22 Dec 2005

Fiji Human Rights Commission says delay in mutiny retrial breaches soldiers constitutional rights

4:17 pm on 22 December 2005

The Fiji Human Rights Commission has stepped into the standoff between the military and the ministry of home affairs on the High Court ordered second court martial of 20 soldiers for coup and mutiny related offences.

It is five months since the High Court quashed their earlier sentences on a legal technicality and ordered that they be tried again.

Th director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, has told Radio Legend that the delay in the retrial of the detained former soldiers is in breach of their constitutional rights on several grounds.

Dr Shameem says the military and the home affairs ministry should get their act together for the sake of the former soldiers as every delay means an extra day behind bars for the men.

She says lawyers should immediately make an application to the courts to highlight the difficulties they are facing in bringing their clients to the appropriate forum for justice.

The military spokesman, Captain Neumi Leweni, says they have given the home affairs minister all the appropriate information and are awaiting the commissioning of Suva lawyer Graham Leung as the judge advocate.

But the ministry remains adamant that it is contesting the amount of 78-thousand US dollars that the military has budgeted to pay Mr Leung.

The military says the total amount may not necessarily be used up as Mr Leung will openly be paid for the number of months the court martial lasts.