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

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - ARISHMA DEVINARAYAN

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.

Photo: Arishma Devi-Narayan

Sec­ond from right: Vi­likesa Soko’s fa­ther, Jere­maia Soko, with his cousins out­side the High Court in Lau­toka yes­ter­day.

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