The head of the Fiji's women's crisis centre says many leaders across the Pacific believe they are above the law.
Shamima Ali was speaking at a conference held in Auckland, ahead of the Pacific Island Forum leaders summit.
She says Pacific people often accept the status quo and tolerate the violation of their rights.
"We can not deny the high levels of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, that exist within leadership. And there are many examples of those that believe they are above the law. That the country is their own empire, and they are not answerable to anyone. And if you think this is bad, in countries where democratic structures still exist, can you imagine a country which is ruled by the gun?"
Shamima Ali says the Pacific needs to demilitarise to avoid militaries oppressing their own people, as has happened in Fiji.