17 Apr 2012

Fiji urged to ensure human rights before constitutional process

10:33 am on 17 April 2012

The Commonwealth has welcomed steps by the government of Fiji to restore democracy, but says it needs to restore full respect for human rights.

The Commonwealth ministerial action group, which includes the Ministers of foreign affairs of Australia and Vanuatu, met after the organisation's Deputy Secretary-General visited Fiji last month to assess the political situation.

Ben Lowings reports from London.

"As an international body, the Commonwealth exists to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. So it is hardly surprising that the ministers approved of recent statements from the Fiji government, especially on lifting emergency rule. But the Commonwealth wants Fiji to stick to its promise to hold elections by September 2014. It says Fiji needs to ensure freedom of expression and assembly, and increase access to justice. Fiji should, it says, restore full respect for human rights. The group says says those values are not only fundamental to the Commonwealth, but also indispensable in order to create the environment necessary for credible constitutional consultations and elections. It also expressed its concern for the people of Fiji following the recent devastating floods. In London for RNZI, Ben Lowings."