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NGOCHR reiterates caution to NZ rebuilding ties with Fiji

NGO Coalition on Human Rights
Towards a Fiji that respects and protects human rights

August 1, 2012

NGOCHR reiterates caution

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) welcomes the rebuilding of diplomatic relations between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.

However, the Coalition hopes both Australia and New Zealand intend to hold fast to their earlier stance of Fiji adhering to the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

According to NGOCHR Chair Shamima Ali, Fiji is far from achieving this.

“While we believe that it is certainly a step forward for Fiji to be on better terms with our neighbours’, we know that there is a lot of work to be done before Fiji reaches international human rights benchmarks,” she said.

The Coalition’s concerns come from cases (in July alone), of intimidation by the State on members of the NGO community, youth activists and academics.

Only last Friday, the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum and its Chief Executive Officer Rev. Akuila Yabaki appeared in the High Court, charged with contempt of court, for publishing an article entitled “Rule of Law Lost” in their newsletter.

“Aside from CCF’s case, we have also learnt that young people have been questioned with regards to comments they made on Fiji at a public youth lecture in Suva last month,” Ali added.

The Coalition is also aware of a prominent and vocal academic being questioned for nearly four hours and having his house raided for an article he allegedly wrote on critiquing Fiji’s economic collapse.

“So while the State claims that there is no censorship of the media and people, the story on the ground is different. There are still restrictions on freedom of speech. People are still being intimidated. How can we participate fully in Fiji’s so-called democratization process with these restrictions?” she asked.

Furthermore, in a statement released last month, the Coalition also expressed its extreme concern on the promulgation of the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 and the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree 2012.

“The promulgation of such restrictive Decrees gives Commodore Frank Bainimarama “full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly” as well as the “broad immunity provision for the 2006 and earlier coups to be entrenched in the new constitution” – something which the Constitutional Commission is itself concerned about – should be an indication to countries like Australia and New Zealand of what is happening here”.

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights is a coalition of civil society organisations that works towards a Fiji that respects and protects human rights and fundamental freedoms within the framework of the rule of law.

ENDS

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