Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Interim government "misled" on review findings: IBA - Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Update: 3:24PM The interim Government has misled the public about previous international inquiries into government interference with the judiciary, says the International Bar Association in its report into the rule of law in Fiji.

The IBA was responding to claims by interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum that previous international inquiry teams had not found any interference by the interim government with Fijis judiciary.

"(The interim government) should refrain from misleading the public as to the nature of previous international reviews of the situation in Fiji," said the Association's delegation of senior jurists.

The "fallacious" claims were uttered by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, Chief Justice Anthony Gates and High Court judge Justice Thomas Hickie, the IBA said.

The IBA questioned the basis of the interim Government's claims that the Forum Eminent Group (January 29-February 1, 2007), the LAWASIA Observer Mission (March 25-27), and the European Union Mission (November 28December 12, 2008) had found the judiciary to be independent.

The jurists in their report, titled Dire Straits: A report on the rule of law in Fiji, pointed out that the Eminent Group found the judiciarys independence to have been compromised and had called on the interim regime to cease interference.

LAWASIA, it noted, did not address this issue because it was unable to conduct a full review within its short visit, while the EU Mission, which has yet to make public its findings, only confined its review to the progress of preparations for an election.

Among its recommendations, the IBA delegation also called for:

* the interim regime to refrain from interfering with the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.

* the interim Attorney-General and the interim military government to respect the principle of the separation of powers and support the development of an independent judiciary.

* the (general) election to be held at the earliest opportunity in order to restore democracy to Fiji and legitimacy to all government actions.

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