Annual Report: Fiji 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Fiji 2013

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REPUBLIC OF FIJI

Head of state President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau

Head of government Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama

People's rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be restricted under military rule. Political leaders and human rights defenders were arrested and charged with serious offences, in some cases leading to imprisonment. Concerns remained about the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

Background

In July, a process for reviewing the Constitution was established by decree. Under the process, participants in the 2006 coup were given full immunity from prosecution. The Constitutional Commission, established in April 2012, and others expressed concern about the review process. Despite earlier public consultations, the process was amended in November to prevent public consultation on a draft Constitution before it could go before the Constituent Assembly.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

In January, the Public Order (Amendment) Decree replaced the Public Emergency Regulations, but retained similar restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. A number of decrees passed since 2009 have been used to stifle government critics, prevent peaceful protests and disperse meetings.

  • In May, police revoked a permit to march for the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on the day of the march.
  • On 11 July, police arrested and detained overnight a Fiji Labour Party official, Vyas Deo Sharma, and 14 male supporters for meeting at a private dwelling.

Former political leaders and human rights advocates were prosecuted in cases which appeared to be politically motivated, undermining freedom of expression.

  • In July, the Citizens' Constitutional Forum was charged with contempt of court for an article published in its newsletter in April entitled “Fiji: Rule of Law Lost”.
  • In August, deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was sentenced to 12 months in prison on what were believed to be politically motivated charges of corruption.

Government remained critical of external institutions reviewing human rights in Fiji.

  • In September, an International Labour Organization delegation was expelled from Fiji.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Police and security forces faced allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including beating, threatening and intimidating people, particularly government critics.

  • In September, five men who escaped from prison were recaptured by security forces and were reportedly tortured. All five were hospitalized as a result of their injuries and one had his leg amputated.

Justice system and lack of accountability

The rule of law and access to justice were undermined by an absence of judicial review of government decisions and security of tenure for judges. Impunity prevailed in cases of past human rights violations.

  • In July, Felix Anthony of the Fiji Trades Union Congress issued a formal complaint, after he was assaulted by officers in February 2011. Police refused to investigate his complaint against Prime Minister and Military Commander Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.
  • In January, the UK Law Society Charity released a report claiming that there is “no rule of law” in Fiji and that “the independence of the judiciary cannot be relied upon”.