Nauru Legal System Struggling After Asylum Riot

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Chief justice says prison cells overcrowded

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, July 30, 2013) – Nauru is struggling to deal with the legal aftermath of the riot by asylum seekers that caused an estimated US$55 million of damage.

At least 150 people were involved in the disturbances and fire at Australia’s Regional Processing Centre and more than a hundred have been charged.

The Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames, says the prison and police cells are overcrowded with those detained on bail.

He says Nauru has limited legal aid, only a few lawyers, one prosecutor and one courtroom.

Justice Eames says talks between the two governments are urgently needed if hearings are to be held in a reasonable time.

"It seems to me pretty obvious that the Nauru government couldn’t be expected to cope with this and the Australian government would seem to be an obvious avenue for resources. These are matters that have to be dealt with under our constitution both fairly and expeditiously and if that is to occur then much great resources is required than is currently available."

Justice Eames says he can’t rule out the possibility of cases being heard offshore.

[PIR editor's note: Radio New Zealand International also reports that 31 asylum seekers have been cleared of riot-related charges. Nauru's District Court is reportedly progressively laying charges against remaining asylum seekers who will remain in custody short-term. President Baron Waqa, meanwhile, has defended government action during the riot, rejecting claims by an opposition MP that residents of Nauru who were called out as reservists were highly agitated.]

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