Pillay welcomes lifting of emergency law in Fiji, encourages further steps to ensure human rights are upheld

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GENEVA/SUVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday welcomed the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations in Fiji as a step in the right direction towards the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights in the country.

“The emergency law has seriously restricted the right to public assembly and freedom of expression, and given the authorities broad powers of arrest and detention,” the High Commissioner said.

“I welcome the cancellation of the emergency law and encourage the Government to build on this positive momentum with concrete steps to ensure full respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

Pillay noted that Fiji had committed to lifting the emergency regulations before the Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in 2009, and had now fulfilled its pledge.

The High Commissioner also noted the Prime Minister’s announcement that amendments have been made to the Public Order Act and said she hoped that these amendments would be in line with international human rights norms and would not in any way replicate the restrictions in the Public Emergency Regulations.

She expressed concern at recent developments in which critics of the Government have faced criminal charges, arbitrary detention or other forms of intimidation.

“Silencing criticism with such heavy-handed measures is in breach of international human rights standards. I urge the Government to ensure that the rule of law is fully respected and that there is space for civil society to operate without fear,” Pillay said.

“As Fiji begins its constitution-making process and prepares for elections to be held in 2014, I look forward to seeing an environment in which ordinary people and civil society organisations can participate fully.”

The OHCHR Regional Office for the Pacific remains ready to support national efforts to further the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground, the High Commissioner added.