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Video-Recorded Interviews By Fiji Police Force To Strengthen Human Rights Protection At Early Stages Of Criminal Process


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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