CCF urges government to lift reservations to UNCAT

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) welcomes the decision by the Parliament to unanimously endorse the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), which is a welcome step in Fiji’s path toward democracy. However, “CCF is concerned about the broad reservations proposed by the government, and the non-endorsement of the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s comprehensive and progressive recommendations,” said Chief Executive Officer, Reverend Akuila Yabaki.

“Reservations with respect to Article 1, the definition of torture, are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention and impermissible in accordance with customary international law as codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Article 1 of the Convention contains a clear and generally recognised definition of the concept of torture, and other States have raised objections to similar reservations made to Article 1,” said Yabaki.

The government has expressed that Article 1 of the Convention will ‘only be applicable to the extent as expressed under section 11 of the Constitution’. The justification for this is that the definition of ‘torture’ in the Constitution is broader than the Convention. However, the government fails to consider Article 1.2 of the Convention, which specifically states that the definition of torture in the Convention is ‘without prejudice to any national legislation which contains provisions of wider application’. This means that the Convention does not limit the definition of torture in the Constitution in any way.

The reservations restrict the scope of application of the Convention and raises doubts as to the commitment of the government to fulfil its obligations under the Convention. The object and purpose of a treaty must be respected and States must be prepared to undertake any legislative changes necessary to comply with obligations under the treaty. The intention of the government to ‘reserve the right to formulate any reservations or declarations it may deem necessary in light of domestic laws or national policy’ is contrary to the general principle of treaty interpretation in which a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for failure to perform a treaty.

“These reservations threaten adequate enforcement and implementation of UNCAT in Fiji’s domestic framework. CCF urges the Fiji government to remove all reservations to UNCAT, in particular to Article 1.” said Yabaki.

For further information, contact CCF’s Communication Officer Nazeem Kasim on email media1@ccf.org.fj or call (679) 3308379

Who is CCF?
CCF is a non-government organisation that advocates and educates the public on democracy, good governance, human rights, Constitutional rights and multiculturalism in Fiji.The organisation’s envisions a nation where its people live together in equality, justice and peace, respecting the rule of law that guarantees democracy.

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