Judges say Nauru govt actions threaten judicial independence
Chief justices from around the Pacific strongly condemn the actions of the Nauru Government.
Chief justices from around the Pacific have strongly condemned the actions of the Nauru Government in deporting the resident magistrate Peter Law and revoking the visa of the island's chief justice, Geoffrey Eames.
The Nauru government has claimed it was acting to combat cronyism in the judiciary - a charge Justice Eames has strongly rejected.
Melbourne based Mr Eames, who is still officially Nauru's chief justice, has said he thinks his position there is now untenable.
The judges have been meeting in Auckland and the chief justice of the Cook Islands, Tom Weston, told DW why they made a public statement.
TOM WESTON: This is a gathering that we have at least once a year of Chief Justices to discuss leadership issues throughout the Pacific. There are a dozen or so of us who gather, including the Chief Justice of New Zealand, and leadership issues of course include issues such as the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. So the situation in Nauru towards the end of last year was obviously something pretty high on our agenda and so over the last 2 days we have discussed that and issued a statement recording our deep concern at those events and stating that there were concerns about judicial independence in Nauru.
DON WISEMAN: What aspects particularly worried you?
TW: Well, as you probably know, the Chief Justice has his visa cancelled so he's not able to enter the country, that was one half of the problem as it were, and the resident magistrate Peter Law - he'd been deported from the country, and that was in defiance of court orders that had been issued preventing that occurring. So those types of things go directly to the ability of judges in the Pacific to carry out their duties. So as a group of senior judges we are concerned to maintain judicial independence and this seemed to strike right at the heart of that so we discussed the matter at considerable length and then issued that statement.
DW: What would you like to see happen from this point?
TW: I think we've stated our concerns and Nauru's a sovereign state, so Nauru will have to reflect upon those concerns. I don't think it's for us to go further than state those concerns, indeed our statement we issued was limited just to stating those concerns.
DW: What other issues have you been looking at, concerning the judiciary in the Pacific?
TW: Well it covers a huge range of events really from the very basic ones such as: how we go about our business? What sort of resources are available? We spend quite a bit of time discussing aid funding that comes primarily from New Zealand through a programme called the Pacific Judicial Development Programme. So we met, for example, Mr John Allen, the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So we just discuss a great range of issues and it's an opportunity that we have at least once a year to share our problems, our concerns, and learn from each other.
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