AMNESTY International Australia is calling on Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to ensure she doesn’t waste the opportunity to raise Fiji’s backward steps on human rights, during a diplomatic visit to Fiji.
Minister Bishop will be in Fiji on Friday with her New Zealand counterpart, Minister Murray McCully, meeting government officials to discuss relations between the countries.
Fiji is scheduled to hold democratic elections in September, the first since the 2006 military coup and its subsequent expulsion from the Commonwealth.
“During the process of re-engagement with Fiji, the Australian and New Zealand Foreign Ministers have a responsibility to raise the restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association with Fijian authorities,” Michael Hayworth, Amnesty International Australia Spokesperson, said.
“In the lead up to elections in Fiji it is imperative that countries including Australia and New Zealand remain vocal and vigilant to any increased crackdown on activists and opposition members.
Recent incidents highlight Fijian authorities attempts to limit free speech, the right to protest and the targeting of NGO’s, trade unions and political parties, restricting public debate in an election year.
“In February last year, a video was released online showing the torture and sexual assault of two men, apparently by security forces. So far police have failed to independently investigate the incident.
“While the arrest of 14 activists in September 2013 for peacefully gathering outside the President’s residence, on the day he was due to assent to the government constitution, sent a clear message Fiji has failed to prioritise the rights of its own citizens.
“Despite Fiji’s government professing a commitment to democracy, ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful protests, as well as attacks on human rights advocates have continued,” Michael Hayworth added.