New Zealand Law Society advises against taking judges' jobs in Fiji
New Zealand's Law Society Thursday urged lawyers and judges not to accept appointments as judges from Fiji's military regime.
All of Fiji's judges were sacked last week after three Australian judges sitting as the Court of Appeal ruled that the military government of Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in December 2006, was illegal.
In response to the ruling, the constitution was revoked and emergency powers were declared, including stringent censorship forbidding criticism of the government.
New Zealand and Australian lawyers have frequently served as judges in Fiji, but Law Society President John Marshall said that while the organization could not stop New Zealand lawyers from accepting such jobs, they should avoid working for the Fijian regime.
The society believed this week's sacking of the judges was unlawful, and the judges were in principle still in office.
"But for practical purposes the regime is not allowing judges to sit, so in this situation I think it would be wrong for New Zealand lawyers to accept appointment as judges in Fiji," he told Radio New Zealand.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the European Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, joined international condemnation of the regime's actions on Thursday.
"The long-term damage of undermining such fundamental institutions as the judiciary and the media cannot be underestimated," said Pillay, who called for a return to rule of law, reinstatement of judges and lifting of restrictions on the media.
Michel said in a statement that he was particularly disappointed, because the government had agreed with the EU on a plan that would have restored political order and democracy to Fiji and allowed the EU to provide substantial financial support to rescue the country's sugar sector and help restore the economy.
"These developments are unacceptable for the international community," he said. "Commitments must be respected. An early and inclusive domestic political process leading to a return to constitutional order and democracy in Fiji will allow us to provide assistance to Fiji, at a time when global economic prospects are becoming increasingly difficult", reported dpa.