May 24, 2009

Warrant to Arrest: Fiji

May 24, 2009
By Michael Field

Perhaps unwittingly, one Ana Rokomokoti has thrown the entire Bainimarama dictatorship into international peril.

At the very least, the Commodore will now find his travel options severely limited – somewhat like the Burmese generals and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Bainimarama may well have to reflect on the fate of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator who ended up with international arrest warrants in many countries. He had to slowly decay at home in the end, his medical conditions untreated in foreign hospitals.

Bainimarama, who suffers a heart condition that cannot be treated in Fiji, had best hope that one of his goons does not whack a foreigner – or a Fijian citizen with family outside the country.

For to do so now, will be to make him subject of an Interpol arrest warrant.

The problem is very simple; the world no long accepts anarchy. As romantic as it might seem, dictators are becoming globally accountable for their human rights abuses.

At the very pinnacle of things is the International Criminal Court for major crimes against humanity. Fortunately, the People’s Republic of Voreqe has yet to intrude into the area of its jurisdiction.

That does not mean, though, that he is off the hook.

Fiji, along with most other nations, has signed onto a range of international human rights conventions. They were not empty words, although perhaps Suva might have thought so at the time.

Now, of course, the world’s leaders can and do wonder the world without fear of arrest. It is called sovereign immunity to prosecution.

Its based on the central assumption, made by the United Nations and the human rights treaties, that each member nation can and will fairly prosecute its own crimes.

But what happens, as has happened increasingly of late, when international human rights organisations caste their lights on nations and see inadequacies and corruption. It is no long possible for an individual state to prosecute crime, especially that committed by those in power.

This is where Rokomokoti comes in and may well have committed the blunder that will get Bainimarama into deep trouble.

She raided the offices of the Fiji Law Society without a valid search warrant. She seized files and is apparently preparing to act against individual lawyers, without due process.

She does this, nominally at least, as Registrar of the High Court. But no one is overlooking the fact that she is a Major in the Fiji Military and is subservient to its head, the self appointed dictator of Fiji.

He has removed the courts and stacked them with supporters; no international tribunal will ever accept the notion that the aging president acted spontaneously on this.

Bainimarama has even closed the Human Rights Commission that so actively supported him.

It is Rokomokoti though, with her single act, who has so explicitly and clearly demonstrated the corruption and failure of the Fiji judicial system.

When the military are raiding lawyers, there is no justice left.

Sadly, the people of Fiji have no recourse to ending this. Bainimarama can do what he likes now, and sending some major into lawyers’ offices is military routine.

But, it is being noticed.

Fiji is being watched much more closely.

Names are being collected.

It is no long merely a case of Australia and New Zealand creating an immigration black list.

As Pinochet found it, his travel plans suddenly hit the brick wall when people he had never heard of, filed human rights complaints in their own countries against him. In Britain and Spain, in his case.

That he was not, ultimately prosecuted, in those countries is not the point; what is important to note though is that there are a growing list of powerful countries, with active human rights goals and a lively judiciary, where sovereign immunity is a point of debate, not a bedrock point of law.

Someday soon, Bainimarama could find himself sliding his passport across a desk – in Delhi or Hong Kong or Los Angeles – only to be told, there is an Interpol warrant to arrest over you.

Here is a 2004 quote from the United Nations Secretary General that is relevant to the People’s Republic of Voreqe:

"For the United Nations, the rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency."


Semi Meo said...

All long we said that Col Aziz and Honorary Brigadier General Sayed Khaiyum are ultimately to be blamed for ALL these stupidity. OMG, the Dictator has reaped the consequence of removing Military Lawyers of Integrity whose many briefs to the Commander includes advice contrary to Aziz and Khaiyum over-glossed and sugar coated chilli cheers encouraging the Dictator towards imminent failure. The Dictator should now wake up and remove these gentlemen, and remember to take back both their Military uniforms. It would be a very sad day if a leader of our serene and tranquil Pacific Islands has a warrant of arrest greets him and his entourage in the next Border he wishes to cross. Again, we call on the Dictator to take the humble option and start talks with Australia and NZ. Please!!

Anonymous said...

An interesting piece from a great journalist.

The major flaw though is that when it comes down to it, no countries seem to really care that much what Bainimarama does.

I wish to hell some brave country would take a stand, but apart from travel bans, what has any nation really done?

Emboldened by inaction, Bainimarama has become more aggressive.

P.S While the article was great. I was confused with the line about leaders being free to "wonder the world without fear of arrest"

Did you mean wander? I can only wonder.

Semi said...

Actually LOL - that was very clever even if it was a typo.

As we all know the Baini lift doesnt quite go to the top floor, and more times than not the lights are on but NOone's home, so I guess in his mind he is quite free to wonder the world.

Touché Michael.