Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fiji in spotlight at UN meet

Fiji in spotlight at UN meet

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Update: 10.58am THE independence of lawyers and judges in Fiji following the 5 December coup was a concern raised by Australia and New Zealand at the fifth session of United Nations Human Rights Council, which opened in Geneva this week.

According to an UN Online story carried by Radio Fiji Gold, Australia's representative to the meeting Caroline Millar said strengthening judicial independence and the rule of law was key to protecting human rights.

Ms Millar told the council that in the Asia Pacific region, there had been some troubling developments in the law and justice sector, citing the removal of the chief justice by the miliatry and reports of harrassment and detention of lawyers.

Similar comments were expressed by New Zealand representative Amy Laurenson, who said the situation in Fiji should be examined.

''NZ wishes to raise the matter of the current situation in Fiji and to ask the Special Rapporteur for his views. Since the military coup of 5th December, 2006 NZ has been concerned about developments in Fiji which have raised serious issues about human rights abuses in that country. We have been dismayed at the number of media reports of human rights abuses in Fiji over the past six months. Tragically there have also been deaths and custody including one just last week after the state of emergency was lifted. In light of the foregoing, we would like to ask the special rapporteur whether he has any comments on the situation in Fiji in the context of his mandate,'' Ms Laurenson said.

The Special rappoteur Leandro Despouy said the UN Human Rights Committee should act now and reach a decision on the independence of lawyers and judges in Fiji.

''On the current status of the Fiji Islands, I hear there was an interruption of Constitutional Order that was very clear and in fact that they are no longer in a stage of siege, but it does not mean that the country has gone back to the Rule of Law. They have not returned to the rule of law and so if the International Committee...if they are to act, they should do it so far as we see that the countrys no longer respecting the rule of law and comply with the conditions...its not only true about the political situation but also look at the situation of lawyers as well, and justice department in the situation of the president of the Supreme Court. Weve heard from a number of NGOs, theres a very clear prosecution of a number of lawyers there,'' Mr Despouy said.

Interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. when contacted, said he was not aware of the issue and the expression of concern by Australia and New Zealand at the meeting.

Fiji is not represented at the fifth session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

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