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Assistance for High Court trials in Solomons

AA 04 094 Thursday 16 December 2004

Enhanced assistance for High Court trials in Solomon Islands

Australia is providing extensive support to assist the Solomon Islands justice system in managing a big caseload arising from investigations of crimes committed over the five years before 2003.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), through its multi-country Participating Police Force (PPF), has been working with the Solomon Islands police to investigate crimes committed during the period of ethnic tensions that began in 1998.

The investigations have led to the arrest of a large number of suspects and the resulting increased Solomon Islands High Court caseload. To date, more than 40 criminal trials have been set down to be heard in the High Court, with more cases expected as police investigations continue.

Substantial logistical efforts are required to ensure that witnesses associated with these trials, many of whom live in remote areas of Solomon Islands, are available in Honiara to give evidence. A public awareness campaign is underway to help to build community understanding of the witness and trial processes.

Australia's substantial package of enhanced assistance to the High Court includes: sixteen lawyers and administrative staff to support the Public Solicitor's Office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; funding for up to two additional High Court judges from the Pacific region and a court administration adviser to support the work of the High Court; infrastructure upgrades to strengthen High Court security and increase the number of court rooms, allowing multiple criminal cases to be heard concurrently; and support for court transcription services.

Since the arrival of RAMSI in July 2003, Australia has provided an estimated $A49 million to strengthen justice agencies and to support the Solomon Islands Prison Service. Australia's development cooperation assistance for law and justice for 2004-05, including the program of enhanced assistance, is estimated at $A24 million.


ENDS

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