13 Jun 2007

Australia concerned about treatment of Fiji lawyers

4:56 pm on 13 June 2007

Australia has raised concerns about Fiji's treatment of lawyers and judges with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Fiji's military rulers, who seized power in a coup last December, have beeen criticised for their treatment of the country's legal officials.

In January, Fiji's Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki was told to go on leave or be dismissed.

Mr Fatiaki had angered the military by publicly saying on the day of the coup that the judiciary would uphold Fiji's constitution.

A former Fiji Law Society president Graham Leung recently told a convention in Hong Kong that some lawyers in his country felt intimidated and were worried about their personal safety.

Australia's representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Caroline Millar, told a meeting of the organisation in Geneva this week that there were concerns about the compromised state of the judiciary in Fiji.

She said Australia was also concerned about continuing reports of harassment and intimidation of Fiji lawyers, including the recent military detention and questioning of two lawyers representing clients who were taking legal action against the interim regime.