12 Nov 2019

Abuse of Nauru judicial process continuing - Judge warns

12:49 pm on 12 November 2019

The Nauru Government is continuing to abuse the judicial process, a retired Australian judge says.

T-shirts worn by family and supporters of the 19 Nauruans who were prosecuted by government for staging a protest outside of parliament in 2015.

T-shirts worn by family and supporters of the 'Nauru 19'. Photo: Nauru 19/ Facebook

Former South Australia chief district court judge, Geof Muecke, was commenting as the group dubbed the 'Nauru 19' will face the court today in relation to an anti-government protest more than four years ago.

They face charges including rioting and disrupting the legislature.

They are likely to have no legal representation and have been denied legal aid.

Mr Muecke was hired in 2017 by the Nauru Government to hear the controversial case, and then dumped.

He was brought in after the Nauru Government was told a retired Australian judge would ensure an appearance of judicial independence.

But the judge was removed, and part of his contract withheld, after he offended the government by granting the Nauru 19 a permanent stay on proceedings.

Judge Muecke said he found the Nauru Government had shamefully affronted the rule of law.

"So the government, the old government, wished them, in my finding, to be convicted and locked up for a very long time, the maximum penalties available," he said.

Judge Muecke's decision was so infuriating to the then-government, that references to getting rid of "white ears" - a racial epithet - were made by the then justice minister David Adeang, in the island's Parliament.

Judge Muecke also said the Nauru Government had refused to pay out a substantial part of his contract.

He said to ensure independence in the judiciary, he would like to see Nauru establish a body of judges with a guarantee of a decent period of employment.

"What they do is they have a two year contract, they give them a huge amount of money, the judges, and 'threaten' - and I put that in inverted commas, that unless they do the right thing they won't have this contract for very long and will be sent back to whence they came."

In 2014, the New Zealand government withdrew aid it was providing to help the Nauru judicial sector after the government had deported the resident magistrate and cancelled the visa of the chief justice.

Aid was later restored and increased but it now goes to activities such as renewable energy and education.

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