Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has urged Pacific nations to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment (UNCAT).

Speaking in Nadi today, Bainimarama said Fiji is delighted to be hosting the regional workshop on the implementation of UNCAT in the Pacific.


“I’m delighted as Prime Minister to be here to open it to explain the great strides that Fiji is making in the area of human rights. And to urge other Pacific nations to join Fiji and the other two countries in the region – Vanuatu and Nauru – that have already ratified UNCAT.

“I know that many of the challenges we face in Fiji will be familiar to some of you from other Pacific nations. But I urge you all to seriously consider ratifying UNCAT. Fiji – in common with many other nations – had reservations about endorsing all of its clauses and your governments may well decide to have similar reservations.

“But this is no impediment to ratification. And if more Pacific nations do so, this will send a powerful signal from our own region to the rest of the world about our commitment to human rights and human dignity,” said Bainimarama.

He said Fiji stands ready to assist any of its Pacific neighbours with the ratification process.

Meanwhile, Bainimarama has raised his concerns in regards to Australia’s offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG.

“As for the other pillar of UNCAT – the use of “Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” – there is a stark example closer to home in Australia’s policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore, including in some of our Pacific neighbouring countries.

“While Australia maintains that this policy is necessary to stem the tide of asylum seekers, it has clearly been at the expense of the rights of ordinary men, women and children seeking refuge from some of the most troubled places on earth.

“Successive United Nations and other human rights reports have strongly criticised the conditions faced by asylum seekers being held on Nauru and Manus Island. The latest – less than three weeks ago by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Children – condemns the physical and mental state of children being detained on Nauru.

“Fiji shares the widespread concern in the international community about the position of asylum seekers in these detention centres, and especially women and children. As well as the wider issue of Australia dumping this problem on its Pacific neighbours when it clearly has the capacity to house these people within its own borders. Australia detaining innocent people in cruel, inhumane or degrading circumstances to protect the integrity of its borders,” Bainimarama told delegates.

He said by contrast, Fiji’s records are vastly different though no less serious.

“Isolated instances of individuals or groups from the disciplined forces acting in an undisciplined way and resorting to acts of torture and other forms of punishment that violate the human rights of their fellow citizens.

“The same conduct has occurred from time to time in the law enforcement agencies of larger democracies, including Australia and New Zealand. And while they can never be condoned, whatever the setting, the difference in Fiji’s case is that such events have been politicised. We are singled out for condemnation, for behaviour that also occurs in the jurisdictions of our critics.

“I am not excusing such behaviour in any shape or form. I merely ask that Fiji be judged by the same standards that apply to any nation. And I want to make Fiji’s position on this issue absolutely clear once and for all,” said Bainimarama.

The Fijian Government, he said, ‘do not tolerate’ human rights abuses of any kind.

“They are legally and morally unacceptable. And we are determined to bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice. The record shows that we are doing so – that our laws are being enforced,” he added. SOURCE: PACNEWS [/restrict]