The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum says its concerned about the reduction of penalties for coups and treasons under the new Crimes Decree which came into effect on Monday.
It says this could lead to greater acceptance of these crimes.
“The promulgation of over 50 decrees by this government since April 2009 is perpetuating the coup culture. In our view, the new decree will not end the cycle of coups and is against the recommendations on Ending the Coup Culture that are in the People’s Charter,” CCF Chief Executive Officer Rev Akuila Yabaki said.
For a person who commits treason resulting in the death or imprisonment of the Prime Minister or President, or acts that collude to an armed invasion or war, the penalty of imprisonment for life has been retained.
“Of major concern, however, is that a new element of intention is now incorporated into crimes relating to treason. A person committing treason who can justify that they were acting in good faith or that their action was necessary, will now incur sentences of less than 15 years or could even go free,” Rev Yabaki said.
The organisation says the courts now have to consider if a person committing an act of treason was acting in good faith to show that:- The Prime Minister, the President or one of the advisers were mistaken; There are errors or defects in the Government of Fiji, the Constitution of Fiji, the legislation or the administration of justice; or There are feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups.
“These considerations mitigate the offence of treason by making treason more acceptable in law if it is done with good intentions. These provisions of the new Crimes Decree perpetuate the coup-culture in Fiji and do not take into account the severity of crimes of this nature,” Rev Yabaki said.
It says penalty for mutiny has now been reduced to 15 years imprisonment whereas the penalty for minor misdemeanours has been increased to up to five years imprisonment.