Media Needs Regulation, Bainimarama says; Amnesty International Reports Human Rights Abuses in Fiji; Electoral Commissioner Says Fiji Elections Will Go Forward

Media Needs Regulation, Bainimarama says; Amnesty International Reports Human Rights Abuses in Fiji; Electoral Commissioner Says Fiji Elections Will Go Forward

By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — The interim Prime Minister said today that the media needs to be regulated in order to ensure that the reporting is pro-Fiji.  Bainimarama followed this statement to say that he did not want the media to report with bias or be pro-government, only pro-Fiji.

“We don’t want to gag the media, we don’t want to stop media freedom,” Bainimarama said, but that it is “common knowledge” that the media has been trying to undermine the government.  This, he said, was why he wants someone from the outside to check up on the publishers and editors of Fiji’s media, rather than allowing them to regulate themselves.

Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau made a similar statement, saying that the interim government does not intend to gag the media, but that the interim government wants fair and balanced reporting.

Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte was wary of these statements.  “If the Government steps in to regulate the media, it would be a sad day for Fiji,” said Mr Tarte.

For more information, please see:

Pacific Magazine — News Media Must Be Regulated, Bainimarama Says — 01 June 2008

Fiji Times — Media must be pro-Fiji, says PM — 01 June 2008

Pacific Magazine– Fiji Foreign Minister: No Gag on Media — 31 May 2008


LONDON, UK — Amnesty International, in its annual report of top human rights abusers around the world, has listed Fiji among the 150 other nations on its list.  According to the report, the state of human rights in Fiji have deteriorated since the coup in December 2006.  The report was particularly critical of the interim government’s intimidation of the media, its stance towards the judiciary, the complicity of the human rights commission and the military’s record of pursuit and detention of bloggers critical of the coup.

The interim government was quick to criticize the report.  Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that the report damages Amnesty International’s international credibility by releasing a “outdated” report.  According to the interim AG, the report was short on specific allegations of human rights abuses, specifically he decried claims that the media or the judiciary are under attack because the media is free to express itself and the courts have freely expressed themselves.

Fiji Human Rights Commission chairwoman Dr Shaista Shamee, who herself was targeted by Amnesty’s report, has also called it outdated and inaccurate.  She also thought that it was ridiculous for the report to suggest that world leaders should apologize for any human rights abuses in their country.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji human rights chairs says calls for apology for human rights abuses a publicity stunt — 30 May 2008

Australian Broadcasting Corporation — Amnesty tells Fiji to stop threatening media — 30 May 2008

Fiji Times — FHRC tells Amnesty International to get facts right — 30 May 2008

Fiji Times — Amnesty International undermines its credibility — 29 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji and PNG criticised in Amnesty report — 29 May 2008

International Herald Tribune — Amnesty International: Fiji human rights on downward spiral since military coup — 29 May 2008

FijiVillage — Amnesty International reports highlight serious concerns — 29 May 2008

Fiji Times — Amnesty information out of date: Shameem — 29 May 2008


SUVA, Fiji — Fiji Election Chairman Mohammed Sahu-Khan has told Fiji Live that nothing will stop the Electoral Commission from carrying out its duties and holding an election.  This statement comes after several days of hard rhetoric from interim PM Frank Bainiamarama who has been adamant upon the fact that the 2009 election timetable will not be possible unless the People’s Charter is passed.  The Fiji Times reports that Sahu-Khan said that it is important for Fiji to have a free and fair election.

Despite the chairman’s commitment to the electoral process in Fiji, he believes that reforms are needed before elections should be held.  Specifically, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reports that Sahu-Khan believes that the voting system needs to be seriously looked at, despite the fact that any such changes would require a change to the Fijian Constitution.

In order to impress upon the people the need for free and fair elections in Fiji, Sahu-Khan is holding meetings with civil servants to provide a forum to allow them to discuss their comments and criticisms of the current system.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times — Election work goes ahead — 28 May 2008

Fiji Times — Commission continues with poll preparations — 27 May 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Electoral reform needed: Sahu Khan — 27 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji’s Electoral Commission says elections will take place — 27 May 2008

Amnesty international Annual Report on China; India Police Stop March by Tibetan Exiles; Myanmar forcing Cyclone Victims Out of Shelters

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – In an annual report on human rights worldwide, Amnesty International urged China to “live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic.”  The report criticized China for shipping weapons to Sudan in defiance of a U.N. arms embargo and traded with abusive governments like Myanmar and Zimbabwe. “The Chinese government has too often pursued resources to fuel its growing economy at the expense of human rights, seeking relationships with oil- or mineral-rich countries such as Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe”, Amnesty said.

The report also criticized China’s expansion of the “re-education through labor” program, which allows the government to arrest people and sentence them to a manual labor without trial.  Moreover, the organization condemned the crackdown on Tibetan protests. The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile says more than 200 people have been killed since the protests erupted on March 10.  “Freedom of religion, expression and association for Tibetans continues to be severely restricted”, Amnesty said, “and peaceful expression of support for the Dalai Lama is harshly punished”.

China has rejected previous such reports. It says its human rights record has improved in recent years.

For more information, please see:

AP- Amnesty International condemns US, China in report – 28 May 2008

Bloomberg – Amnesty Accuses U.S., China, Russia of Rights Abuses – 28 May 2008

CNN – China, Russia, U.S. focus of human rights report – 28 May 2008

Turkish Court Rules Gay Group is Anti-Moral; Desmond Tutu Condemns International Complicity Regarding Gaza; Lebanon Ends Presidential Stalemate

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey – On May 29, a Turkish court ordered Lambda Istanbul, a gay association, to close, ruling that it violated public morality and family norms.  The government prosecutor said that Lambda Istanbul violated a constitutional provision on the protection of the family and an article banning bodies “with objectives that violate law and morality.”

The full name of the group is Lambda Istanbul Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transvestites Solidarity Association.  The alleged breach of morality and family norms occurred when Lambda refused to remove the words describing the sexual orientation or identities of the group’s members.

A member of the association, Baran Ergenc, said “If we take out the words of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transvestites then it is not an association for them.” “The court found the association’s name in violation of public morality.”

Lambda’s lawyer, Firat Soyle stated, “This is a mistake and we hope that the Appeals Court will correct it.”  According to Ergenc, the group is determined to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if Turkey’s Appeals Court upholds the decision by the local court in Istanbul.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Turkish Court Slaps Ban on Homosexual Group – 30 May 2008

BBC – Turkish Gay Group Will Fight Ban – 30 May 2008

FOXNews – Turkish Court Rules Gay Group Violates Public Morality – 30 May 2008


GAZA CITY, Gaza – Desmond Tutu, ending a three day fact-finding mission in Gaza, called the Israeli blockade an “abomination.”  Tutu traveled to Gaza on a UN fact-finding mission into the 2006 killing of 19 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun by an Israeli artillery attack.

Tutu denounced international inaction to stop the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  “My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity, especially on the situation in Gaza, shames us all… Gaza needs the engagement of the outside world, especially its peacemakers.”

British professor Christine Chinkin, traveling with Tutu, stated, “I think what we’ve seen shows plenty of evidence of at least the possibility of war crimes that needs much further independent investigation… I would certainly say the concept of collective punishment in a situation of occupation constitutes the notion of war crimes and possibly of a crime against humanity.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Tutu Blasts International ‘Complicity’ Over Gaza – 29 May 2008

BBC – Tutu: Gaza Blockade Abomination – 29 May 2008

Reuters – UN Envoy Tutu Calls Gaza Blockade Illegal – 29 May 2008


BEIRUT, Lebanon – On May 25, General Michel Suleiman was elected to be the next president of Lebanon.  He won the votes of 118 MPs in the 128-seat parliament.  In an address to the parliament following his election, Suleiman stated, “I call on you all, political forces and citizens, to build a Lebanon we all agree upon, setting the interests of Lebanon above our individual interests.”

Even though the parliament agreed to elect Suleiman as the next President of Lebanon, the parliament still delayed 19 times.  The delays resulted from disagreements between the March 14 majority and the Shia minority faction led by Hezbollah.  The May 25 election occurred as part of the Doha agreement.

Following the election, the March 14 majority unanimously nominated Fouad Siniora to return as the Lebanese Prime Minister.  On May 29, President Suleiman appointed Siniora  as Prime Minister and asked him to form a government.

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star – Some analysts see Doha as Stopgap solution to Lebanon’s Crisis– 28 May 2008

International Herald Tribune – Lebanon’s Sinora Set to Lead New Government – 27 May 2008

Ya Lebanon – Hollow Victory to Lebanon – 27 May 2008

(London) Times – Gunfire Welcomes Lebanon’s New Leader, General Michel Suleiman – 26 May 2008

Academic Concerned for Fijian Presidency; Bainimarama Warns, No Elections Without People’s Charter; NZ Law Society Fears for Fijian Rule of Law

By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — Constitutional scholar, Brij Lal, has said that Fiji’s lack of a vice president has created problems that need to be addressed.  Fiji has been without a vice president since the military coup in 2006.  The trouble, according to Lal, arises because, under the Constitution, the role of appointing a vice president rests with the Great Council of Chiefs, but interim PM Frank Bainimarama suspended the GCC last year.

Without a vice president, if something should happen to the current president Ratu Josefa Iloilo, then a presidential power vacuum would ensue.  In such a situation, says Lal, Bainimarama would declare a state of emergency and assume the powers of the presidency. “He has done it before. Soon after the December 2006 coup, he simply asked the President aside and he assumed his powers,” he said.  “Given the power he has –he is the most powerful man in modern Fijian history: commander of the military forces, head of government, minister for Fijian Affairs and a host of other ministries including the Public Service—he can do anything he wants.”

Earlier this week interim PM Bainimarama addressed the question of the fate of presidential appointment.  While speaking with a group of villagers, Bainimarama indicated that the electoral system might be amended to allow the people to vote for the president and vice president, rather than have then appointed by the GCC.

For more information, please see:

Fijiive — Bainimarama may be President, again — 26 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji presidency needs attention, says academic — 26 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji interim PM says electoral system to by-pass GCC role — 23 May 2008
SUVA, Fiji — The interim administration has warned that democratic elections will not be held in 2009, as it has promised the international community, if local politicians do not support the People’s Charter.  Interim PM Bainimarama said that he wants the charter to be in place no later than March of 2009.  Reiterating a point he has made before, he declared at a church opening this week that, “We can’t have elections without the charter.”  He also said that the military would ensure that whoever wins the eventual election will uphold the charter’s ideals, including ending racist policies and thwarting corruption.

Bainimarama has tirelessly extolled the charter, despite mounting resistance.  Radio New Zealand International reports that he said that the military would like to see unanimous support for the charter, but that if the people did not support the military and the interim administration then there would be no election.

Ousted opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, said that he has become used to these kinds of statements from Bainimarama.  However, he said that he expects that the interim PM’s mind will change many more times before the election deadline, but that it is unfortunate that he resorted to threatening people.

For more information, please see:

The Press Association — Fiji leader gives democracy warning — 23 May 2008

Pacific Magazine — No Election Without Charter Says Bainimarama — 23 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Former Fiji Opposition leader not surprised by latest threats over elections from military leader — 23 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Interim PM says next year’s election dependent on passage of People’s Charter — 22 May 2008

WELLINGTON, New Zealand —  The New Zealand Law Society has issued a statement this week that they fear that the rule of law is being eroded in Fiji.  The Law Society indicated that they had been concerned since the suspension of Chief Justice Fatiaki last January 2007, since then, they say, other acts have further indicated the interim government’s disregard for the rule of law.

Specifically, the Law Society is concerned about the recent deportation of Fiji Times publisher Evan Hannah.  According to Law Society president John Marshall, “What made Mr Hannah’s deportation of even more concern was that it was made in defiance of a court order staying his deportation and requiring him to be brought before the court.”

Marshall also expressed his concern about comments by interim Attorney General and Minister of Justice Aryaz Sayed-Khaiyum who said that Fijian judges are entering the political arena and are prejudging cases before they are officially tried.  “The constitutional role of the Attorney General is to defend judges from public attack, not to criticise them publicly,” said Marshall.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Law Society fears for rule of law in Fiji — 23 May 2008

TV3 — Law Society voices concern about Fiji government — 21 May 2008

Nauru’s Controversial Election Pronounced ‘Credible’; CNMI Investigates Increase in Human Trafficking; Concern For Solomon Islands’ Donor Dependency

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

YAREN, Nauru — Concerns over Nauru’s April elections were mollified yesterday when the Pacific Islands Forum Monitoring Mission reported that the elections were ultimately credible.

Released today, the report emphasized that the results “accurately reflected the will of the people of Nauru.” The Mission stated, “Both polling and counting were conducted without problems and the Mission commended the Returning Officer and her election staff for this achievement, especially given the extremely short preparation time for the election.”

Absent any signs of foul play, the Mission did admit that the timing of the elections was far from ideal because the elections took place with little notice during a parliamentary deadlock and a State of Emergency.

While declaring the elections “credible,” the Mission also made three recommendations: first, the government should allow at least three weeks prior notice before holding elections to maximize candidate preparedness and voter participation, second, recommendations made by the 2007 Forum Election Observer Team should be implemented as soon as practicable with the help of the Forum Secretariat if needed, and third, Constitutional reforms, set up prior to the elections, should be implemented without delay as to promote political stability, leaders’ accountability, and transparency among Nauru’s political institutions.

The election afforded President Marcus Stephen two additional MPs who support the ruling government.

For more information, please see:
Pacific Magazine –- Nauru Elections ‘Credible’ Says Forum –- 22 May 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Nauru Government ticked off by monitors over election under state of emergency — 22 May 2008

SAIPAN, Northern Marianas Islands
— Shared Hope International has chosen the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) as one of ten U.S. locations to be part of a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

CNMI was selected in part because local authorities are committed to combating the increase in human trafficking. One report stated that incidents of underage human trafficking went up almost fifty percent in 2007. The average age of children entering prostitution is 12.

In addition, CNMI is one of only 10 other U.S. communities to have formed a Human Trafficking Task force. The Justice Department praised CNMI for its willingness to devote energy and resources to the study. CNMI Attorney General, Matthew Gregory, stated, “The CNMI was chosen as a site to review by Shared Hope International not because of an inordinate number of cases in our jurisdiction, but because of the progressive approach the CNMI has taken to identify trafficking, combat its occurrence, and investigate and prosecute wrongdoers.”

Shared Hope International hopes to identify what additional resources local law enforcement requires to combat the human rights issue.

For more information, please see:
Saipan Tribune — CNMI takes lead against human trafficking –- 23 May 2008

Saipan Tribune — Human trafficking in CNMI up almost 50 percent –- 22 May 2008

HONIARA, Solomon Islands -– Outgoing Central Bank Governor, Rick Hou, announced today that politician’s “unproductive” use of funds in the Solomon Islands ultimately may be causing greater harm than benefit.

Hou explains that since the Solomon Island’s independence in 1978, donations have not only increased but diversified. Politicians have taken advantage of the relative ease with which funds from donors can be obtained.

“Easy money options in this country are creating the disease I call ‘Donor Dependency Syndrome’ where the country, its institutions and citizens become paralyzed to normal hard work and shy away from being agents of real economic activity,” Hou said. Rather than promoting political stability and honest policies, the increasing reliance on outside donors has popularized pyramid and other get rich quick schemes.

While Hou criticizes funds stemming from “unproductive channels,” Human Rights organizations have targeted the Solomon Islands as a place in need of aid. Only two months ago, the Australian government announced it would donate over 1.2 million (AUD) to promote Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific region. The funding was intended to promote good governance, and just practices.

Specifically, AUD45,000 was donated to assist the Solomon Islands in addressing the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). Recently, reports surfaced from UNICEF, UNESCAP, ECPAT, and the Christian Care Centre which analyzed the practice of exploiting children in the Solomon Island.

For more information, please see:
Solomon Times — Unproductive Use of Aid Results in Donor Dependency: Hou –- 22 May 2008

Solomon Times — Australia Promotes Human Rights in Solomon Islands –- 19 March 2008