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A-G: We Cannot Pick And Choose When Human Rights Become Applicable

We cannot pick and choose when human rights are applicable to people and when it is not. This was the message from Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to
30 Aug 2017 11:00
A-G: We Cannot Pick And Choose When Human Rights Become Applicable
Attorney General and Minister for of Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and European Union Ambassador to Fiji Andrew Jacobs with Law students from University of South Pacific , Fiji National University and University of Fiji during the launching of 2017 Annual Human Rights Moot Court Competition launching at USP’s Statham Campus on August 29, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

We cannot pick and choose when human rights are applicable to people and when it is not.

This was the message from Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to law students who are participating in a month-long Annual Human Rights Moot Court Competition.

The event is organised by the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji like other post-Colonial countries had a post-colonial legacy of divide and rule. This meant there had been widespread divisions and in Fiji’s case this was based on ethnicity and religion.

This led to weak institutions being built and for an objective and equal application of human rights, we need strong institutions, he said.

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and European Union Ambassador to Fiji Andrew Jacobs (front, fourth from left), with Law students from the University of South Pacific, Fiji National University and University of Fiji during the launching of the 2017 Annual Human Rights Moot Court Competition at USP’s Statham Campus on August 29, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and European Union Ambassador to Fiji Andrew Jacobs (front, fourth from left), at USP’s Statham Campus on August 29, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar

He also called out the history of a personality driven government and how there had been people who got away with breaking the law because of their connections, because of their wealth and because of their ethnicity. Having strong institutions would mean none of this would be allowed to happen.

“Strong institutions must go beyond personalities, strong institutions must go beyond ethnicities. In fact it should not be a factor at all,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He also spoke about the role of Police officers in breach of human rights.

“I remember when we were appointed in 2007, some of the police stations used to buy a lot of chillies which were obviously used during interrogation. That is something we had stopped immediately.”

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: Ronald Kumar

In another case, a 14 year-old boy who was alleged to have stolen a tin fish was handcuffed to a post inside a Police post. His father sued the Fiji Police Force and was awarded costs of more than $10,000. This was in 2000.

“Some people have been champions of human rights only when it suits them. And when it doesn’t suit them, they forego human rights.

“Some people further human rights’ purely because the victim is of a particular ethnicity or the perpetrator is of a particular ethnicity. That should not be the case.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also urged young lawyers to get into the practice of providing their services pro bono or free of cost, which many lawyers, especially the more experienced ones in Fiji do not do.

The event is being held in partnership with Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, University of the South Pacific, Fiji National University, University of Fiji and the Fiji Law Society.

Outgoing European Union Ambassador Andrew Jacobs said: “Human Rights form a backbone of any democracy – that’s why the EU is engaged in the promotion of this subject worldwide.

“The EU is committed to supporting the strengthening of governance and participatory democracy in Fiji since its return to a democratic system in 2014.

“The EU commitment to support Human Rights is translated through its bilateral assistance to institutions such as Parliament and the Judiciary, and through its civil society programmes.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj



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