Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fiji Human Rights Record Under Scrutiny at UN

10 February 2010

The Council’s Universal Periodic Review working group will review Fiji’s human rights records, based on three documents.

To listen in to webcast log on to:

The three documents is the information prepared by Fiji, information contained in reports from the United Nations and information provided by non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic and research institutions.

Fiji is expected to be represented by former high court judge and now diplomat Isikeli Mataitoga who is currently in Europe.


• Canada attaches a great deal of importance to human rights and the rule of law as fundamental components of a free and democratic society. The abrogation of Fiji’s Constitution and dismissal of its judiciary are of great concern to Canada as they violate the basic rights of Fijian citizens. Given that the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled in 2009 that the Interim Government is illegal, when does the Interim Government plan to hold democratic elections in order to restore democratic institutions and processes in Fiji?

• The Paris Principles, which address the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights, underline the importance of independent human rights commissions. Considering that the Interim Government has interfered in the operation of Fiji’s judiciary and civil service, how does the Interim Government propose to adhere to the Paris Principles or, in other words, ensure the independence of Fiji’s Human Rights Commission?

• On April 11, 2009, the Public Emergency Regulation was put in place in Fiji, originally for a period of 30 days but still in effect today. Under the Public Emergency Regulation, the Interim Government was given power to stop any broadcast or publication that “could cause disorder, promote disaffection or public alarm or undermine the government or state of Fiji”, effectively imposing media censorship and greatly hampering freedom of speech. What does the Interim Government plan to do to lift media censorship and resume freedom of speech?

• When will Fiji take steps to ratify UNCAT, and does Fiji intend to invite the Special Rapporteur on Torture?

• What is Fiji doing to safeguard the autonomy of judges and courts and their ability to protect the laws of the country?

• Which steps is Fiji planning to take in order to stop all censorship and safeguard freedom of speech for the media and the population without threats of imprisonment and punishment?

• According to the information by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 65 countries from different regions of the world have issued standing invitations to all special procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Considering previous cooperation of Fiji with special procedures mandate holders (Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (11-16 October, 1999); Working Group on the use of mercenaries (14-18 May, 2007)) and despite some still pending requests by special rapporteurs to visit Fiji - would your country consider extending a standing invitation to all special procedures of the Human Rights Council in the future?

• What concrete steps is Fiji taking to ratify or accede to all UN Human Rights Conventions?

• How has Fiji involved civil society in the preparation for the UPR process? How will Fiji involve civil society in the follow up to recommendations made in the UPR?

• Will Fiji advise the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of a suitable time to visit Fiji (requested in 2007, 2008 and 2009) and if so, when will such advice be given?

• Will Fiji respond to the request from the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (requested in 2006 and 2007) to visit and if so, when will a response be given?

• The Public Emergency Regulation (2009) restricts, inter alia, the freedom of expression and has been broadly condemned. Please explain how the situation in Fiji amounts to a state of emergency requiring restrictions on the freedom of expression. Please explain how the restrictions are limited in time and scope commensurate with the necessity of the situation.

• Are there any plans to review the Public Emergency Regulation?

• There are allegations that human rights defenders are subject to arbitrary detention and ill treatment in Fiji. What measures is Fiji taking to ensure that human rights defenders are not detained arbitrarily? How are claims about ill treatment and torture of human rights defenders investigated and prosecuted?

• The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends a very early adoption of the proposed law on domestic violence and sexual offences. What steps is Fiji taking in this regard and what is the estimated timeframe for adoption of such a law?

• What measures are in place to ensure equal wages and working conditions for women in Fiji?

• Following the political coup of 2006, the Commonwealth had called on the Fijian authorities to hold free and fair elections by 2010 so as to restore the constitutional order. Such elections have not been announced. At the same time, persons expressing their views or otherwise seeking to participate in the political process have been detained and harassed. Reports also show that there has been substantial interference with the legal and justice system through, inter alia, the dismissal of all judicial officers and that legal proceedings in cases against human rights violations are seriously delayed or not acted on.

• What measures is the Government of Fiji taking to ensure all persons’ right to participate in the government of their country and to a fair trial?

• Reports indicate extensive restrictions on freedom of expression with wide media censorship, prohibitions to print, publish or broadcast anything that portrays the government in a negative light, attacks, harassment, intimidation and detention of journalists, critics and human rights activists.

• Could the Government of Fiji elaborate on the measures it is taking to ensure freedom of expression is respected?

• We should be grateful if you would provide information on the extent to which civil society was consulted in your preparation for this review.

• Please could you inform us as to any plans to reinstate the Fiji Human Rights Commission’s independence and allow it to operate in accordance with the Paris principles designed to guide the practice of such institutions?

• Please elaborate on any plans to reinstate inclusive political dialogue, ensuring an early return to a civilian led democracy with full respect for human rights?

• Please confirm plans to abolish the remaining Public Emergency Regulations and re-establish independence and freedom of the media, including the removal of decrees which restrict freedom of association, movement and speech?

• Please elaborate on what steps the authorities are taking to limit the power of the military and police to avoid brutality charges, and what investigations are due to take place into alleged incidents, including reported deaths in custody?

• Can you confirm any plans to reform race equality laws and practices?

• Please elaborate on what measures you are taking to combat gender-based violence, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and to better ensure equality and access for the disabled.

• Please explain the justification for arbitrary exercise of power and vexatious prosecutions including: the summary appointments and dismissals - without explanation - of senior office holders; the expulsion of expatriate newspaper editors and of Australian and New Zealand diplomats; prosecution/intimidation of human rights defenders and their families; and arrest/detention of those rumoured to have expressed dissenting opinions.


• Has Fiji considered issuing a standing invitation to the Human Rights Council Special Procedures? Regarding requests for visits of 2 human rights special procedures (special rapporteur for independence of judges and lawyers and special rapporteur for torture) that are either pending or agreed to but have not been realized, inwhich timeframe does Fiji expect these visits to take place?

• Does Fiji intend to accede to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocol thereto?

- How is currently ensured overview of conditions in prisons and detention and protection of persons in detention of prison from possible abuse? Is there mechanism for accountability of prison and detention staff for any violations of human rights of detainees?

• How is ensured the freedom of expression, and freedom of media in particular from censorship?

• What safeguards exist to ensure protection of journalists or human rights defenders against arbitrary detention, intimidation and violence?

• How is ensured independence of the judiciary and rule of law, in the aftermath of 2009 removal from office of all judges, magistrates and holders of position appointed under the Constitution?

• How is ensured on national level implementation of obligations from CRC?

- How is ensured protection against discrimination of girls, children with disabilities, children in institutions?

- Does Fiji consider raising the age of criminal responsibility currently at 10 years to comply with CRC?

- How is ensured in practice protection of children from economic or sexual exploitation?

- How is ensured protection of the rights of the child in juvenile justice system?

• The National Human Rights Institute has been suspended from the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions in March 2007 and resigned from it in April 2007. What steps does the government envisage to bring this institution back inline with the Paris Principles?

• According the CRC, there are widespread instances of discrimination against children with regard to access to education and health services, in particular against the girl-child, children with disabilities, children in institutional care, children living in rural areas, poor children and children out of wedlock. What are the plans of the government to address these inequalities?

• The Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and on freedom of opinion and expression as well as the vice-chairperson of the working group on arbitrary detention have send urgent appeals regarding the arrest of women human rights defenders. What action has the government undertaken to respond to theses appeals?

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