Fourteen Santo Police Officers suspended

The Vanuatu Police Service Commission has suspended 14 Vanuatu Police Force officers in Santo, following complaints of police misconduct last week.

The Vanuatu Acting Police Service Commissioner, Colonel Robson Iavro, said he suspended the officers on Monday.

“According to an initial inquiry [into allegations of police violence], I suspended 14 members of the Vanuatu Police Force in Santo to allow a full investigation into the conduct of the police officers at Big Bay on Santo,”Colonel Iavro said.

“[There will also be] prosecutions of any officer who is found liable for [illegal] actions.

“The officers are suspended pending the outcome of the police investigations. We hope the investigations will not take long and we ask the suspended officers to cooperate with the investigators.

“The quicker information is provided to the investigators, the quicker we can deal with the case.”

The Acting Police Service Commissioner apologised to the people of Big Bay Bush who had been injured or had their property damaged during an incident last week when police say they attended the location following reports of a disturbance.

He assured the people of Mataloi Community in Big Bay Bush that justice would be served in their community.

Police investigators will go back to Santo in the coming days to continue with their examination of the alleged police brutality and misconduct.

Colonel Iavro asked for the public to support and assist the police officers who are carrying out the investigations.

He is also appealing via social media for the public to show respect to the police following what he said had been people “swearing at police officers on social media.”

He says the public must allow the police to do its job in dealing with the Big Bay Bush case.

“The police will make appropriate inquiries, will investigate social media posts and will deal with any person who swears at police men and women on social media,” he said.

“It is very shameful and very sad to see citizens swearing at police officers and their families.

“I am appealing to the citizens of Vanuatu to continue to support the police in carrying out their duties.”

Mr Iavro says last week’s incident at Big Bay Bush, where members of the public have alleged they were beaten by police and had their houses burnt, is a sad one.

“We regret that the incident happened and we will deal with it according to the law. Those who have participated in the incident will face the full force of the law.”

The Acting Commissioner says on Friday 19 June, police officers responded to reports of a disturbance at Big Bay Bush, as they have done on previous occasions.

He says on this occasion, it appears police may have become involved in the disturbance that was taking place.

He says the disturbance at Big Bay Bush which police were responding to, had been caused when an argument broke out between families over kava. He said a long-standing land dispute issue was also a trigger for the community disturbance.

At least 16 people suspected of involvement in the original disturbance at Big Bay Bush have been remanded by the Santo Magistrates Court awaiting a Preliminary Inquiry into the case on 9 July.

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