SPOTLIGHT: Human rights as Fiji’s Bainimarama arrives in NZ
Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama arrives in New Zealand to meet members of Fiji’s expatriate community. The New Zealand Government says the trip is not an official visit and no ministerial meetings will be held.
However, Pacific Guardians is aware New Zealand political parties and candidates have been issued a briefing by global human rights activist movement Amnesty International.
The briefing calls on parties and candidates to commit to:
- Protecting freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association;
- Upholding workers’ rights;
- Stopping torture; and
- Strengthening human rights in the national legal framework.
Amnesty warns that “Respect for human rights often deteriorates in the lead up to elections” and is urging all political parties and candidates to use the upcoming months to call for the promotion and protection of human rights.
This year, Fiji will go to the elections on 17 September and New Zealand on 20 September.
In a document titled Fiji: Play Fair, A human rights agenda, Amnesty provides evidence on the continued suppression of freedom of expression, violations of workers’ rights and use of torture by security forces, all of which the Fiji government must urgently address.
“A combination of draconian laws, a pattern of intimidation and harassment of those who are critical of the government, as well as reports of torture by the security forces, have created a climate of fear in Fiji,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International New Zealand.
They say that despite Prime Minister Bainimarama’s commitments to create “a level playing field for all Fijians,” human rights defenders, journalists and trade union leaders continue to face harassment and intimidation for peacefully carrying out their legitimate work.
The briefing documents the case of Kris Prasad, a peaceful activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. He was one of 12 people arrested in September 2013 for peacefully protesting against the new Constitution, which came into force that month.
In late April 2014, police again contacted Prasad and other activists, saying that they wanted to reopen the investigation and conduct further interviews – measures that Prasad describes as “tactics of intimidation”.
“Restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association in Fiji should be lifted and acts of intimidation and harassment against government critics and peaceful activists must stop,” said Grant Bayldon.
The Government continues to violate workers’ rights by banning strike action for many industries and by intimidating and harassing trade union officials.
Amnesty International NZ says it will continue monitoring the situation and urging the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise key human rights concerns in New Zealand’s recommendations to Fiji at its UPR in October this year.
Amnesty International continues to call for all human rights to be respected in Fiji.