The top U.N. official for human rights is welcoming a move by Fiji’s government to cancel its emergency rule but continues to express concern about the political situation there.
In a statement Monday, Navi Pillay encouraged Fiji’s government to take concrete steps to ensure the rule of law and build on what she called “positive momentum”.
Last week, Fiji’s military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama said that he will lift a two-year state of emergency and begin drafting a new constitution leading to new elections in 2014. He gave no details on what will replace martial law.
Pillay said she hoped that Fiji’s new constitution will be in line with international human rights standards and will not in any way replicate the emergency rule.
She also expressed concerns about recent developments in which she said critics of Fiji’s government have faced criminal charges, arbitrary detention, and intimidation. She said that silencing criticism with such heavy-handed measures is a breach of international human rights standards.
Mr. Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006. At that time, he said Fiji’s ruling political classes were corrupt, and the existing voting system was racially based to give indigenous Fijians
greater voting power than ethnic Indians. Ethnic Indians make up about 35 percent of Fiji’s 900,000 people.
Draconian regulations, including tight censorship on the news media and a ban on public meetings, were imposed after a Fiji court ruled that Commodore Bainimarama’s military coup was illegal.
Relations between Fiji and many countries have deteriorated since Mr. Bainimarama seized power, and he has remained under heavy pressure to return Fiji to democracy.
Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions and financial penalties on the government.
Fiji also remains suspended from the 53-member, British-led group of former British colonies known as the Commonwealth.