Sunday, July 18, 2010

Independence Of Fijian Judiciary Undermined

Press Release: New Zealand Law Society 
18 July 2010
NZ Law Society

The New Zealand Law Society is gravely concerned at reports that Fiji’s millitary State agencies are undermining the independence of the Fijian judiciary.

Law Society President Jonathan Temm says the Society has been advised that five magistrates have been dismissed without notice recently. This includes one magistrate who questioned the propriety of a prosecution by the Fijian government agency Independent Commission against Corruption.

Mr Temm says the prosecution was against a human rights lawyer and her husband and involved charges alleging breaches of the law related to Suva City Council misdemeanours, along with a charge of fraud.

“It appears that a government agency – which was purportedly established to fight corruption – is being used in a manner inconsistent with its statutory purpose. The effective dismissal of judicial officers attacks the independence of the judiciary,” he says. “Of most concern is those judicial officers apparently dismissed for rejecting prosecution cases brought by the military government or its agencies.”

Mr Temm says a Law and Justice report issued by the Citizens Constitutional Forum organisation found that 40 judicial officers were dismissed in the year to April 2010, in addition to the five recently dismissed magistrates.

“The Fiji Law Society has bravely condemned the dismissal of Fijian magistrates and public prosecutors, and says that Fiji’s judiciary is effectively no longer independent,” he says.

“It is clear to the New Zealand Law Society that the rule of law is under attack in Fiji and this should be a significant concern to the people and Government of New Zealand.”

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