16 Sep 2010

Calls for Australia and NZ to fast-track backlog of trials in Solomon Islands

8:17 am on 16 September 2010

A former public defender in Solomon Islands says Australia and New Zealand need to do more to fast-track the backlog of trials for high profile crimes committed during the ethnic unrest between 1998 and 2003.

The Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, RAMSI and its Participating Police Force, PPF, have notched up thousands of arrests for crimes and seized thousands of weapons since their arrival almost eight years ago.

Stephen Lawrence says he had represented numerous figures pursued by RAMSI, but he is concerned that the legal process is taking far too long.

He says tension trials were supposed to have been all completed by 2008, but now it's been extended to 2017.

Stephen Lawrence says even the constitution of Solomon Islands guarantees any accused person a trial within a reasonable time frame.

"In my view it can't be considered reasonable to expect accused people to wait up to 10 years or more since their date of arrest. Its simply unsatisfactory. Its incumbent on the governments of Australia and New Zealand to put in sufficient resources to finish these trials quickly."

Lawyer Stephen Lawrence.