Aug 2013

On Friday 9 August, long-standing Fiji human rights activist Reverend Akuila Yabaki received a sentence of three months’ imprisonment, suspended for twelve months, in the case of State vs the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum Limited and Akuila Yabaki [Action No: HBC 295 of 2012].

Together with local Fijian NGO the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), which he heads as Chief Executive Officer, Reverend Yabaki is also liable for fines and costs totalling FJ$27,000. The case concerned the reprinting of an article published in CCF's Tutaka newsletter in April 2012.

Responding to this sentence, Conciliation Resources – a peacebuilding NGO that works closely with CCF – expressed concern that the legal action could serve to curtail public debate and freedom of expression in the Pacific nation.

In the interests of a peaceful transition to democracy in Fiji, civil society must be free to fulfil their role on behalf of the communities they represent – highlighting what they feel are inadequacies and seeking to promote changes that they see as fundamentally important to Fiji's future.

Ciaran O'Toole, Fiji Programme Director, Conciliation Resources

The article that prompted this contempt-of-court legal action had quoted a 2011 report by the UK Law Society Charity, 'Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost', in which questions were raised over the impartiality of Fiji's judiciary.

It's disappointing that this prosecution was brought in the first place. Reverend Yabaki and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum play vital roles in Fiji – both engaging in dialogue with the government while also championing human rights and the return to constitutional rule. They walk a fine line with a great deal of courage and vision.

Andy Carl, Executive Director, Conciliation Resources

Following extensive advocacy activities by CCF and wider civil society, the people of Fiji are currently awaiting the announcement of a new constitution by the current government to replace the one they abrogated in 2009.

Now that the outcome of this case is clear, our partners CCF will be re-focusing their efforts on the vital work ahead – continuing their activities within Fiji to encourage a democratic constitutional system that serves the country's interests as a whole.

Ciaran O'Toole, Fiji Programme Director, Conciliation Resources

Conciliation Resources supports local partners in Fiji in their efforts to contribute to the development of a more inclusive and participatory political atmosphere, and ultimately the creation of a sustainable constitutional democracy. 

/ENDS

The Citizens' Constitutional Forum has an extensive programme within Fiji advocating for, and educating in, multiculturalism, good governance and human rights. For more information about their work see www.ccf.org.fj

Conciliation Resources is an independent organisation working with people in conflict to prevent violence and build peace. Our involvement in Fiji dates back to 1995 – Conciliation Resources’ goal is to support local people and processes in their efforts to change Fiji’s political environment to one capable of developing a sustainable constitutional democracy. For more information about the Fiji context and our work to support home-grown processes of inclusive dialogue and reform, see www.c-r.org/fiji

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