Monday, February 19, 2007

Lawyers Question Coup

Lawyers question coup - Sunday, February 18, 2007

A REPORT has described the assumption of executive power by the army head as riddled with legal inaccuracies, misapplications of the law and a selective reading of case law.

A group of lawyers who do not wished to be named for fear of victimisation have prepared a legal response to Fiji Human Rights Commission director Dr Shaista Shameem's report on the assumption of executive authority by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The group says what is disturbing is that it claims to be a dispassionate and balanced analysis of the legalities surrounding the army's usurping of power on December 5 was a veiled justification for actions of the RFMF the day after.

"What emerges from the report is an apparent dislike of Prime Minister Qarase and his government," they said.

"The tragedy is that in confusing the latter with its apparent approval of the RFMF's perspective in relation to its own action, the report compromised the Fiji Human Rights Commission and the director's own standing as well as set back the cause of human rights in Fiji."

On the commission, the group says the report's pronouncement that it was acting impartially and independently of all sides while at the same time making judicious statements on the need to maintain human rights and law and order is hollow.

"It has regrettably compromised its position and the elaborate explanations it makes in defence of its role are best ignored.

"This report is a case in point and a direct contradiction of the assertion that 'commissions cannot take sides in a political conflict'.

"It is little more than an apology for the commander and the RFMF as has been observed elsewhere."

The group said the report should tar the former government of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing diminished the horrors of genuine crimes against humanity.

"The report also questions the stance adopted by various United Nations agencies and civil society organisations in relation to the Qarase government," they said.

"There is a suggestion that these entities 'colluded' in the actions of the latter. Again it omits to substantiate the claims.

"They are not only serious but border on the libelous because they tarnish reputations without justifiable cause.

"It is disappointing that the report has, under the pretext of assessing the legalities of the situation, used the opportunity to vilify those who take issue with its conclusions."

Dr Shameem said the legal response was just a polemic.

"There is nothing of legal substance there to refute anything we have put forward as the legal position," she said.

"Of course the anonymous lawyers are entitled to their opinion but first they should put their names forward so we can see whether they have any conflict of interest in terms of who their clients are."

"Secondly they should really try and understand what the law already states, not what they believe it states.

"Anyway, the courts will have ample opportunity to decide which is the correct legal position at the end of the day."

End of story

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