Hon. Chief Justice Anthony Gates

Amb. Melanie Hopkins, British High Commissioner

Deputy Police Commissioner

Director, Office of Public Prosecutions

Director, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission

Acting Director, Legal Aid Commission

Other distinguished guests

Representatives of the media corps

Colleagues and friends:

A very good morning to you all!

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning for the opening of the Fiji Police Force’s “Training of the Trainers in Investigative Interviewing”, which is a component of the Pilot activity of the “First Hour Procedure and Video Recorded Interviews.”

The initiative to conduct this training on Investigative Interviewing attests to the high level of commitment by the Fiji Police Force to ensuring early access to justice for all Fijians. It demonstrates Fiji’s determined approach to implementing the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

By way of a quick history of this initiative, in 2016 justice sector stakeholders identified two priority actions to strengthen the protection of rights of Fijians under the Constitution, implement the UN Convention Against Torture, and improve the overall effectiveness of the sector in delivering access to justice.

These actions focused on the rights of a person who is arrested and detained by the police (‘First Hour Procedure’), and their rights during the subsequent interview process (‘Video Recorded Interviews’). Both priorities were included in the Pilot which commenced on 1 November 2016 and is ongoing.

A remarkable feature of the Pilot activity has been the unity of purpose and commitment of the involved institutions, namely the Judiciary, the Fiji Police Force, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions, the Legal Aid Commission, and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.

It is clearly evident from ongoing actions such as the participation in today’s event – and indeed jointly presenting at a Side Event to the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 12 September 2017 – that despite having distinct and independent roles, these institutions have a shared stake in delivering this initiative. Their actions so far have provided a powerful foundation for the success of this Pilot, demonstrating complementarities of institutional roles and mandates. Civil society and non-state actors such as the media have played their role in enhancing awareness and transparency of protecting rights and preventing violence, which further sharpened stakeholders’ commitment. But the real winners of this initiative are Fijians who will enjoy appropriate protection of their rights under any circumstances.

So what will success look like? The Pilot will truly deliver only if it accrues to real and tangible benefits to all Fijians – in protecting citizens’ rights, but also the rights of police officers and, if matters proceed to court, in improving the efficiency of the justice system as a whole. Reduction of violence and mistreatment of the arrested and detained is also hoped to have a catalytic effect across the society towards greater peace, harmony and respect for human rights.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Fiji has endorsed the global Sustainable Development Goals which have been adopted by all UN Member States and have set a new and comprehensive agenda for political, economic, environmental and social transformation. SDG 16 embodies the shared global commitment to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The conscious efforts by the Fiji stakeholders to implement the UN Convention Against Torture, and for the reduction of violence towards peaceful societies and access to justice for all, directly contribute to implementing SDG 16. 

Goal 16 reminds us all that institutions in any sector or branch of power exist to serve people. For instance, a police force delivers important service to citizens. Indeed, a police force that strives for mutual respect of the people it serves, is one which is best equipped to provide a safe environment for social progress, prosperity and human development.

The Pilot initiative we are focusing on today may appear to some as entirely straightforward and easy to put in place. However, it continues to take much hard work, long hours and commitment of all involved. On that note, let me acknowledge the participants and presenters involved in this Training of Trainers for Investigative Interviewing. 

Continuous knowledge and skill enhancement are imperative to any police force seeking to ensure the safety and protection of citizens. Those of you receiving the training this week will then present the training in the following weeks. Much work lies ahead, and I would like to express our collective appreciation for your enthusiasm and dedication.

For us at UNDP, this partnership in the Pilot has been truly rewarding. We are most grateful to the British High Commission for the valuable support to the Fiji Police Force. Thank you, High Commissioner, for your stewardship in delivering the UK’s training assistance for this initiative.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the European Union for the continuous and significant support to the Judicial Department, Legal Aid Commission and Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, through the Fiji Access to Justice Project.

Most importantly, I would like to thank the Fiji Police Force for its vision and leadership of this initiative. Let me wish this Training of the Trainers much success in furthering the protection and service to Fijians around the country.

Thank you for your attention.

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