Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fiji Lifts "State of Emergency"

The United Nations human rights chief last week welcomed the lifting of a state of emergency in Fiji, more than two years after it was imposed, calling it a “step in the right direction” for the Pacific island nation.  “The emergency law has seriously restricted the right to public assembly and freedom of expression, and given the authorities broad powers of arrest and detention,” said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement.  “I welcome the cancellation of the emergency law and encourage the Government to build on this positive momentum with concrete steps to ensure full respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

Fiji had committed to lifting the emergency regulations before the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in 2009, a pledge the South Pacific island nation has now fulfilled, Ms. Pillay noted.  She also took note of Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama’s announcement that amendments have been made to the Public Order Act, voicing hope that those amendments would be in line with international human rights norms and would not in any way replicate the restrictions in the public emergency regulations.

Ms. Pillay, however, expressed concern over recent developments in which critics of the Government have faced criminal charges, arbitrary detention and other forms of intimidation.  “Silencing criticism with such heavy-handed measures is in breach of international human rights standards. I urge the Government to ensure that the rule of law is fully respected and that there is space for civil society to operate without fear,” she said.

“As Fiji begins its constitution-making process and prepares for elections to be held in 2014, I look forward to seeing an environment in which ordinary people and civil society organizations can participate fully.”  She said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regional bureau for the Pacific remains ready to support national efforts to further the promotion and protection of human rights in Fiji.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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