16 May 2024

Embattled Kiribati judge departs the country

5:21 pm on 16 May 2024
Kiribati flag with statue of lady justice and judicial scales in dark room. Concept of judgement and punishment, background for jury topics

Kiribati flag with statue of lady justice and judicial scales. Photo: 123RF

A Kiribati judge, who has been battling a government determined to have him removed from his post, has now left the country.

David Lambourne, for nearly four years, has faced a relentless push by the Kiribati government to have him stripped of his judge's role.

Last month, MPs in the national parliament voted to accept the decision of a tribunal set up by the government to investigate aspects of Lambourne's work.

It concluded that he had failed to deliver a legal judgement in a timely fashion.

Lambourne was given 21 days before he would be deported and he has now left of his volition just ahead of that timeline.

An earlier statement from the office of President Taneti Maamau said Lambourne is being deported for his 'misbehavours,' but no other comment has been made public by the government.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite, said, "Judge Lambourne was removed after proceedings that violated international standards

"He was not allowed to have a fair hearing, after almost four years of proceedings that have undermined the independence of the judiciary in Kiribati, " she said.

Lambourne has filed an appeal but any hearing is some months away.

His wife is the leader of the opposition, Tessie Lambourne.

Another opposition MP, the country's first president, Sir Ieremia Tabai, has called the removal of Lambourne a farce, and one aimed by the government at the family of the leader of the opposition.