Saturday, January 06, 2007

Immunity is a Human Rights Breach Friday, January 05, 2007
Constitutional lawyer John Apted believes the granting of immunity to Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and his soldiers will arguably infringe on the human rights of others who want to sue them for wrongs they may have committed since the takeover on December 5 last year.
"If you grant civil immunity for the men and women of the RFMF and you deprive somebody of the right to sue them for something wrong that they might have done, arguably you are infringing on that person's human rights,"said the Munro Leys lawyer yesterday. "Even if somebody made a law granting immunity, the immunity that has been promised is criminal and civil immunity prevents a person, whose rights have been breached, from suing in a court for damages,"he said.
"And, of course, this was one of the issues that made the PRTU Bill which was in one sense, an immunity bill, controversial and a lot of people were claiming it was unconstitutional." "So there are a lot of conundrums and it remains to be seen how all of the things in the speech can be achieved within the constitutional framework and the rule of law, so we need to wait to see how things develop from here."
"The other interest thing about the immunity bill is that the immunity is only necessary if what has taken place was illegal,"he said.
Mr Apted expected legal and constitutional issues to soon arise if issues mentioned by the army commander and the President were to be all met. "There are a number of challenging constitutional and illegal issues that will arise if all of the points that were covered in the two speeches are to be achieved. "A key part of both speeches was a commitment to the Constitution. What happened on December 5 was the commander assumed executive authority and today he said he handed executive authority back.''
"The first issue that arises is where legislative authority lies. Executive authority means the powers of the State usually exercised by ministers in running government departments. Those are the day-to-day powers of running ministries, and ministers and civil servants do that everyday. "A different form of State power is legislative powers and those are the powers to pass laws."
Mr Apted said judging from both speeches, it was unsure when democratic rule would return.
"In the commander's speech and in the President's speech, there are indications that we will be returning to democratic rule soon. "But it is not clear when this will be, when this will after a census, or on new boundaries on the basis of existing boundaries.''

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