enjoyed prior to 2006. What arrogance.
A little bit of torture said…
So croz
In your view a little bit of torture is ok as long as it is done by the Bainimarama regime?
Anonymous said…
John Adams said it best!
common sense said…
@a little bit of torture

What about your views on Guantanamo and the torture in Abu Gharib, the extraordinary rendition which are more documented and extensive then these allegations. Next thing we'll here is that there is a container full of Viagra and sex is used as a weapon. BTW, those false allegations have been used in Libya.
Held to account 'ad infinitum' said…
Well said, John Adams! A Human Rights Abuse is an abuse, criminal and might be a Crime Against Humanity. But women and children in Fiji have suffered abuse both in and outside their homes since Time Immemorial. These abuses just serve to reinforce a Culture of Violence and the treatment of human beings 'AS OBJECTS'. Unlike the Arab World which is now coming to its senses, Fiji and many South Pacific countries have continued apace with this inherent violence. It does not matter at all when it took place, it is abhorrent and it must end. Those who have been a part of it for whatever insidious motivation must account for it. They will be held to account ad infinitum - without immunity and without a time limit. Be assured of this.
If the Cap Fits - One Size fits all said…
This weekend the night of 25 June 2011 is the World Vigil against Torture. There are ample definitions of what torture is. Many have been worked on and revisited since 9/11. There is no difference between 1987/2000-2001/2006 plus. If the cap fits.......
Relativity said…
There is no doubt that human rights abuses in Fiji are on a different scale than say abuses in Syria and Libya. Dictators there are waging wars against their populations. Peaceful protests are responded to by sniper fire, tanks and artillery. These regimes are adamant to bludgeon the opposition into submission, no matter what the cost. Should we then be all happy and agree that just a little abuse and denial of expression is acceptable and will result in a better Fiji? I beg to differ here. History has shown that dictators entrench and when confronted with serious protests they have never hesitated to use violence at epic scales to hang on to power. In Fiji we see human rights abuses and denial of civil rights relative to the manifestation of opposition. Even a dictator has little incentive to brutalize his citizenry when they are compliant and obedient. The test will come when serious opposition against the regime occurs. This may take some time, as we have seen in the Middle East where dictators have ruled and oppressed for more than 30 years. I have little doubt that the Bainimarama regime will fight as viciously as any other dictatorship when its rule is seriously questioned.
Scott said…
Much of the evidence on the silence on abuses and the trampling of democracy after Speight's takeover by several of the most prominent nouveau democrats is freely available in newspapers (eg the Fiji Times) and academic journals, should John Adams care to look for it. Sometimes the silence took the form of denying the legitimacy of the People's Coalition's 1999 electoral victory-allegedly the result of 'electoral engineering' rather than a widespread popular revolt against corruption, privatisation and other forms of SVT-NFP collusion. Other times it appeared as attacks on FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry's chicanery and trickery, for 'fooling' the 'ethnic Fijians' into supporting other than the SVT. In both these cases, the implication was that the People's Coalition was illegitimate and their overthrow was 'their fault'.
As for the non-academics among these come-lately democrats, I suggest John Adams try to find instances of their public condemnation and/or not so public actions which suggested distaste for what Speight et al represented in their trampling of Fiji's constitution and democracy. At least Sitiveni Rabuka, to his credit, publicly laughed at Speight's claim that taking over parliament meant he ran the country.
Like Graham Davis, Croz Walsh and others, I'm not a coup apologist and have a long history of acting and speaking against regimes, elected and unelected. The nouveau-democrats are the ones who now have lost their privileges. Unable to return to Fiji, they are trying, with Australian and New Zealand assistance, to re-build the SDL, NFP and FLP. Their principal objective is to re-establish the very thin democracy which existed under the 1997 Constitution.
And no, no torture by any regime is OK and human rights abuses take more forms than torture.
Mal said…
During the attempted Coup in 2000 my father was beaten up, his wife threatened, his house ransacked,items stolen, his ute stolen and wrecked.
Some really really bad things happened in Tailevu during that time, far worse than anything that the military have done since 2006.
Many of the participants of these events were ferried around in Rewa Dairy vehicles supplied by Sam Speight so his recent beating up by the army is not a Human Rights abuse but justice finally served.
Those events of 2000 have been swept under the carpet by supporters of the SDL and the anti Bainimarama factions.
Only the most biased of individuals can claim that it hasnt been.
John Adams said…
Re Scott Said..

I'm not sure that the so-called 'nouveau democrats' are actually the only ones who oppose human rights abuses. There are any number of people who have objected to events post 2006 and who certainly wouldn't qualify as being 'nouveau democrats' - unfortunately the PER prevents the wider audience from hearing them.

As for Croz and Graham Davis - well I look forward to reading of the attacks they made on Ratu Ului when he was inside the regime, because he has become, in their eyes at least, the Devil himself since his so called defection.

And as for this rubbish about the photograph of Brij Lal and Kaitani standing together in Australia recently and the 'smoking gun' - I can only imagine the headlines if Kaitani had been snapped standing next to a lamppost - 'Kaitani is a lamppost!'

Stretching it a bit boys.
Croz Walsh said…
@ John ... A word in my defence. Check back on what the Fiji Times or any other paper reported on Ratu Tevita before he was sent on leave last year. Like me, they reported next to nothing. Why? Because we couldn't see anything to report. It had nothing to do with hiding things, as you infer. He's been widely reported in the past few weeks because ('with a little bit of help from his friends') he has suddenly become newsworthy. Some see him as a saviour. I certainly don't see him as the Devil. I don't use words like that.
John Adams said…
Dear Croz,

Point taken....a fallen angel perhaps? ha ha, now I'm the one stretching it......

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