7 Mar 2007

US report says Fiji human rights situation worsened after coup

5:17 pm on 7 March 2007

The US State Department Report on Human Rights in 2006 says the human rights situation worsened in Fiji after the December coup.

It says there were some accounts of human rights abuses by police during the year but the military committed numerous abuses after the December 5 coup.

The report says the military detained without warrant and abused persons who had voiced opposition to the coup or who supported a return to democratic government.

It says formal complains to the Fiji Human Rights Commission did not increase significantly by year's end because of a climate of intimidation and fear of reprisals after the coup.

The report says the Fiji Human Rights Commission director had said she would investigate human rights abuses if complaints were made, but she had also warned the public that not all their rights could be exercised freely under a State of Emergency.

The US State Department report says that the interim government took no action against military personnel alleged to have committed abuses against coup opponents.

In an immediate reaction, the Fiji Human Rights Commission has suggested that the US may be in contempt of court for producing the report on matters that are currently before the courts in Fiji and are subjudice.

The director, Dr Shaista Shameem says the US embassy in Fiji could be taken to task under section 124 of the Constitution, for producing the report without waiting for the court to determine the issue of legality of the December 5th events.

She says the US report appears to have prejudged and pre-determined the outcome of the court.

Dr Shameem says the Commission will disregard the US report until the court has had an opportunity to decide whether the matters discussed in it are subjudice.