16 Apr 2007

Regional legal organisation says rule of law in Fiji maybe compromised

10:40 am on 16 April 2007

The professional body that represents lawyers in the Asia - Pacific region says the rule of law in Fiji may be compromised because of the uncertainty surrounding the status of the judiciary.

LAW-ASIA makes the comment in a report produced by an observer mission it sent to Fiji for four days at the end of March to study the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

Their report says the suspended chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, should be provided with details of the allegations against him and a tribunal established to deal with them, although its legality would be open to challenge.

It says the terms of reference of such a tribunal should be extended to examine the entire judiciary, including reports of corruption in the magistracy.

The LAWASIA report says this is necessary restore public confidence in the judiciary and the magistracy.

The observer mission found overt disharmony within the Fiji judiciary which the authors said went back to the 2000 coup and which time had not healed.

Tier report recommends an international effort to assist the Fiji courts to overcome a lack of resources.

It also says that members of the legal profession be allowed to speak openly on important legal issues without fear of intimidation by the military.