29 Apr 2010

Vanuatu chiefs calls for choice of legal systems

2:32 pm on 29 April 2010

The National Council of Chiefs in Vanuatu says people should be able to choose whether to have their cases dealt with through customary law or the legal system.

The comment from the council's chief executive, Chief Selwyn Garu Vira Tabe, follows a coroner's report into a death in custody which called for the Vanuatu Mobile Force to be reined in.

Convicted rapist John Bule died a day after he received multiple injuries following an interrogation by the police paramilitary unit.

Chief Vira Tabe says the case has been dealt with by the police and courts, and the chiefs should not comment as it creates confusion if customary law becomes involved in that system.

He says customary law is recognised in Vanuatu's constitution, and victims should be able to choose between the two.

"We have a dual system. The sooner the government and the people realise that and resources are given to support both systems the better."

Chief Vira Tabe says the chiefs have their own opinions about the John Bule case, but respect that institutions such as the ombudsman and Transparency International can deal with the issue.