Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Immunity for Soldier

Judge rules on soldiers immunity

http://www.fijisun.com.fj/ - 3/31/2009


Private Maika Vuniwawa is not immune to prosecution for a charge of murder.
Justice Daniel Gounder made the decision yesterday after Vuniwawa’s lawyer, Haroon Ali Shah brought up the issue in court last week.
“For the reasons outlined in my ruling, I find that the accused is not immune to prosecution of criminal charges brought against him by the State,” Justice Gounder said.
Vuniwawa is charged with murder for allegedly causing the death of Nimilote Verebasaga following the military coup in 2006.
In his ruling, he said after looking through the promulgation enacted by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo after the events of December 5, 2006, he found scope of the immunity was limited.
“The immunity only extends to those acts that led to the ousting or removal of the officials of the legislative and executive organs of Government from their offices and also of other persons holding public office. It surely does not immune anyone from prosecution for an offence of murder allegedly committed in the process of removing the officials. In this respect, there is no ambiguity about the ambit of the immunity.”
In the promulgation, Ratu Josefa states immunity is to be granted to Commodore Frank Bainimarama and all officers and members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and also members of the Reserves.
All those who acted under directions or orders from them were also immune from prosecution.
Shah had stated in his application because of the ambiguity of the promulgation, his client was immune from prosecution too.
State lawyer Wilisoni Kuruisaqila had rebutted and said immunity covers only those acts which led to the removal of the legislative and executive organs of the State by the Fiji Military Forces, and not acts on civilians by military officers.
Human Rights Commissioner and Fiji Women’s Crisis Center coordinator Shamima Ali yesterday said the ruling was a reflection that the judiciary was still independent.
“It was a good call made by Justice Gounder and it shows we can still turn to the judiciary for justice. It’s his interpretation of the decree and it is a fair one,” she said.
However, she said there needs to be further consultation on the issue of immunity when a constitutionally elected government is in place in order to prevent misinterpretation of its meaning.

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