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ICJ to investigate legal corruption in Fiji

ICJ to investigate legal corruption in Fiji

Overseas lawyers and judges should stay away from Fiji entirely according to the President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).John Dowd QC believes Fiji's legal system faces a…

Overseas lawyers and judges should stay away from Fiji entirely according to the President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

John Dowd QC believes Fiji's legal system faces a fundamental problem of legitimacy and that any judge who takes up a position "gives legitimacy to a regime that's illegitimate".

"It doesn't mean that they [judges] won't do the right thing when they get there, but it's not legally the right thing, because of a lack of a constitutional basis," Dowd told ABC Radio.

The independence of Fiji's legal system will be scrutinised by the ICJ following a lawyer's claim that there had been political interference in the judiciary.

A former senior prosecutor with Fiji's Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) Madhawa Tenakoon, a Sri Lankan lawyer, said that opponents of the coup installed by military government had been targeted for prosecution.

While Tenakoon (who was dismissed by Fiji's military government), is the only judicial officer known to have come forward with claims of government inference, Dowd said the allegations alone from the former FICAC prosecutor warranted further investigation.

Dowd was at the ICJs regional office in Bangkok during the week. He said that he was looking at ways, possibly involving the Commonwealth Heads of Government, to bring Fiji back into the rule of law.

Sri Lanka's honorary counsel in Fiji, Ajith Kodagoda insisted that none of the 200 legal professional currently working in Fiji had come to him with similar complaints. Kodagoda said he expected all judicial officers to be "totally independent" and that any experiences of uncomfortableness, intimidation or influence be brought to him.

Fiji's Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Tenakoon was sacked for poor-performance and that the United Nations was happy with the progress being made with Fiji's anti-corruption legislation.

Tenakoon told Radio Australia that when a democratic government returns to power in Fiji he will produce all documentary evidence he possess from his time with the FICAC to support his claims.

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