2 Apr 2018

Nauru quietly severs court of appeal ties

2:54 pm on 2 April 2018
Nauru President Baron Waqa.

Nauru President Baron Waqa. Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

It has been revealed that Nauru's government secretly scrapped its links to the High Court of Australia which served as Nauru's court of appeal.

The move has upset former MPs having pending appeals and triggered calls for Australia and New Zealand to tend to what is being labelled a constitutional crisis.

On Good Friday, Nauru's Solicitor-General of Nauru Jay Udit allegedly told Australian lawyers that the Nauru government had triggered the 90-day notice period to cancel appeals in December 2017 or January 2018.

A former justice minister Mathew Batsuia, who is one of 19 people with appeals pending in court, said the action was an outrage.

Mr Batsuia said any termination of the arrangement with Australia had to be approved by a two-thirds majority in parliament which he said was not due to sit until later this month.

A replacement court is yet to be constituted.

The Chamber of Parliament, Nauru

The Chamber of Parliament, Nauru Photo: Supplied

An Australian human rights lawyer and adjunct professor George Newhouse accused the foreign minister Julie Bishop of being complicit in stripping the people of Nauru and asylum seekers of their legal rights.

He said Australia was sending asylum seekers to an island prison where they had virtually no rights, if rights of appeal to the High Court were taken away.

He also said the prime minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern needed to step in to ensure that the rule of law in Nauru was protected as New Zealand held an important leadership role in the Pacific.

In January 2014, the Nauru government expelled the country's only magistrate and refused to allow the then Chief Justice back into the country.

As a result, the New Zealand parliament passed a unanimous motion expressing concern about the rule of law in Nauru, and Wellington stopped funding the justice sector in Nauru.

Nauru opposition MP Mathew Batsiua.

Former Nauru justice minister and MP Mathew Batsiua Photo: Supplied

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