Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Military influence in Fiji’s judiciary: IBA

04/03/2009 -www.fijilive.com
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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) latest report has expressed concerns on the military-led administration’s continuous influence on Fiji’s judiciary.

The report released today titled ‘Dire Straits: A report on the rule of law in Fiji’, also aired its concerns over the state of the rule of law in the country, which it said had deteriorated since the December 2006 coup.

The report made particular emphasis on the case of former Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki who was removed from office in January, 2007 and forced to take leave under duress.

“If the allegations made against Chief Justice Fatiaki were true, they warranted investigation and consideration by an independent tribunal.

“Alternatively, if the allegations were false, the interim regime’s suspension of the CJ was entirely without foundation, constituting a serious and unwarranted violation of the independence of the judiciary,” the report said.

“There is no conclusion that can be drawn from the resolution of the suspension of the CJ that does not have serious negative implications for the rule of law in Fiji,” it added.

Part of the 31 recommendations in the 118 page report recommends that “the interim regime refrains from any interference with the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession”.

The IBAHRI also recommended that “the interim regime respects the independence of the legal profession in Fiji, and refrains from making inappropriate criticisms of the legal profession or individual lawyers”.

This report was published following two failed separate attempts by a high-level IBAHRI-led delegation of senior jurists from Australia and Malaysia to visit Fiji subsequent to reports of threats to judicial independence and violent attacks on some lawyers.

The IBAHRI said since the delegation was barred, the investigation into the state of the rule of law was conducted via teleconferencing with a range of stakeholders based in Fiji and overseas.

The report has also recommended for elections to be held at the earliest opportunity so to restore democracy to Fiji and legitimacy to all government actions.

Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) chairperson Dr Shaista Shameem labelled IBAHRI's report “most venomous” saying it was based on anger for being disallowed into Fiji last year.
Fiji AG ‘baffled’ with IBA report
04/03/2009
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Fiji’s interim Attorney General Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum says it is most baffling to make statements without speaking to key stakeholders.

Speaking in response to the report released by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the AG said he was not aware that such a report was being produced.

He said the report titled, ‘Dire Straits: A report on the rule of law in Fiji’ failed to provide evidence to the statements made in the 118-page document.

According to the IBAHRI, since the delegation was barred from entering the country, the investigation into the state of the rule of law was conducted via teleconferencing with a range of stakeholders based in Fiji and overseas.

However, Sayed-Khaiyum said no ‘key parties’ such as the interim government, the Chief Justice, the navy or the prison department had been interviewed on the matters relating to the report.

“If an independent investigation was to be conducted on the state of the rule of law in the country then the right parties should have been contacted. Don’t prejudice the country before the actual issue. The report baffles us,” said Sayed-Khaiyum.

He said the report also mentioned violent attacks on lawyers by the interim government but did not provide any examples of such attacks in the report.

IBAHRI would have to ensure the credibility of the report since the report itself carried none at all, he said.

“They need to provide facts. If this is fact based then the credibility of the Europeans and the Law Asia report will have to be questioned. It is two against one.”

The IBA has compromised its reputation by listening to only one side of the story and the credibility of the findings will have to be made evident, he said, adding that it is very unfortunate for IBA to take the political agenda of Fiji.

Among other things, the report expressed concern over what it calls the military-led administrations’ influence on Fiji’s judiciary.


Ignore IBA report, FHRC tells Govt
04/03/2009
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The Fiji Human Rights Commission has called on the interim Government to ignore the report compiled by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) on the rule of law in the country.

The IBAHRI’s latest report expressed concern on the military-led administration’s ‘continuous influence on Fiji’s judiciary’.

Released today and titled ‘Dire Straits: A report on the rule of law in Fiji’, the report also aired its concerns over the state of the rule of law in the country, which it said had deteriorated since the December 2006 coup.

But FHRC chairperson Dr Shaista Shameem said the report is spiteful.

On the contrary she said the interim Government “is doing a good job given the constraints and, apart from a few hiccups here and there, it’s programme is a decent and principled one which will improve the human rights condition of generations to come in Fiji”.

The report said the FHRC must act independently and in compliance with its powers and mandates under the Fiji Constitution and law.

Dr Shameem however downplayed findings of the IBAHRI that the military-led administration was influencing the judiciary, let alone the FHRC.

“The interim Government has no interference in the FHRC functions. The IBA has totally missed the point,” she said.

She said those interviewed by the IBAHRI team were disgruntled people who had lost their jobs after December 2006 or were being investigated.

“We enjoy an unprecedented level of autonomy in Fiji now. Clearly this appeared to worry the UK, Australian and Malaysian members of the IBA team that wrote the report.

“The tone of their recommendations on Fiji has a tinge of envy about the constitutional power of the FHRC and its human rights work in de-colonizing Fiji from UK and Australia and from the kind of Bhumiputra policies that Malaysia advocates.”

Dr Shameem adds, “Australia's HRC does not have our kind of constitutional mandate; and the UK does not even have a human rights commission.”

Furthermore, she said the IBA is trying to shut the FHRC in their report “but we will always defend our freedom of expression and our right to express our legal opinion through FHRC's independent inquiries”.

“It's tough if IBA does not like it.”

Dr Shameem added the institution was not consulted prior to IBAHRI printing the report, which it would have responded to, had it been approached.

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