Fiji Yet To Fully Respond To UN Human Rights Review

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Repeal various decrees, review Constitution among recommendations

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Nov. 3, 2014) – Calls to review the 2013 Constitution and to review, amend or repeal restrictive decrees were among 39 recommendations Fiji is still to provide a response to following its second universal human rights review.

The 39 recommendations also include calls to repeal the Media Industry Development Decree" 2010 to "end intimidation and harassment of those that express criticism of the State, to change the climate of fear and self-censorship and to ensure that no one is arbitrarily arrested and detained for exercising their rights".

Justice Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the human rights council that the 39 recommendations will be examined by the country.

In his concluding statement at the interactive dialogue on Fiji's 2nd Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council, Sayed-Khaiyum said it was necessary to either consult with the relevant independent institutions, or to refer them to relevant government agencies for input.

"It should be noted that the Fijian Constitution entrenches the separation of powers and strengthens and affirms the independence of institutions such as the Judiciary, the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Police Force.

Thus the need to consult these institutions, where appropriate." Fiji has been given no later than the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015 to provide responses to these 39 recommendations.

A total of 137 recommendations were put to Fiji by member countries.

Of these, the country supported 98.

Of the 98, Sayed-Khaiyum said the country was in the process of implementing 12.

Fiji delegation responses to questions

Repeal of decrees

The Fijian delegation told the council that the repeal of any other Decrees would be the prerogative of Parliament.

Choice of referendum amendments to the Constitution

Fiji explained that a referendum was a direct form of democracy which did not entail third party intervention, and that was an important and unprecedented consultative means of amending the Constitution.

Invitation and co-operation with special procedures mandate holders

Fiji expressed its willingness to cooperate with such special procedures, based on the areas of critical importance and emphasis by Fiji and provided that Fiji had the resources to receive such visits.

Some of the 39 recommendations Fiji is still to respond to

Review of the Constitution

Estonia and Namibia recommended that a constitutional commission is established to carry out a comprehensive review of the 2013 Constitution and carry out national consultations to ensure that the constitution is reflective of the will of the people.

Estonia further recommended that the national legislation is aligned with the Rome Statute of the ICC and ratify the agreement on privileges and immunities of the court.

Namibia said doing so may help to bring about a more stable political structure.

Mexico recommended that the Fijian Government consult with the civil society to develop and harmonize a legislative framework derived from the new constitution and in accordance with international human rights standards.

Belgium recommended necessary steps are taken to amend existing legislation in order to bring possible restrictions to freedom of expression or assembly in line with international human rights norms and standards.

Switzerland recommended that the constitution as well as national legislation are amended to ensure that the rights to freedoms of expression, assembly and association be guaranteed without restrictions other than those provided for within the framework of international law.

Restrictive Decrees

United Kingdom and Northern Ireland recommended the review, amendment or repeal as necessary all decrees limiting freedom of expression and association, particularly the Media, Essential National Industries and Public Order Decrees.

The United States recommended the amendment of the decrees such as the Public Order Act Amendment Decree, the Political Parties Decree, and the Media Industry Development Decree to ensure respect for freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

Korea recommended revising a Public Order Amendment Decree and the Media Industry Development Decree in a way that fully ensures the rights to freedoms of association, assembly, press and expression.

Freedom of Expression - Media Industry Development Decree

Germany recommended that the legislation on freedom of expression, assembly and association is in line with international human rights standards, in particular by repealing "The Media Industry Development Decree" 2010.

Doing so, Germany says this will end intimidation and harassment of those that express criticism of the State, to change the climate of fear and self-censorship and to ensure that no one is arbitrarily arrested and detained for exercising their rights.

Canada also called for a review of the MIDA decree and the introduction of a freedom of information legislation that accords with international human rights standards to ensure respect for freedom of expression and protection of journalists.

Right of assembly - workers rights

Ireland recommended a safe and enabling environment is created and maintained for civil society actors to freely associate, by amending relevant laws and ensuring they are not invoked to curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Belgium recommended that the existing legislation is amended in order to bring possible restrictions to freedom of expression or assembly in line with international human rights norms and standards.

Workers rights

Australia recommended the conclusion of the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding on the future of labour relations in Fiji.

United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders

Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, Portugal, Slovenia, Montenegro, Norway, Uruguay, New Zealand, Solomon, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway recommended that Fiji invite and cooperate with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council as soon as possible to assist authorities in pursuing progress.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures undertake country visits; act on individual cases and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States and others in which they bring alleged violations or abuses to their attention; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contribute to the development of international human rights standards, engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation.

Special procedures report annually to the Human Rights Council; the majority of the mandates also reports to the General Assembly.

Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

New Zealand, Israel, Solomon Islands called for Fiji to invite a Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to ensure the independence and provide expertise and assistance in the process of maintaining an independent judiciary Canada called for the amendment of the legislative and constitutional framework to maintain the separation of powers and cease any executive interference with the independence of the judiciary and lawyers, and ensure that the processes governing the qualification and discipline of lawyers and judges are free from political interference.

Ratification International Human Rights Treaties

Germany, Canada, Russia, Uruguay, Estonia, Chile, Portugal called for Fiji to bolster the constitutional Bill of Rights by acceding to human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT), Optional Protocol to CEDAW, and the Optional Protocol to Child Rights Committee on a communications procedure (OP-CRC-IC).

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