20 Feb 2007

Fiji Human Rights Commission critical of Forum team

7:01 pm on 20 February 2007

The Fiji Human Rights Commission has criticised two members of the Forum's Eminent Persons Group which has produced a report about last December's coup.

The group's make-up was announced last month, but the Commission's director, Dr Shaista Shameem, says one of the members, General Peter Cosgrove, has now been brought to the attention of the Commission.

She says General Cosgrove was in charge of the Australian Defence Force when Afghan refugees on the Tampa vessel were trying to seek asylum in Australia in 2001.

Dr Shameem says even though the Tampa was in Australian territorial waters, Australian naval authorities refused to provide humanitarian assistance to the sick and dying on board the vessel.

She says any representative who was involved directly in such a serious violation of human rights does not deserve to be taken seriously with respect to the comments about the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

Dr Shameem has also criticised the former chief justice of Papua New Guinea, Sir Arnold Amet.

She says Sir Arnold failed to declare a conflict of interest as a board member of the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity which she says has been attempting to interfere with the Commission's independence and autonomy since the coup.

Dr Shameem says the Commission considers the Eminent Persons' report to be seriously discredited and compromised.