13 Sep 2007

Fiji Human Rights Commission report dismissed

3:16 pm on 13 September 2007

Three constitutional lawyers have dismissed last week's report by the Fiji Human Rights Commission which claimed that the December 2006 coup was legal.

In the report written by the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Shaista Shameem, the takeover is described as the actions of a President exercising his rights under the constitution.

But Wellington barrister, Helen Aikman, says she would describe the military takeover as an unlawful usurpation of power and she says it is up to the courts to determine the legality of the takeover.

Ms Aikman QC says Dr Shameem's report should not be taken seriously as the reasoning is flawed and the opinion is in conflict with Fiji's Constitution.

"I think it was most unfortunate in the way it attempted to find a legal justification for the coup when really there is no justification at all. It said that because the President had remained in office throughout, that in fact Bainimarama's actions in sacking Qarase were totally legal which is clearly contrary to the constitution."

Ms Aikman says that Fiji's Human Rights Commission should instead encourage the observance of human rights of all people in Fiji including the rights to freedom of speech, movement and assembly.