Under attack: Role of Fiji’s human rights body questioned
18 May, 2019
FORMER human rights commissioner and human rights activist Shamima Ali has questioned the role, credibility and independence of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC).
In an interview, Ms Ali claimed that over the years, the actions of the commission’s director, Ashwin Raj, has become worrying for human rights defenders in the country and internationally.
“While part of FHRADC’s mandate is to monitor, investigate and report on compliance with human rights standards in all aspects of individual’s lives, the director has a tendency of focusing more on socioeconomic rights and very little on civil and political rights,” Ms Ali claimed.
She said while socioeconomic rights were important, they could not be separated from civil and political rights as all human rights were indivisible and inalienable to each other.
Ms Ali, who is also the co-ordinator for the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre claimed that the commission had failed to comply with the guiding principles that are set out in the Paris Principles for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
“Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission’s failure to comply creates doubt as to its independence and credibility.
“Since its re-establishment, post-coup 2006, the commission has not made genuine steps towards complying with the Paris Principles.
“NHRIs work to build fair, just and inclusive communities where each person can live with dignity, free from violence and discrimination.”
She said recent comments made by Mr Raj in the media were shocking and totally not in tandem with the role of a universally compliant NHRI.
“This should be of great concern to all of us since the FHRADC’s main role is to promote and protect the human rights of all and not only the government.
“Despite international condemnation for the intimidation tactics of the police with the unions and the workers of Water Authority of Fiji, the director failed to speak out against the actions of the police.”
She said while the commission should be holding meetings and dialogue with civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights groups, the director had come out attacking the CSOs and human rights activists.
Ms Ali said Mr Raj needed to go back to the drawing board with his commissioners and review the commission’s role in ensuring that it is compliant with the Paris Principles.
“The FHRADC must show that there is no conflict of interest. So it is important for the director to hold and show his commitment and loyalty to only one post and in good conscience, resign from either his MIDA chair or from FHRADC.
“This is much more crucial at this point since Fiji now has a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council. And we should ensure that our house is in order before we hold others accountable. We all aspire to live in a country where there is true democracy and where all our human rights are protected.”