Serious concerns about rule of law in Nauru amid sacking
Senior judicial officials have raised doubts about the rule of law in Nauru after the government deported the country's only magistrate and barred its chief justice from returning to deal with the matter.
Senior judicial officials have raised doubts about the rule of law in Nauru after the government deported the country's only magistrate and barred its chief justice from returning from Australia to deal with the matter.
The two men have called on New Zealand to get involved as its aid programme is the Nauru justice system's main donor.
Sally Round reports.
Peter Law had worked in Nauru for three years as its resident magistrate, registrar of the supreme court, coroner and chairman of the family court. He had no indication his contract was not going to be renewed this May and says he was shocked and outraged at his treatment on Sunday.
PETER LAW: At 10 o'clock yesterday I received a termination letter from the President of Nauru and a letter from the Minister for Justice David Adeang who declared me a prohibited immigrant and stated I had to be on the first plane out of Nauru. There was also enclosed an airline ticket.
Mr Law says he felt degraded and humiliated as he was bundled out of the country.
PETER LAW: There was a lot of skirmishes at the airport because word quickly got around what was happening and people were trying to stop the process. The Chief Justice had issued orders restraining my departure. They were served on the president, the police, immigration and the aviation authorities. No one took any notice.
The Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames says there must be serious concern whether the rule of law operates in the country. Justice Eames says he had earlier told the Nauru government it was not to deport Mr Law until he'd had the opportunity to return to Nauru and deal with the case but was then told his visa had been cancelled.
GEOFFREY EAMES: I think it's scandalous. I am the Chief Justice. I'm the only justice of the Supreme Court in Nauru and the business of the court cannot proceed while I'm not there. This decision smacks of an interference with the rule of law and an attempt to overturn judgements which had been made by the resident magistrate and which found disfavour with the government.
The two officials say the government has not given them any reasons for their treatment but they believe it is to do with injunctions granted by Mr Law in the last week or so against the deportation of three business people. Their cases were due in court this morning. Meanwhile an opposition MP in Nauru, Mathew Batsiua, says the government is acting like a dictatorship and there's outrage in the country over Peter Law's sacking.
MATHEW BATSIUA: Very heavy-handed tactics from the government, very much unwarranted and what's even more disturbing is that there's no explanation for why he was terminated.
He says he confronted a government minister at the airport, Shadlog Bernicke, who told him the Chief Justice would also be dismissed in due course.
MATHEW BATSIUA: And I said they can't do that because there's a process that has to be followed which involves parliament sanctioning the termination of the Chief Justice. That didn't seem to phase him, what I said and he then threatened to go into a state of emergency if we tried to hamper the dismissal.
Meanwhile Peter Law describes the judicial system as being in total disarray this week, with at least 40 asylum seeker cases due over riots at Australia's detention centre last July. His salary was funded with New Zealand aid and he says New Zealand should be concerned at the rule of law in Nauru. Refugee advocates say the sacking means justice is being further denied to asylum seekers. The Nauru government has not yet responded to Radio New Zealand International's request for comment.
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