IBA condemns Fiji Govt’s threat against delegation
Date: 25 November 2008
Title: IBA condemns Fiji Government’s threat against high-level delegation
The International Bar Association (IBA) condemns the threat made by Fiji’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, against a high level IBA-delegation scheduled to conduct an in-country review of the rule of law in Fiji. In a letter received by the IBA 24 November 2008, the Attorney-General of Fiji declared that ‘the Government of Fiji does not welcome or approve’ the delegation’s visit and would take ‘appropriate steps’ if the IBA attempts to visit Fiji. The letter was issued despite reports in the Fijian and Australian media that the Attorney General would now ‘most welcome’ a visit from the IBA.
The barred delegation included senior jurists from Australia and Malaysia who were scheduled to meet with judges and members of the legal profession for five days between 8 and 12 December 2008. The same delegation was prevented from entering the country in February of this year when the Fiji government issued an immigration stop order.
The IBA is disappointed that the Fijian Government is not supportive of independent reviews of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. The IBA is also troubled by this latest attempt to thwart the efforts of a non-political professional association to assess the situation.
The IBA is not deterred, however, in carrying out its review. Using other avenues available, the IBA will continue its work to provide an independent assessment of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Fiji. A report will be issued in the near future.
The IBA regrets that the Fiji government will not meet with the delegation to present its own views on the rule of law in Fiji.
‘The Fijian Government has again indicated its lack of support for an independent review of the situation in Fiji. The threat made by the Attorney-General against the delegation is unacceptable in a free and democratic society and reflects badly on the state of affairs in Fiji’, said Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director.
Fernando Pombo, President of the IBA, stated: ‘The rescheduled visit had attracted the support of a variety of stakeholders including judges, lawyers and non-government organisations. It is deeply saddening to see that the Fijian Government wishes to prevent this visit from taking place in light of the manner in which it has been welcomed by the rest of the community.’