Fiji has presented its report on its human rights development to the Human Rights Council in Geneva at which a number of countries congratulated Fiji on the receptive and apolitical manner in which the delegation presented and responded to the dialogue.
In his opening statement, the Head of the Fijian Delegation - Attorney General and Minister for Justice Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum outlined Fiji’s significant achievement in the promulgation of the Constitution in September 2013.
He said the constitution has a Bill of Rights which includes civil and political rights, and unprecedented social and economic rights.
The Attorney General also informed the Council that the Constitution has created substantive equality complemented by legal and policy implementation.
Chief Justice, Anthony Gates spoke about the barriers experienced by the Judiciary in its functioning after the events of 2009, the effects of the travel ban imposed on judges and the important judicial reforms implemented by him to promote an open and equal justice system.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde also explained the basis of prosecution in Fiji, the non-political nature of the decision to prosecute and the number of assault cases committed by police officers who are currently before the Courts.
The Council then broke into interactive dialogue between individual countries and the Fijian delegation.
The dialogue included a discussion on violence against women, on media freedom, on the way in which limitations in the Constitution will be read and the important inclusion of social and economic rights in the Fijian Constitution.
All countries which spoke in this dialogue congratulated Fiji on its recent elections and on its strong and progressive Constitution.
In relation to questions about the participatory process of Constitution building, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice told the Human Rights Council Working Group about the numbers of submissions received and the process of consultation which was adopted before the drafting of the Constitution.
In response to the questions about the independence of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice explained how the UN basic principles on the independence of the Judiciary had been incorporated into the Constitution.
He said that there was no evidence of any interference with Fiji’s judiciary by Government and that the Judiciary was committed to reforms.
Some countries asked about the way in which media freedom was protected under the Media Development Decree 2010 and the Constitution.
The Chair of the Media Industry Development Authority Ashwin Raj explained that the code of ethics in the Media Decree 2010 and the limitations to freedom of expression in the Bill of Rights aligns with the jurisprudence on European Court of Human Rights and that media laws in Fiji are not an exception to those practised in other jurisdictions.
Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem addressed the issue of the under reported dark figure of gender based violence and ways in which Fiji had addressed the need for victims of gender based violence to report these offences.
Fiji’s report together with a list of recommendations made by countries will be tabled at the Human Rights Council later this week.
That will be followed by a concluding speech by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
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