No One Above Law: Judge Jailing Nine
Vilikesa Soko’s dad: I feel sorry for the families Justice Althuge: It was a humiliating, shameful act
Jeremaia Soko, father of the late Vilikesa Soko, says he has forgiven the nine men who raped and assaulted his son. Lautoka High Court judge, Justice, Aruna Althuge, yesterday jailed the eight H[ 3ROLFH RIåFHUV DQG RQH H[ soldier.
Mr Soko said after the sentence: “I have forgiven them a long time ago and I feel sorry for the families, I can understand what they are going through. We have lost our son, they will be losing their heads of the households at this time “I think of them. “I thank God Almighty, for the justice that has prevailed and my family and friends for their support worldwide Fiji and abroad. They have helped us but now I also felt for those families because I also pray for them although we have lost our son, they will be losing their heads of the households at this time. I think of them.” He thanked the State lawyers, Lee Burney and Juleen Fatiaki for their efforts in bringing out truth and justice about his son’s death.
Justice Althuge said the crime was a “humiliating
and shameful” act. He said the act of all nine who were then lawmen was a serious offence and this had “earned a bad reputation for Fiji Police Force both nationally and internationally.” Families and friends of the former lawmen and soldier packed the court room as Justice Aluthge read his sentencing statement. They were in tears as Justice Aluthge also spoke of the commendable jobs each one of them had performed since they began their duties. Former Police officers: Manasa Talala, Seruvi Caqusau, Kelevi Sewatu, Penaia Drauna, Filise Vere, Viliame Vereivalu, Jona Davonu, Senitiki Natakasavu and former military officer Pita Matairavula were convicted last week on two counts of rape and two counts of sexual assault of Vilikesa Soko and Senijeli Boila. Mr Soko succumbed to his injuries and later died while in custody.
In addition, Talala and Vereivalu were also convicted of defeating the course of justice by instructing other Police officers to make false statements. The nine were given custodial sentences as Justice Aluthge held them accountable for their criminal acts through joint enterprise.
Justice Aluthge, however, said that it was unfortunate that he had to impose sentencing on such senior officers, but stated that the sentencing must reflect on the Government’s law and the United Nations Rights to remove Police brutality. He stated Fiji was bound by laws more importantly by the United Nations Humans Rights Convention Against Torture which was recently ratified by Government. He added that impunity was a serious matter and it should not give the wrong signal to people, especially to lawmen. He said this sentencing was sending a strong message to all those who might consider committing similar offences. Furthermore, he commended the work of the Police in apprehending the two robbery suspects, Mr Soko and Mr Boila. However, he stated that as lawmen, all should have been aware that the suspects were to be brought to justice after a lawful trial. But instead of taking them to the nearest Police station, they were taken to the hillside to be tortured for the purpose of interrogation.
He said those involved all failed their duties badly and that no one was above the law. Justice Aluthge also mentioned, this act of crime was committed through a joint enterprise and that the two suspects were raped and sexually assaulted not for love, affection or sexual gratification but for the purpose of “humiliating and torturing the victims”.
The sentencing terms:
Manasa Talala, 53, former Divisional Crime Officer was sentenced to eight years with a non-parole period of five years for two counts of rape, sexual assault and defeating the course of justice. Justice Aluthge said Talala was in a commanding position at the time of the incident and the one who ordered interrogation. He did nothing to stop the act of torture on the victims. Seruvi Caqusau, 40, was sentenced to eight years with a nonparole period of five years for two counts of rape and two counts of sexual assault. He stood watching but did not do anything to prevent the crime from occurring. Kelevi Sewatu, 33, Penaia Drauna, 45, and Senitiki Natakasavu, 41, were sentenced to seven years with a non-parole of four years for two counts of rape and two counts of sexual assault.
Filise Vere, 32, Viliame Vereivalu, 37, Jona Davonu, 30, and Pita Matairavula, 54, were sentenced to nine years each on a non-parole period of six years. All four were considered as principal offenders. Vere rubbed chillies on Mr Soko’s body and private parts while Vereivalu and Drauna kicked and punched the victim. Matairavula on the other hand, kicked, punched and inserted a wooden stick into the private part of Mr Soko which caused him brutal injuries.
All have 30 days to appeal the matter. Justice Aluthge hoped that the sentencing would boost the selfesteem and reputation of the Fiji Police Force. He also ordered for special arrangements for the nine for safety and security purposes.
JAILED... ex-soldier Pita Matairavula.
JAILED... Senitiki Natakasavu.
JAILED... Filise Vere.
JAILED... Penaia Drauna.
JAILED... Seruvi Caqusau.
JAILED... Kelevi Sewatu.
JAILED... Viliame Verevalu.
JAILED... Manasa Talala.
JAILED... Jona Davonu.
Second from right: Vilikesa Soko’s father, Jeremaia Soko, with his cousins outside the High Court in Lautoka yesterday.