7 Sep 2004

Fiji High court rejects bid to halt courts martial of 56 soldiers

10:25 am on 7 September 2004

Fiji's Legal Aid Commission has lost a bid to stop the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, from convening courts martial to try soldiers involved in the year 2000 coup and mutinies.

The commission director, Makareta Waqavonovono, argued in the Suva High Court that the military commander could not convene a court martial.

She said this was because the law in Britain had been changed so an independent authority had to convene a court martial and the same should apply in Fiji.

She brought the case on behalf of a soldier who wanted to be retried before an independent body, saying his constitutional right to a fair trial had been breached.

But High Court judge, Justice Gerard Winters, has ruled that the Fiji Army Act is valid and the powers vested in the military commander to convene a court martial under the Army Act are also valid.

The ruling means that the court martial of 56 soldiers charged for their alleged involvement in the May 2000 coup will go ahead tomorrow as scheduled.

They face charges of mutiny, misprision of treason and unlawful confinement.