Wednesday, 1 September 2010 5:11 AM

Rules of Engagement Under the Spotlight Following Titinge Shooting

Dear Sir

It is reported that the Tongan authorities have declined to waiver immunity to their military personnel and that they will conduct their own investigation into the recent alleged fatal shooting of a former police officer.

It is also reported that the Tongan Cabinet is of the view that their personnel were acting in self defence in a highly dangerous situation and that they had acted within the rules of engagement. If this report is accurate, how impartial, one might question, can the investigation of the shooting incident be seen to be?

It is not to say that the Tongan authorities will not conduct their investigation properly, but opting for an independent investigation might have been a better recourse, similar to the one I requested the New Zealand Police to conduct following a shooting incident on the island of Bungana involving armed GRA (Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army) members and a police patrol.

The whole incident has done nothing to dispel my concerns about the continuing deployment of the military in aid of the civil power, the police, in the Solomons.

It has been a sad fact, however unlawful it has been, for rock throwing incidents to be common place in Honiara and riotous mobs were traditionally dispersed, and arrests made by the use of tear gas by local police personnel wearing protective clothing and armed only with less than lethal arms.

Arising from one notable (UK) criminal case R v Clegg 1995 AC 482 Lord Lloyd Berwick at 497 said,

"In the case of a soldier in Northern Ireland, in the circumstances in which (a) Private Clegg found himself, there is no scope for graduated force. The only choice lay between firing a high velocity rifle which, if aimed accurately, was almost certain to kill or injure, and doing nothing at all."

Does one interpret such a judgment to say that when armed soldiers are involved in aid of the civil power, as occurred at Titinge, there is a greater risk because the soldier has no recourse to "graduated" force?

The "rules of engagement" are open to interpretation and cannot necessarily deal with all the circumstances in which it may be necessary for a soldier to use his firearms, and they must therefore be considered primarily as a statement of the principles upon which he should act.

Under my watch, the members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) were issued with very strict orders on the use of firearms, orders attested to by the New Zealand Police officers assigned to investigate the Bungana case and published in the report submitted to the Solomon Islands Government.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Short




Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Frank Short and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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