Fiji’s human rights record will be reviewed by UN member states for the third time on 06 November 2019 (today) through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Fiji are keenly watching the State as it delivers its report on the status of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Fiji.
The UPR is a unique State driven process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States, under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council. UPR provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. At the same time, the Fiji government also reports on how it has implemented the 113 accepted recommendations from the total of 138 recommendations made at the second UPR in 2014.
The CSO UPR Working Group states that not much has translated into meaningful change on the ground since the last review in 2014. Instead, the State has engaged in activities that have led to further violations of human rights. The past four years has been challenging as Fijians continue to face violations and repression, and these have been documented and shared with the UN member states and other stakeholders as part of the 3rd UPR.
The Right to be Free From Violence and Access to Justice:
There is a deteriorating situation of law and order in Fiji. We have seen violence perpetuated from the highest offices of the country, to every day violent muggings in the streets and rampant cyber bullying. In the past few months we have seen 9 deaths directly due to domestic violence. There are high numbers of sexual assault and rape of women and girls on a monthly basis. Sexual harassment in the workplace is high with little compliance to national regulations.
Right to Equality and Freedom from Discrimination:
Cultural norms and practices still restrict women and transgender persons from fully practicing agency and autonomy in traditional settings. This leads to heavy moral policing of women, girls, trans and non-binary and gender diverse women and has led to violence against women.
Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Expression:
Workers and union rights must be upheld. There has to be an immediate stop to the systematic police and army crackdown on trade union activities, which includes demanding for a review of the minimum wage and their right to march peacefully. All charges against workers and trade unionists targeted for their union activities must be dropped. All police and army abuses against workers and trade unionists must be investigated to hold to account those responsible and provide adequate and timely redress for victims. The Public Order Act (2017) must not be used to curtail the fundamental freedoms of those organisations that are working to protect human rights for all.
Prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment:
There are still cases of torture by the security forces, which have caused death and disability of people and we do not see any move from the State to transpose UN Convention Against Torture domestically. We have recently seen a case of the military stepping into the role of the Police whereby the victim was a 16 year old child. The Corrections Department seems to operate without adherence to protocols and display double standards, such as in the recent case of allowing a convicted rapist to engage in sporting activities within one week of his imprisonment. The State cannot act with impunity, as they must display the highest standards of rule of law and accountability.
Right to Health and Right of Persons living with Disabilities:
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is of concern for women, people living with disabilities and the LGBTQI community. Fiji has very high rates of cervical cancer and breast cancer. There is a high number of teenage pregnancies, lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and information. There is lack of information and support for mental health survivors in Fiji who are a particularly disempowered and vulnerable group, subjected to forms of violence that are often undocumented. Directly related to mental health issues is the emerging concern of suicide.
Climate Change & Environmental Protection:
As we face the brunt of climate change, we see the State’s lip service to engaging the most affected communities, whereby they are not been meaningfully consulted when they are relocated. National policies and laws need to be consulted and debated on robustly, but we see such spaces being limited to few organisations only. Free and prior consent from resource owners are not taken in a meaningful way when engaging with foreign developers who get away with the senseless destruction of our fragile ecosystems.
In relation to the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission:
The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, the body responsible to investigate and resolve complaints about alleged breaches of human rights, recently published Annual Reports from 2016 – 2018. The much-awaited reports contain the total number of complaints received. However, the UPR CSO Working Group states that the Commission must report on the outcomes or status of all investigations. This is imperative to ensure transparency and accountability of the Commission. Additionally, the Commission must take necessary steps to become Paris Principle compliant and independent.
At this 34th session of the UPR, the Fiji UPR CSO Working Group strongly calls on the Fiji government to use this opportunity to accurately reflect on and use this opportunity to improve human rights and freedoms in the country for all. We also call on the international community to use this opportunity to make recommendations to expand the democratic space in the country. We the civil society will be watching you.
The live feed for the 34th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR): Review of Fiji here:
For more information contact FWRM Communications Officer, Maryann Lockington firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fiji UPR CSO Working Group comprises of 12 national CSO organisations and includes Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), 4 Save the Children Fiji (SCF), The Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy (ECREA), Social Empowerment Education Programme (SEEP), Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (FDPF), 8 Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS), Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF), Bua Urban Youth Network (BUYN), Haus of Khameleon (HK), and The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC).