Fiji Commended At Geneva Meet
Fiji yesterday presented its report on its human rights development to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A number of countries congratulated Fiji on the receptive and apolitical manner in which the delegation presented and responded to the dialogue.
The head of the Fijian delegation – the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, outlined Fiji’s significant achievement in the promulgation of the Constitution in September 2013, which has a robust Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights includes not only civil and political rights but unprecedented social and economic rights. The Attorney – General also informed the council that the Fiji’s Constitution has created substantive equality complemented by legal and policy implementation.
The Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, spoke about the barriers experienced by the judiciary in its functioning after the events of 2009.
He spoke on the effects of the travel ban imposed on judges and the important judicial reforms implemented by him to promote an open and equal justice system.
Christopher Pryde, the Director of Public Prosecutions, explained the basis of prosecution in Fiji. He touched on the non-political nature of the decision to prosecute and the number of assault cases committed by police officers which were currently before the courts.
All countries which spoke in this dialogue congratulated Fiji on its recent elections and on its strong and progressive Constitution. Many countries also commended Fiji on its strong advocacy and implementation of social and economic rights.
In relation to questions about the participatory process of Constitution building, Mr Sayed Khaiyum told the Human Rights Council Working Group about the numbers of submissions received and the process of consultation, which was adopted before the drafting of the Constitution.
In response to the questions about the independence of the judiciary, the Chief Justice explained how the UN basic principles on the independence of the judiciary had been incorporated into the Constitution.
He said that there was no evidence of any interference with Fiji’s judiciary by the Government and that the judiciary was committed to reforms.
Some countries asked about the way in which media freedom was protected under the Media Development Decree 2010 and the Constitution. Mr Raj explained that the code of ethics in the Media Decree 2010 and the limitations to freedom of expression in the Bill of Rights aligns with the jurisprudence on European Court of Human Rights. Media laws in Fiji are not an exception to those practised in other jurisdictions, he said.
Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem, addressed the issue of the under- reported dark figure of gender based violence.
She also touched on ways in which Fiji had addressed the need for victims of gender- based violence to report these offences.
Fiji’s report and presentation following the interactive dialogue were highly commended by many state representatives.
Fiji’s report, together with a list of recommendations made by countries, will be tabled at the Human Rights Council today [October 31].
It will be followed by a concluding speech by the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice.