GENEVA — The UN human rights head Navi Pillay on Monday expressed grave concern at recent developments in Fiji saying critics of the government have faced criminal charges, arbitrary detention and intimidation.
Pillay's comments came as she released a statement welcoming the lifting of emergency laws in Fiji as a step in the right direction towards the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights in the country.
Military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama imposed the restrictions, including media censorship and a ban on public meetings during a political crisis.
He announced on January 3 the restrictions would be lifted and that talks would start on a new constitution.
"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," said Pillay in a statement.
Commission spokesman Rupert Colville explaining Pillay's reference to detentions told AFP in Geneva, "We hope this marks a new beginning but there are concerns relating particularly to trade unionists who have been under pressure."
He cited the detention of Fiji Trade Union Congress president Daniel Urai and the national secretary Felix Anthony who had been detained in October and again in November after returning from Australia.
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.
She also hoped the Fijian leader's announcement regarding changes to Fiji's constitution would be in line with international human rights norms and would not in any way replicate the emergency power restrictions.
"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," the UN high commissioner 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."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »