25 Jun 2019

Nauru govt's version of justice like that of 'a failed state'

4:23 pm on 25 June 2019

The Nauru government's determination to convict the Nauru 19 is a shameful episode in the country's short history, an Australian law professor says.


Nauru Photo: AFP or licensors

Macquarie University adjunct professor George Newhouse said it was an example of a bullying government, using the arms of the state to persecute its opponents.

The Nauru 19, a group of former MPs and their supporters, were granted a permanent stay on charges over an anti-government protest four years ago.

It was granted by Australian judge Geoff Muecke, who was brought in by the Nauru government to hear the case.

But the recently established Nauru Court of Appeal removed the stay order last week.

Justice Minister, David Adeang welcomed the decision, saying "it highlighted the great strides Nauru has made in creating an accountable and high quality justice system".

But Prof Newhouse said the decision would enable the government to pursue its version of justice.

"Justice Muecke made extremely critical findings that the government of Nauru took an active role in denying justice to the accused. That's the kind of justice you might expect from, I don't know, a former Soviet republic or a failed state," he said.

"The shameful behaviour of the Nauruan government should be of concern to all of us in the region that respect democracy and the rule of law."

Pacific law societies and governments should speak out about the threat to the rule of law in Nauru, Prof Newhouse said.

"And put pressure on the Nauruan government to address this scandalous situation. It cannot continue. The fact that this appeal was successful, on a very technical ground does not mean that the underlying injustice is not being perpetrated against the Nauru 19 and it needs to end."

However, the appeal court had not ruled on the essence of Mr Muecke's decision, Prof Newhouse said.

"What they did was overturn the decision of Justice Muecke on a technicality and the hearing about whether there will be a permanent stay is going to have to be reheard, he said.

"So l think they just kicked the can further down the road. This is a technical win for the government of Nauru but it's not the end of the matter."

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