#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Pacific leaders urged to push for human rights

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pacific leaders urged to push for human rights

New York-based Human Rights Watch is urging Pacific leaders meeting in Cairns this week to push Fiji's interim government to cease human rights abuses.

HRW has sent a letter to the leaders meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum, calling on them to raise the Fiji regime's human rights violations in formal and informal meetings with its representatives.

The forum suspended Fiji in May after it ignored a deadline to set a date for elections this year. Military leader Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who grabbed power in a December 2006 coup, said there would be no elections until 2014.

HRW said Bainimarama's control has increased since he announced his cabinet would choose a new president following President Ratu Josefa Iloilo's retirement on July 30.

"As Bainimarama strengthens his grip, Pacific leaders should present a united front to make it clear that they will not tolerate human rights abuses in Fiji," HRW deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson said in a statement today.

"Pacific leaders need to raise this issue with Bainimarama and his government, and press him to bring the abuse to a halt."

HRW said that since 2007, there have been four deaths in military or police custody, and dozens of people have been arbitrarily detained, sexually assaulted, intimidated, beaten, or otherwise subjected to degrading treatment.

Since the interim government abrogated the constitution on April 10, the administration had limited the independence of the judiciary, removing all judicial officers from office, reconstituting courts and commissions, intervening in the licensing of lawyers, and legislating to prohibit legal challenge of its acts.

"Violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, among others, have intensified. The media are heavily censored. Officials have released military and police officers convicted of crimes prior to the completion of their sentences, fuelling impunity." - NZPA

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