18/3/2016

NGOCHR Press Release: Coalition welcomes ratification, but remains concerned by reservations

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) welcomes the news of Fiji’s ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) on 14 March, 2016. However, the Coalition remains concerned about the implications of the State’s reservations on the Convention, for the realisation of human rights in Fiji.

“We welcome the rapid ratification of this important Convention Against Torture. However, the reservations continue to be a concern for the Coalition, as they undermine the full potential of the Convention and make the ratification hollow,” said Coalition Chair, Tara Chetty.

The Fiji Government has made specific reservations on: (1) the definition of torture, contained in Article 1 of the Convention, and will not be bound by the provision, instead referring to the definition in Fiji’s Constitution;(2) compensation for victims of torture, under Article 14, will only be recognised if determined by a domestic Court of law; (3) Articles 20, 21 and 22 are not recognised by Fiji, which means (among other things) that victims of torture cannot go directly to the UN Committee Against Torture; and (4) Paragraph 1 of Article 30, which would have allowed for other countries to take Fiji to the International Court of Justice.

“It seems unnecessary and quite troubling to have made a reservation on the first Article of the Convention, which actually describes what torture is, particularly as it would not limit how we might expand that definition in our local laws anyway,” said Chetty.

“All the reservations erode the spirit of good faith in which the Convention should be read and implemented.”

The reservations to Articles 20, 21 and 22 deny ordinary citizens an additional means of accountability. Under these Articles, the State could be held accountable to the Convention Committee for review of reports of torture. This would have added a transparent and independent measure free of arbitrary local influence. Under the current Fiji Constitution, people are limited from seeking justice for acts of torture that may have occurred between December 2006 and September 2014, the first sitting of Parliament. Article 22 in particular would have provided the additional mechanism for accountability for past torture abuses, which does not exist now in local legal mechanisms because of the immunity provisions in the Fiji Constitution.

“As a Coalition for human rights, we feel it is important to raise these concerns, and contribute to the strengthening of Fiji’s democracy.”

ENDS.

For more information on Fiji’s ratification, see: https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&lang=en#EndDec

For further information contact Tara Chetty on +679 9268342 or

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights is a coalition of civil society organisations that works towards a Fiji that respects and protects human rights and fundamental freedoms within the framework of the rule of law.