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Fiji – rule of law and civil rights issues

21 May 2008

Fiji – rule of law and civil rights issues

“The New Zealand Law Society is very concerned at the on going breaches of the rule of law and civil and political rights in Fiji since the coup of December 2006,” President John Marshall QC said today (21 May).

“The recent expulsion of the Fiji Times journalist Evan Hannah, following the earlier expulsion of two other journalists strikes at the heart of the freedom of the press. What made Mr Hannah’s deportation of even more concern was that it was made in defiance of a court order staying his deportation and requiring him to be brought before the court.

“The NZLS has been monitoring the situation in Fiji and especially the erosion of the independence of the judiciary. Our concern began when Chief Justice Fatiaki was suspended from duties in January 2007. The constitutionality of that action is being challenged in the Fiji courts, and we await the decision of the court before commenting further.

“More latterly, the society has been very concerned at statements earlier this year by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Aryaz Sayed-Khaiyum criticising certain Fijian judges in a press statement. The constitutional role of the Attorney General is to defend judges from public attack, not to criticise them publicly.

“Fiji is a signatory to the 1997 Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary in the LAWASIA region. These principles stress the importance of the independence of the judiciary to the rule of law. The NZLS will continue to monitor the actions of the Fijian government against these principles,” John Marshall said.


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