26 Apr 2005

Fiji government urged to set up prisoners' parole board

4:18 pm on 26 April 2005

Three major NGOs in Fiji say the government should set up a parole board to hear prisoners' applications for early release.

The organisations' joint statement says such a panel would stop a single prison official from deciding whether or not to grant a Compulsory Supervision Order, as in the case of recent high-profile figures jailed for their roles in the 2000 coup.

The director of the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, Aisake Casimira, says controversial releases shouldn't be one person's prerogative.

"We had suggested a parole board, which might mean that we have representatives of government, of civil society institutions like the Great Council of Chiefs, then you have religious bodies represented as well as the NGOs. And the board's function would be to scrutinise applications for those applying to be released under a Compulsory Order."

Two years ago, the Labour party and the military had condemned the government's proposal for a parole board, saying it would lead to lighter sentences for those convicted over the coup.