15 Jun 2005

Legal battles predicted in Fiji if government passes bill

6:41 pm on 15 June 2005

A report from Fiji says major legal battles loom ahead if the government pushes through its controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill and turns it into law.

Radio Legend says it has been informed that several legal avenues are being studied to ensure that people facing coup charges or already convicted by the courts are not granted amnesty.

The radio says the legal sources are looking at the constitution and doctrine of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the government, which does not allow any one to interfere with the work of another.

The current bill, if enacted, will allow the Reconciliation and Amnesty Commission to ask the courts to suspend criminal proceedings against those accused who apply for amnesty until their case is disposed of.

The legal sources say such legislation will mean that parliament is interfering with the work of the judiciary.

They say even the parliament cannot interfere in the judicial powers vested in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

The constitution bestows similar independent powers on the director of public prosecutions who has the right to launch a legal challenge to ensure that criminal proceedings are not stopped by the Reconciliation and Amnesty Commission.

The DPP and the chief justice have refused to comment on the issues.