19 May 2021
“I sobbed so severely thinking and imagining the pain he went through, how he had struggled to fight for his life, and what could have been the last thoughts on his mind before he lost his life. I felt sorry for him so badly knowing he was alone and had no means to call for help.” Takarara Aati Kaierua
London. UK. Following a 12-month investigation into the death of Kiribati fisheries observer, Eritara Aati Kaierua, onboard the Taiwanese flagged WIN FAR 636 fishing vessel, Human Rights at Sea publishes an independent case review which explores in detail the incident in March 2020 from the family’s perspective having reviewed all publicly-available information as well as evidence collated by the family, supporting organisations, lawyers and the charity.
The case review examines the circumstances surrounding his untimely death, the engagement by Kiribati authorities and highlights 26 outstanding questions and areas of query into the subsequent conduct of the investigation which to date remains inconclusive and fails to provide necessary closure for the family.
By issuing the publication, Human Rights at Sea aims to expedite justice for the family through the necessary disclosure of much-needed answers into Eritara’s death.
Eritara Aati Kaierua was officially reported dead on 5 March 2020 while undertaking Fisheries Observer work on board the Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel (FV) WIN FAR NO.636. His unexpected death came as a shock to all who knew him.
Following the first anniversary of his loss in March 2021, significant unanswered questions remain over aspects of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. In this public review there are 26 proposed outstanding questions.
In no specific order, the core matters-in-issue are that full disclosure of the facts relating to Eritara’s post-mortem reviews are yet to be made available to immediate family members and their legal representatives; that reasonable enquiries to Kiribati authorities remained unanswered; and apparent shortcomings in the crime scene management procedures of the Kiribati Police Service have raised doubts over the reliability of the evidence used to determine the cause of death.
Further, crucial IT device evidence has not been adduced, the crime scene of the vessel was released on request by the owners to continue fishing in surrounding waters, and forensic evidence has been lost through lack of in-country resources and delay. This is set against the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential lack of formal procedural requests for external subject matter expert support.
The Kiribati police investigation into Eritara’s death remains open but crucially there is no end in sight for the family who are left to second-guess what happened to their husband, father, brother and son some 14 months later at the time of writing. The details of the concerns are reflected in the enclosed Family Impact Statement of Eritara’s wife, Tekarara, and in the annexed legal letter sent to the Kiribati Attorney General (AG) by Steven Kay, QC, of Counsel, London.
“With the direct support of the family and supporting entities, Human Rights at Sea has collated the first detailed case review into this tragic event to drive forward the case and achieve justice for the family who, themselves have many unanswered questions into the surround events and subsequent investigation into Eritara’s death at sea.”
“Despite continuous outreach to the focal points in the Kiribati administration and fair and reasonable requests for transparent disclosure for the family, it has become clear that the investigation has failed to address numerous issues and points of evidence. These are now raised publicly for the sake of transparency.”