31 Oct 2022

Kiribati attorney general appointed acting chief justice

1:46 pm on 31 October 2022

Photo: Kiribati government

The Kiribati government has appointed the Attorney General, Tetiro Semilota, as acting Chief Justice.

She took her oath on Friday in front of the President Taneti Maamau. It is not known if she remains the Attorney General.

At the ceremony, Maamau reaffirmed the Government's commitment to uphold the rule of law and respect the powers of the Judiciary.

It is the latest chapter in a complex and drawn-out saga which began in 2020 with the government taking issue with, and eventually suspending, high court judge David Lambourne, the Australian husband of Kiribati opposition leader Tessie Lambourne.

Over the next two years, the courts ruled 'unconstitutional' attempts by the government to further persecute Lambourne, resulting in the sacking of Chief Justice William Hastings and all the Court of Appeal judges.

This meant prior to Tetiro Semilota's appointment on Friday the country had no judges above magistrate level.

She is the first iKiribati and first woman acting chief justice.

Kiribati's first president, Sir Ieremia Tabai, who remains in parliament as a member of the opposition, has previously said he was very concerned at this effective shutting down of the judiciary.