26 Apr 2005

NGOs in Fiji want all treated equally under law after chiefs released from jail early

7:28 am on 26 April 2005

The early release of several Fiji chiefs jailed for their role in the coup has prompted several civil society organisations to call for people to be treated equally under the law.

Three NGOs have called on the government to immediately table in parliament amendments to the Prisons Act to ensure the unilateral decisions on releases under Compulsory Supervision Orders are not left to one person.

The NGOs have issued a joint statement saying it is urgent that everyone is treated equally under the law.

Their call follows the early release of the former vice president, the former lands minister and a government senator shortly after they were jailed for coup related offences.

A spokesperson for the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity , Angie Heffernan says legal loopholes in the Prisons Act must be removed immediately to prevent convicted criminals from exploiting the system.

The director of the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, Aisake Casimira, says with the imminent possibility of more coup related cases, it is imperative to close loopholes to uphold the integrity of the legal system.

The attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale, has told the Fiji Times a new Prisons and Corrections Bill to go before parliament later this year would remove individual discretion over the release of prisoners