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WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS THREATENED
HUMAN rights organisations and individuals have been threatened with violence, including rape, for speaking out on the current impasse in Fiji. The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement office and FWRM Board member Imrana Jalal, received threatening phone calls last week.
The threats follow public statements by FWRM and an opinion piece by activist and human rights lawyer Jalal.
“I received a phone call on Monday afternoon (4th December) – an anonymous male voice threatened me with rape and attempted to intimidate me,” said Jalal, who has reported the criminal threat to the police.
When she asked the caller to identify himself, “I was told that they would ‘shut me up forever’ and I was to wait because they would come and get me.”
FWRM Executive Director Virisila Buadromo was also told to ‘stop what she’s doing’ by a male caller who identified himself as being from the military.
“These threats against unarmed peace activists by the armed forces seem extreme. We have simply been advocating for the basic principles of the rule of law and democracy,” said Buadromo.
The threats against the organisation and individual activists coincides with International Human Rights Day (December 10th), International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (November 29th) and16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women.
‘Women Human Rights Defenders’ (WHRDs) is a term referring to women who individually or with others, act to promote and protect everyone’s human rights. This sub-category of defenders has been singled out because they face risks particular to their gender committed by both state and non-state actors, including governments, the military and even within communities.
The 16 Days campaign aims to increase the visibility of violence against women as a human rights violation. The campaign has been utilised by groups all over the world to use international human rights instruments to address violence against women as a human rights violation and a threat to human security and peace worldwide.
11 December 2006
“STOP THE THREATS”
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has called for a stop to the threats made against human rights defenders following threatening phone calls made to Imrana Jalal and Virisila Buadromo. The FWCC is also concerned about the taking of individuals for questioning by the military. “This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and we as a human rights movement will continue to lobby against it”, said Edwina Kotoisuva, Deputy Coordinator of FWCC.
“We are calling upon the Fiji Human Rights Commission to investigate these allegations as they are the body which has the authority to do so”, said Kotoisuva. She says that the Fiji Human Rights Commission plays a critical role now as it did in 2000 and the human rights defenders in Fiji will be looking to them to ensure that human rights breaches are thoroughly investigated.
According to Kotoisuva, when there is a breach in the rule of law within the governance system and instability such as we are experiencing in Fiji, the environment is created for such illegal behaviour to creep in. “No matter how “peaceful” a transition this period is supposed to be, the fact that it is illegal gives room for such activity.
Kotoisuva said that in this time the work of human rights defenders is paramount to ensure that democracy and the rule of law is upheld. “It is important that human rights defenders feel safe to express themselves during this time because their voice is critical to ensuring that the voice of the masses is not forgotten”, said Kotoisuva.
“Fiji’s Constitution allows for freedom of expression and this type of violation of human rights hinders people’s ability to express themselves openly and move freely as we are supposed to in a democratic society”, said Kotoisuva.
These actions says Kotoisuva threaten the very premise on which the human rights of each individual is based – that is the Bill of Rights within the Constitution. “If indeed these threats are coming from those in power, that is a worry because there is a concern that the voice of the people is being stifled”, said Kotoisuva.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre will continue to work with other human rights NGOs and individuals to ensure that democracy and the rule of law is upheld in Fiji.