Friday, August 22, 2008

Judge urged to vacate Fiji bench

Judge urged to vacate Fiji bench
22/08/2008

An Australian barrister says Judge Jocelyne Scutt's decision to accept a judicial appointment from Fiji's military-backed regime is a national embarrassment.In an article printed in the Australian, John Barns writes that Justice Scutt’s presence on the Fiji bench is hurting Fiji's democracy lobby and is at odds with this week's strident criticism of the regime by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.Barns added that the refusal of Victorian Legal Services Commissioner Victoria Marles to sanction Ms Scutt over her role in Fiji is, on every level, the wrong call. He said Marles is sending a clear message to members of the Australian legal profession that in accepting judicial positions from undemocratic regimes around the world, they will not face sanctions from the regulators.Barns likened Fiji to Zimbabwe and says that Scutt accepting the post in Fiji would be the same for an Australian lawyer accepting a job in Zimbabwe.He writes “there would be a legitimate sense of outrage in the general community that a western lawyer, who is meant to stand for the core values of liberal democracy, such as the rule of law and respect for democratic rights, would take such a position. “We would certainly question the judgment of that lawyer and might reasonably conclude that the person who took the appointment, and thus gave legitimacy to President Mugabe's repressive and undemocratic modus operandi, had acted unprofessionally.”He adds: “It is time for Ms Scutt to do the right thing by the people of Fiji, by resigning her commission and returning to Australia.”Scutt has come under criticisms since accepting her judicial appointment in November last year after mass resignations from other expatriates. Earlier this year, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz urged Canberra to protest the appointment of Scutt to Fiji's High Court.The Fiji Women Rights Movements, the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity (PCPI) and the Fiji Law Society (FLS) have also “attacked” the appointment.The Law Society in Tasmania has previously commented that Scutt had taken on a judicial role when many others were avoiding any involvement until there was a greater rule of law and democracy in Fiji.Scutt had indicated at the time that it would be inappropriate for her to comment

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