NATION

Raj: Bill Must Be Weighed Carefully

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Dis­crimination Commission (FHRC) be­lieves the Registration of Sex Offend­ers Bill must be weighed carefully. Commission director Ashwin Raj, while presenting the Commission’s submissions to the
14 Apr 2018 11:00
Raj: Bill Must Be Weighed Carefully
Fiji Human Rights Commission director Ashwin Raj (left), with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights in Parliament on April 13, 2018. Photo: Parliament of Fiji

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Dis­crimination Commission (FHRC) be­lieves the Registration of Sex Offend­ers Bill must be weighed carefully.

Commission director Ashwin Raj, while presenting the Commission’s submissions to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights in Par­liament yesterday, said the Bill needed to be carefully looked into because it would stig­matise somebody for the rest of their lives.

“I am not here to make an apology for sex offenders. I do think this is an important Bill which has my support, but at the same time I do think that we are legally obligated to uphold the human rights of sex offenders as much as we must protect the victims of sexual violence,” Mr Raj said.

He said disciplinary monitoring could re­sult in significant limitation to the right to privacy. He said in 2017 the youngest victim of sexual violence in Fiji was one year 10 months and the youngest accused person charged with rape was a 12-year-old boy.

Mr Raj said the primary responsibility of promoting public safety, including the right of every child to live a life free of violence and sexual abuse, by holding offenders ac­countable and putting effective protection mechanisms in place invariably lay with the State, but so did the constitutional obli­gation to protect fundamental human rights and freedoms of every citizen.

“The imperative to register sex offenders, therefore, will require careful balancing be­tween public safety and the human rights of sex offenders,” he said.

He said the Standing Committee must con­sider the impact of the Bill on the right to privacy and respect for human dignity, con­fidentiality of personal information includ­ing the right to housing, employment and education without unreasonable discrimi­nation.

He said the Bill, under section 29, had strong and salutary confidentiality provi­sions which required that a person who was authorised to access the register must not disclose any information in the register un­less the person was authorised by the Com­missioner or permitted or required by a court of law or under any other written law.

Mr Raj said this was a significant provi­sion, which protected those who were reg­istered and their families against persons who may use the information in the regis­try to injure, harass, or commit a criminal act or discriminate unreasonably (denial of housing, education and other necessary benefits or services) against any person included in the registry and may therefore be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability or both. Mr Raj said the informa­tion disclosed must be limited to what was necessary to promote public safety.

He appreciated the sense of urgency and concern that has prompted the formulation of this Bill.

Classification of sexual offences:

Mr Raj also submitted that the sex offend­er registry must not mix minor offences in the same category as rape and other vio­lent criminal convictions. The commission strongly recommended the section Bill fur­ther classify sexual offences.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj



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