Detailed human rights plan urged for Fiji
An international human rights watchdog says Fiji's political parties should be making detailed plans for protecting human rights clear to voters as they campaign for election.
An international human rights watchdog says Fiji's political parties should have a detailed plan in place for protecting human rights as they campaign for election.
Human Rights Watch says the parties should go beyond broad principles of respect for human rights and come up with specific policies to address the country's human rights record after eight years of military rule.
The group's deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, says it's written to the major parties calling for them to commit to real reform.
PHIL ROBERTSON: This election that will take place on September 17th offers a very clear possibility of a break with the past. But part of that is also going to be a break with abusive human rights policies that the previous government has implemented and so we lined out a human rights agenda for the various different parties competing for the support of Fijian voters, outlining our concerns on freedom of expression and human rights defenders, the need for an independent judiciary, the importance of respect for labour rights and of course also the need to address human rights abusive provisions of the 2013 constitution.
SALLY ROUND: Have you had a look at any of the parties manifestos? Have you looked at what they have said in terms of human rights?
PR: We have actually. FijiFirst doesn't have a human rights manifesto that we could find. But the others the major parties have all to various degrees set out in broad principles a respect for human rights. But we're really now drilling down for specifics. We want them to commit to specific policies on how they're going to, for instance, amend draconian media laws or how they're going to take on various provisions of the constitution that restrict labour rights.
SR: And what would a comprehensive plan of action look like?
PR: Well to set out and address key issues. We try to bundle these issues into areas we thought were important to address and those were the major areas I already outlined. We would hope that they would set out within 100 days to address core human rights problems taking on issues of draconian laws - committing to a time-bound plan of action on various key issues. I mean, they could take on, for instance, media reform right at the beginning. Freedom of the press has been a major problem in Fiji over the past eight years. As a newly democratic state returning to democracy, Fiji should set a new example by really unshackling newspapers, TV, and the radio.
SR: So you're looking for an overhaul of laws in the first 100 days?
PR: Well that would be what we would love to have. I think it is important that they do commit to a time-bound policy - one that would really take on the human rights issues - not in some distant future but to reflect the very serious changes that would happen as a result of a democratic election assuming of course the election itself is democratic.
SR: So were there any particular parties that you felt had when you looked at their manifestos got a much more comprehensive plan in mind?
PR: Some of them have actually specifically raised the various different international commitments, the social liberal party for instance.
PR: Yes. They have set out that they are going to repeal the 2010 Media Decree and enact a Freedom of Information Act, which is an important step. You know the People's Democratic Party has set out that they will promote uniformity of national law in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - that is an an important commitment. But you know, what we need is to go beyond that and get to the real specifics of what they are prepared to do and that is what we are hoping we will see in response to these letters.
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