News : Good practice

Ombudsman's report rebukes "irresponsible" police action

Graphic: Artists impression of the moment of arrest, based on witness and police interviews

The Ombudsman has released his report into an incident where police used firearms in a public place to carry out a pre-planned arrest of an individual

Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma has described the behaviour of Samoa's police – including Police Commissioner, Fuiava Egon Keil – as "irresponsible", "unlawful" and "cruel".

The criticisms are made in the findings of an investigation by the Ombudsman's Office into a complaint made by a member of the public, Suitupe Misa, over an incident at the Fugalei market on 18 August 2015.

The Samoa Observer reported that the incident saw police officers use firearms in a public place to carry out a pre-planned arrest of an individual.

Mr. Misa was arrested at gunpoint by a contingent of armed plain clothed officers in front of a shocked and distressed Fugalei marketplace. It transpired that Mr. Misa had "committed no crime" and the arrest was "carried out based on insubstantial and second-hand evidence".

Mr. Misa lodged a complaint against the police, which was investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman. The findings of the investigation raise serious questions about the actions of the police and the Commissioner.

"The Commissioner of Police failed to meet basic investigation principles and placed undue consideration on second hand evidence, leading directly to the wrongful and unlawful arrest of Suitupe," the report stated.

"The Commissioner's decision to arm and allow the use of firearms by his officers contravened the Use of Force policy, was irresponsible, and could negatively impact the overall safety and security within Samoa.

"The Commissioner failed to take appropriate steps to identify the actions of his officers as being part of a police operation, leading to widespread distress and in one case serious health issues."

The report stated that the Police Commissioner "does not have an understanding of the basic laws regarding arrest and detention in Samoa".

It also noted that the arrest of Mr. Misa was "unlawful and improperly undertaken and therefore violated his fundamental human right to liberty".

According to the Ombudsman, the findings demonstrate a series of errors of judgment and unlawful actions.

"It is without question that the more serious of these issues must be addressed," the Ombudsman concluded.

The full report by the Ombudsman has been published by the Samoa Observer.

Date: 17 April 2016

Source: Samoa Observer


Image credits

  1. Artists impression of the moment of arrest, based on witness and police interviews - Kindly produced by UN Online volunteer Anna Palgan and others