May 23, 2013

Fiji 'freedom of speech' convictions condemned

15 May 2013

The Law Society of England and Wales has today condemned the prosecution and conviction of Fijian non-governmental organisation The Citizens Constitutional Forum and its director Reverend Akuila Yabaki for criminal contempt.
Yabaki faces the prospect of imprisonment at the sentencing hearing due to take place on 17 June 2013.
The prosecution was brought by the attorney-general of Fiji after Citizens Constitutional Forum published a summary of a Law Society-endorsed report in its April 2013 newsletter.
The report, which was written by Nigel Dodds, chair of the Law Society Charity, following a private visit to Fiji in November 2011, found that there was no rule of law, no freedom of expression and that the independence of the judiciary could not be relied upon.
Dodds bypassed a strict blockade on monitoring visits which had seen representatives of the United Nations and the International Bar Association refused entry into the country.
The report was accepted by the Law Society in a resolution passed by its governing council on 17 May 2012.
The Fiji government has been highly critical of the report but has declined the Law Society president's offer to send an independent international delegation to verify its findings.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society, said:
'We see this prosecution as an attack on freedom of speech within Fiji and an attempt by the Fiji government to silence its critics prior to the forthcoming elections.'

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The Law Society of England and Wales is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.

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Emma Alatalo
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