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Human rights in Fiji

Amnesty International Report - May 2011

Head of state: Ratu Epeli Nailatikau
Head of government: Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population: 0.9 million
Life expectancy: 69.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 25/24 per 1,000

The military-led government continued to rule without a constitution, and repressive Public Emergency Regulations (PER) remained in place. The government continued to restrict freedom of expression; critics of the government, including members of the Methodist Church, were among those targeted. A new law was passed, stifling media freedom. Human rights defenders were intimidated and persecuted through the courts or directly through the use of the PER. A new decree addressing violence against women had yet to be implemented by the courts and the police.

Freedom of expression

In January, a senior military officer announced that anyone critical of the government would face reprisals from the military. That same month, officials from the Prime Minister's office indefinitely suspended 20 workers of the Suva City Council, alleging that they were anti-government bloggers. The authorities warned the workers that they would be persecuted by the security forces if they took action in the courts. A nine-month investigation revealed no evidence against the workers. They remained suspended with little or no recourse to justice.

Dozens of pensioners said to be critical of the regime had their pensions suspended under the Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree which came into force in January. However, the government repealed the decree in May.

In June, the Media Industry Development (MID) Decree was passed establishing the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority. The Authority ensures that local media do not publish material deemed to threaten public interest or order. It has wide powers of investigation over journalists and media outlets, including powers of search and seizure. The Media Tribunal, established under the MID Decree, will decide on complaints referred by the Authority and can impose jail terms and large fines. Despite these extensive punitive powers, the tribunal will not be bound by formal rules of evidence.

Freedom of association

The Prime Minister continued to ban the Methodist Church from holding its annual conference. He accused church ministers of spying on the military for the government ousted in a 2006 coup.

In October, former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and five of his associates were detained in the town of Rakiraki for more than 48 hours and charged with breaching the PER by attending a public meeting with three or more people without the approval of the authorities.

Human rights defenders

In January, prominent human rights lawyer Imrana Jalal and her husband were investigated by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption and charged with seven misdemeanour offences relating to the Public Health (Hotels, Restaurant and Refreshment Bars) Regulations, the Food Safety Act and the Penal Code. The charges were politically motivated.

Imrana Jalal had spoken out against human rights violations committed by the military when it overthrew the Laisenia Qarase-led government in December 2006. In July, the court ruled that there had been an abuse of due process and all charges against her were dismissed. Her husband continued to face charges on a related matter concerning his employment in a government-owned company.

  • In January, army officers threatened and intimidated trade unionist Pramod Rae to prevent him from organizing a strike at his workplace, the Bank of Baroda.
  • In February, the Prime Minister warned two human rights defenders that they could be detained at the army barracks because of statements they made on the country's judiciary at Fiji's Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
  • In February, trade unionist Attar Singh was taken from his office to the army barracks in Suva, threatened and then released. In 2007, he had been detained in the same barracks where the military assaulted and threatened to kill him.
  • Violence against women and girls

    High levels of physical and sexual violence against women and girls continued to be reported in the media and by women's organizations. Despite government announcements declaring that the Domestic Violence Decree 2009 had come into force, activists continued to assert that the Decree had not been implemented and that stakeholders, including police, were still not aware of its provisions or how to implement them.

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