Undercover Lawyer Uncovers Broken Legal System in Fiji
UK solicitor and Chair of the Law Society Charity Nigel Dodds, has revealed a “worrying picture” of justice in Fiji after going undercover to produce a report on the Pacific Island’s military controlled regime.
Dodds, who travelled to Fiji on a private visit, found that there was no rule of law, no freedom of expression and that the independence of the judiciary could not be relied upon after interviewing lawyers, former judges and prosecutors in November 2011 and producing a report - Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost.
Dodds managed to by-pass Fiji’s blockade on monitoring visits of the situation in the country, which had seen representatives of the United Nations and the International Bar Association attempting to investigate the rule of law in Fiji refused entry and found a legal system that has banned any challenge to Government actions.
Nigel Dodds said: “The most basic principles of democracy and justice that we take for granted do not exist in Fiji. While it is an idyllic destination for holidaymakers, behind that facade is a worrying picture of a society devoid of the rule of law. "
“We asked ourselves why a government was refusing the UN and IBA access to assess the situation in the country. The report goes someway in explaining why. They clearly are unable to justify what are breaches of fundamental principles of the rule of law - the very basis of a civilised, free society."
"Challenges to any government action through the courts are forbidden and it is virtually impossible for an independent legal profession to function appropriately.”
The report questions the role of Fiji’s attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, in the deterioration of the rule of law in the country, by limiting the power of the court and ending the independence of legal sector regulation.
In 2009 Fiji’s then president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, revoked all judicial appointments. Dodds’ report reveals that the government depended to a significant extent on the appointment of judges from Sri Lanka on short-term contracts without security of tenure and raises questions over how they are selected.
The 2009 Administration of Justice Act removed the jurisdiction of the court to hear or determine a challenge to any government action. This has now been supplemented with a practice direction. It notes that the chief registrar will terminate any such case that slips through the net.
The report also noted that the competence and independence of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has been reduced to an unacceptable level.
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