(New York) - Fiji's interim government should immediately reinstate the Constitution, restore judges unlawfully removed from office, and withdraw government censors from newsrooms, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. On April 10, 2009, following an appellate court decision declaring the December 2006 military coup unlawful, President Iloilo abrogated the constitution and assumed virtually absolute state powers.
"President Iloilo and Commodore Bainimarama have run roughshod over basic freedoms of speech, association, and assembly," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "After over two years of military rule, Fiji Islanders now face even more restrictions, instead of progress toward restoring democratic rule."
Human Rights Watch called on President Iloilo to implement specific recommendations in four key areas - independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and future elections - including:
- Return immediately to constitutional rule, annul decrees made since April 10, 2009 - in particular the Fiji Constitution Amendment Act 1997 Revocation Decree 2009, Revocation of Judicial Appointments Decree 2009, the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, Public Emergency Regulations 2009, and the State Services Decree 2009 - and recognize the legal system as it stood prior to April 10;
- Immediately cease the harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, writers, lawyers, human rights defenders, and political opponents;
- End interference with domestic and foreign media; and
- Pursue electoral reform through the democratic processes guaranteed by the Constitution.
"President Iloilo claimed on April 10 that basic rights would be respected under the new order," said Adams. "But it appears that the only current guarantees are ones of impunity, prolonged military rule, and reprisals against those who attempt to exercise basic rights."