Raj labels US report on Fiji ‘perfunctory’
April 10, 2021 9:01 am
There were no consultations held with the Fijian government and independent institutions in the formulation of the 2020 report on human rights in Fiji by the United States Department of State.
Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director, Ashwin Raj has labelled the report perfunctory, scant in its interpretation and deconstruction of the law, saying it is saturated with generalisations and is selective in its treatment of facts.
Raj adds while the report impugns independent institutions like the judiciary and those responsible for the protection, promotion and preservation of human rights, there were no consultations with the HRADC nor any ethic of constructive engagement over the years, as far as the HRADC is concerned, in relation to human rights in Fiji.
Raj highlighted this does not mean that Fiji does not have any human rights challenges.
He says we do and they include but by no means limited to sexual and gender-based violence, torture and brutality at the hands of law enforcement agencies, rights of arrested and detained persons, racial and religious intolerance and hate speech.
The Director also says there is the need for constructive discussions on the right to peaceful assembly and the imperatives of public order and national security, the existential threat of climate change and the advent of COVID-19 and its attendant human rights challenges, and the need to ensure that the national human rights institution is compliant with the Paris Principles.
Raj also highlights that Fiji continues to subject itself to scrutiny both domestically and at the highest human rights forums internationally, the most recent being the third cycle of its Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He says curiously the US State Department Report does not even make a cursory reference to Fiji’s UPR almost giving an impression that there is no accountability for human rights violations in Fiji, nor does it document our human rights achievements.
He stresses that the US human rights record is hardly worthy of emulation but Fiji does not occupy an indomitable moral plateau with the compulsion to ritualistically produce a report on them every year.
Given that the US jealously guards the right to free expression, or so it putatively claims, Raj says he will exercise his and point out some of their human rights failings and the reason he raises these are because ironically some of these human rights failings form the basis of the report on Fiji.
Raj hit out saying the USA is a country that until recently had turned its back on the Paris Climate Agreement, had withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council, placed sanctions against the International Criminal Court and has yet to ratify all core international human rights instruments.
It adds the USA has yet to establish an independent national human rights institution.
Raj says torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and immunity provisions are in the Fijian Constitution
Just like the United States, he says Fiji is equally concerned with torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and we have acknowledged this at home and internationally and the need for accountability without impunity for acts of egregious violations of human rights.
He clarifies that the claims about carte blanche immunity extended to security forces, however, is a distortion of the law and a complete misrepresentation of section 157 of the Fijian Constitution giving an impression that this provision is still being invoked in present-day cases of torture and brutality to exonerate security forces.