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No Political Prosecutions In Fiji, Pryde Tells Human Rights Body

Mr Pryde said that no one person or organisation was targeted during prosecution. He said it was the crime that was targeted, not the individual or the organisation.
08 Nov 2019 12:05
No Political Prosecutions In Fiji, Pryde Tells Human Rights Body
The Fijian delegation which presented the Fijian Human Rights Report at the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. From left to right: Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde, Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Fiji to the United Nations in Geneva Nazhat Shameem Khan, Acting Chief Justice Kamal Kumar, Director Women at the Ministry of Women, Selai Korovusere and Acting Director of Legal Aid Commission Shaheen Ali. Photo: Fijian Government

The Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde, says there are no political prosecutions in Fiji.

He made this statement when the Fijian delegation attended the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji’s National Reports at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, on Wednesday.

Mr Pryde said that no one person or organisation was targeted during prosecution. He said it was the crime that was targeted, not the individual or the organisation.

He said while politicians or political leaders or trade unionists might find themselves investigated or charged with a criminal offence from time to time, they could be assured that they were charged on the evidence objectively applied to the law and not due to their status or positions or society.

A safeguard in the criminal justice system against arbitrariness and potential targeting

“As an independent constitutional office holder, the DPP remains an important safeguard in the criminal justice system against arbitrariness and the potential targeting of people based solely on their occupation or their membership of a particular organisation and all criminal prosecution cases are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the charges matches the evidence and are in the public interest,” Mr Pryde said.

“Although Fiji is becoming more tolerant of the rights of minorities, recent years have seen an increase in incidents of hate speech, targeting vulnerable minority groups.

“Fiji has international obligations to protect vulnerable minority groups from hate speech attacks and one way it has done this is by enforcing its sedition laws against perpetrators since hate speech is a particular form of sedition.

“Naturally before the charges of the State are filed, careful consideration is given to balancing the need, to protect minorities from being the target of hate speech with the freedom of others to publicly express an opinion.”

Tackling sedition charges

Mr Pryde said: “Sedition charges are serious charges and no charges are laid lightly or before a thorough analysis of evidence and degree of offending is considered and no charges are laid without carefully balancing the rights of all parties.

“Fiji’s history makes it incumbent on us to remain vigilant whenever this kind of sedition occurs. Recently the Supreme Court recognised an increase in gender based violence and agreed with the State’s appeal to increase the sentencing tariff for child rape to a sentence between 11 and 20 years imprisonment.”

Balancing fundamental human rights and freedoms with justifiable limitations in law

Commissioner of Police, Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, in his address said they were working closely with the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Legal Aid Commission and ODPP in the management, reporting, investigation and prosecution of breaches of human rights by Police officers.

“We are in the process of finalising our draft in the long outstanding review of the Fiji Police Act which will incorporate international conventions, national legislations and policies,” Brigadier-General Qiliho said.

He spoke on the role of balancing fundamental human rights and freedoms with justifiable limitations in law on the importance of maintaining public order and national security because Fiji has a history of violence and you can talk about 1987 and 2000.

“The Police is committed to ensuring freedom of expression and assembly but the Police must uphold the rule of law….”

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan said Fiji had now ratified all nine core human rights treaties and conventions.

She said Fiji had strengthened its legislative and institutional frameworks to ensure national compliance with international law and best practice.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

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