Fiji Human Rights Commission Director Encourages Aggrieved To Test Constitutional Protections

Raj laments tendency to go to international bodies first, bypassing local institutions

By Nemani Delaibatiki

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Sept. 14, 2016) – Ashwin Raj says we can test the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution in Fijian courts before we complain to international human rights accountability institutions.

The director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission was asked to respond to statements by some of those questioned at the weekend over comments made at a public forum held without a permit.

There were threats that they would lodge complaints to the International Labour Organisation, Amnesty International and Human Rights Council.

But Mr Raj said: “Appealing to international human rights accountability institutions as well as appealing to the pathos of donor agencies remains their prerogative.

“However, we need to break out of this vicious cycle in which the rule of law, human rights and democracy are seen as an important preconditions for development assistance by the international community, human rights activists and politicians and at the same time bypass our own justice system by appealing to international human rights accountability institutions and development partners and then lamenting that there is no rule of law, the justice system lacks independence, with no possibility of substantive human rights and democracy in Fiji.

“Ironically, the same development partners will then pump in millions of dollars through projects to strengthen rule of law, human rights and democracy in Fiji. So we remain in perpetual crisis.

“We need to test the robustness, the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution in a court of law and allow for our courts to independently adjudicate before we proceed to complain to ILO, Human Rights Council, Amnesty International. These tests will set an important precedent not only for the political elite but also ordinary citizens in Fiji.”

“They need to feel confident that they can access our justice system when their constitutional rights are violated.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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