29 Aug 2003

New Caledonia's only Kanak judge says custom law cannot deal with domestic violence

2:37 pm on 29 August 2003

New Caledonia's only Kanak judge has said widely held custom practices should not supersede French common law when it comes to crimes of domestic violence.

Speaking at a Secretariat of the Pacific Community Workshop on Human Rights, Fote Trolue spoke of differences between French Common Law and New Caledonian Custom law, which is recognised under the French Constitution as applicable to the indigenous Kanaks.

The Appeals Court Judge says that custom practices could be applied to civil suits, but that criminal law as practised in the French system is the only way to seek justice for those affected by domestic violence.

Judge Trolue says custom laws can not serve justice for either victims or perpetrators of domestic violence and other crimes linked to breaches of human rights.

He says it is hypocrisy to say 'custom will resolve everything', and that it's a way of shirking responsibilities under French law.

Judge Trolue also says that comparing custom law to French common law is impossible because Kanak custom is based on oral tradition and as such is always changing, especially in modern times.