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TITLE:  FIJI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                              FIJI


Fiji's system of parliamentary democracy was interrupted in 
1987 by the installation of a military-led regime following two 
bloodless coups.  Fiji returned to elected government in 1992.  
That government fell in November 1993 over failure to pass a 
budget for 1994.  The subsequent general election in February 
1994 returned substantially the same government to office.

Ethnicity plays a major role in Fiji's politics, economy, and 
society.  Fiji's more than 770,000 people constitute a 
multiracial society about evenly divided between indigenous 
Fijians and ethnic Indians.  Indo-Fijians dominate the economy 
and professions and are well represented in the lower and 
middle levels of the public service, while ethnic Fijians 
control the political structures and land rights and make up 
the bulk of the nation's military forces.

The small but professional Fiji Military Forces (FMF) and a 
separate police force report to and are under the control of 
the Minister for Home Affairs and, ultimately, the President.  
In 1990, the Government also established the Fiji Intelligence 
Service, with limited powers to search people and property, tap 
telephones, and open mail.  There continue to be reports of 
human rights abuses by the police.

Sugar and tourism constitute the mainstays of the economy, 
accounting for almost half of the nation's foreign exchange 
earnings.  The Government is promoting light manufacturing for 
export, notably in the garment industry, to diversify the 
economy and lessen its dependence on sugar and tourism.

The principal human rights problem in 1994 remained 
constitutionally imposed and ethnically based political 
discrimination.  Improvements in labor rights following the 
1993 revision of certain restrictive 1991 labor decrees 
continued.  Other human rights abuses include police brutality, 
inhibitions on freedom of the press, continued delays in 
bringing criminal and civil cases to trial, and violence and 
discrimination against women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings by the Government 
or any political group.

There was one accusation of a death in official custody from 
unnatural causes.  A man was killed, apparently while being 
arrested.  Police claimed the victim brandished a knife.  Other 
witnesses said he was drunk but unarmed and that the police 
used excessive force.  The three officers involved were 
charged, suspended from the police, and at year's end were 
awaiting trial.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Police sometimes physically abuse detainees; the authorities 
have punished the offending officers in some instances, but 
punishments have been light and thus have not served as an 
effective deterrent to others.  The police department's 
internal affairs unit investigates complaints of police 
brutality and has begun to work with the Ombudsman's office to 
ensure impartial observers in the investigation of complaints 
about police conduct.

The law permits corporal punishment as a penalty for criminal 
acts; strokes of the cane are administered under medical 
supervision, but this provision is rarely invoked.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Law of Arrest and Detention provides that a person may be 
arrested only if police believe that a breach of the criminal 
law has been or is about to be committed.  Arrested persons 
must be brought before a court without "undue delay."  This is 
taken to mean within 24 hours, with 48 hours as the exception 
(such as when an arrest is made over the weekend).  Rules 
governing detention are designed to ensure fair questioning of 
suspects.  Defendants have the right to a judicial review of 
the grounds for arrest; in urgent cases defendants may apply to 
a judge at any time, whether he is sitting or not.  
Incommunicado and arbitrary detention, both illegal, did not 
occur in 1994.

Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial structure was reorganized under the 1990 
Constitution.  The principal courts are the magistrate courts, 
high court, and the Court of Appeal.  The Constitution also 
provided for a Supreme Court as the court of final appeal, but 
to date it has not been established.  The Court of Appeal is 
slowly reducing the enormous backlog of cases caused by the 
Government's failure to appoint a president for the court until 
December 1991 and the court's consequent inability to convene 
before that time.

There are no special courts; military courts try only members 
of the armed forces.  Magistrate courts continue to try the 
large majority of cases.  In addition to its jurisdiction in 
serious civil and criminal cases, the high court is granted 
special interest jurisdiction on behalf of the public and is 
empowered to review alleged violations of individual rights 
guaranteed under the Constitution.

The judiciary is independent under the Constitution and in 
practice.  There were no credible reports in 1994 that a court 
was influenced by the executive.

The right to public trial is guaranteed and defendants have the 
right to counsel.  Trials in the high court provide for the 
presence of assessors (citizens randomly selected to represent 
the community); cases in the magistrate court do not.  In 
litigation involving lesser complaints, a public legal advisor 
assists indigent persons in domestic or family law cases.  The 
right of appeal exists but is hampered by continuing delays in 
the appeals process.  Bail procedures mean that most defendants 
do not experience any pretrial detention.

The law sometimes treats women differently from men.  In some 
instances there is a presumption of reduced competence and thus 
reduced responsibility.  For example, only women can be charged 
with infanticide (if a man kills an infant it is treated as 
murder).  A woman in an infanticide case is presumed to have 
diminished mental capacity, and sentences are reduced 
accordingly.

There are no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

In general, privacy of the home is respected.  However, the 
Intelligence Service has powers to search people and property, 
open mail, and tap telephones when a warrant is issued by the 
National Security Council, within specific operational 
guidelines outlined in the government decree which created it.  
The Intelligence Service does conduct surveillance of persons 
it believes represent a security threat.  Some political 
dissidents believe their telephones and mail are monitored, but 
they have not provided substantiating evidence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech is generally respected.  Political figures 
and private citizens can and do speak out against the 
Government.  Although the Public Order Act and other acts 
prohibit actions that are likely to incite racial antagonism, 
no arrests for making public statements were reported or 
believed to have occurred in 1994.

The Government has broad discretionary powers to impose 
restrictions on press freedom, and has used them in the past.  
The possibility of their use also serves to encourage media 
self-censorship.  Concerned over the publication of material 
embarrassing to government figures, the Government renewed 
discussion of regulating the media.

The Government effectively pressured one weekly newspaper 
publisher to suppress publication of information about the 
private life of a senior government official.  The Government 
also expressed its extreme displeasure over what it considered 
a lack of media accountability for its errors and a lack of 
recourse for those who felt they had been wronged in some way.  
Inferring a threat of an imposed media watchdog body, late in 
the year senior media representatives created the Fiji News 
Council, although with less than universal participation by 
media outlets and with considerable opposition from working 
journalists.

Legislation pertaining to the press is contained in the 
Newspaper Registration Act (NRA) and the Press Correction Act 
(PCA).  Under the NRA, all newspapers must be registered with 
the Government before they can begin publishing.  The PCA gives 
the Minister of Information sole discretionary power to order a 
newspaper to publish a "correcting statement" if, in his 
opinion, a false or distorted article has been published.  
Should the newspaper refuse to publish the Minister's 
correction, it can be taken to court and, if found guilty, 
fined approximately $700 (individual persons convicted under 
the Act may be fined approximately $150 and/or imprisoned for 6 
months).  The PCA allows the Government to arrest anyone who 
publishes "malicious" material.  This includes anything the 
Government considers false news which could create or foster 
public alarm or result in "detriment to the public."

The media operate without prior censorship but with 
considerable self-censorship.  Newspapers occasionally print 
editorials critical of the Government, but rarely do 
investigative reporting.  They widely report statements about 
the political situation by opposition figures and foreign 
governments.  The letters columns of the two daily newspapers 
also frequently carry political statements from a wide cross 
section of Fiji society, including members of the deposed 
precoup government, which are highly critical of the 
Government, its programs and the Constitution.  
Criticism--albeit muted--of the once sacrosanct traditional 
chiefly system is beginning to appear.  However, the Government 
still views comments about individual chiefs with disfavor.

An active local organization, the Fiji Islands Media 
Association (FIMA), is an affiliate of the regional Pacific 
Islands News Association (PINA).  Both FIMA and PINA are 
pressing for better training and the establishment of codes of 
ethics for journalists.  The Government provided space for 
housing the Fiji Journalism Training Institute.

The advent of television has raised the specter of censorship, 
openly advocated by the head of the powerful Methodist Church 
in Fiji and others.  Fiji's "temporary" television service 
phased into a "permanent" service in July.  News production is 
still in the hands of the Government's video unit and can be 
characterized as a digest of government activities, actions, 
and viewpoints.

While academic freedom is respected, the Government has 
effectively deterred university employees from participation in 
domestic politics.  Since 1991 staff members of the Fiji-based 
University of the South Pacific must take leave if they run for 
public office and must resign from their posts if elected.  
Senior staff may not hold office in political parties.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides the right to assemble for political 
purposes, subject to restriction in the interest of public 
order.  District officers must issue permits for public 
gatherings.  The Government does not always grant permits for 
large outdoor political meetings or demonstrations, 
particularly if the police advise of difficulties with the 
anticipated crowd size or their ability to assure public 
safety.

There was no government interference with political activities 
during the February general election.  Permits were routinely 
issued for rallies organized by political parties, religious 
groups, and groups opposed to the Government.  All opposition 
party headquarters remain open.  Political organizations are 
allowed to operate and issue public statements.  They did so 
repeatedly and openly throughout the year.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitutional provision for freedom of religion is honored 
in practice.  The Government does not restrict foreign clergy 
and missionary activity or other typical activities of 
religious organizations.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict freedom of movement within the 
country or abroad.  Occasional detentions at the airport occur, 
but the courts do not hesitate to order redress where this is 
warranted.  Fiji citizens are free to emigrate, and the 
Government does not restrict their return if they choose to do 
so.  There are no refugees in Fiji and no forced resettlement 
programs.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The constitutional provisions ensuring political dominance by 
ethnic Fijians, primarily through race-based voting rolls and 
representation in Parliament, abridge the right of citizens to 
change their government.  Moreover, the Constitution was 
promulgated by a nonelected interim government and has not been 
approved by a national referendum.  At year's end it was  under 
review by a parliamentary select committee.

The Constitution guarantees ethnic Fijian dominance of the 
Government by providing them with 37 of 70 seats in the elected 
lower house of Parliament.  Indo-Fijians are accorded 27 seats, 
Rotumans (culturally distinct Polynesians) 1, and all others 
5.  In the Senate (an appointed body with essentially review 
powers and the right to veto legislation), ethnic Fijians hold 
24 of the 34 seats, Rotumans 1, and the other groups 9.  Other 
constitutional features designed to ensure ethnic Fijian 
dominance include a requirement that the Prime Minister be an 
ethnic Fijian and selection procedures which virtually ensure 
that the President will also be an ethnic Fijian.

The Constitution also incorporates a bill of rights, providing 
for freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and other 
universally accepted rights and freedoms.  These rights may not 
be altered by Parliament except with the approval of two-thirds 
of the lower house.  However, Parliament is also given the 
authority to pass special acts to deal with certain specified 
emergency situations, notwithstanding human rights guarantees 
found in other sections of the Constitution.  The Attorney 
General's office has taken the view that any legislation 
introduced under the emergency powers provision would require 
the approval of two-thirds of the lower house.  Critics of the 
Constitution maintain that only a simple majority would be 
needed and that indigenous Fijians in the lower house would be 
able, solely on the strength of their own numbers, to abrogate 
constitutional human rights protections.  This interpretation 
has never been tested.

The President is selected by the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), 
a traditional Fijian leadership body.  The President appoints 
the Fijian members of the Senate on the advice of the GCC and 
the provincial councils, and on his own judgment with regard to 
the nine members of other races.  He appoints the one Rotuman 
senator on the advice of the Rotuman Council.  The President 
chooses the Prime Minister, who, along with the Cabinet, holds 
most of the executive authority, from among the Fijian members 
of the lower house on the basis of ability to command majority 
support within that body.

Elections are held by secret ballot, with voting only by 
communal constituencies.  The Constitution calls for elections 
every 5 years, but the Government may call an election at any 
time as it did the snap general election in February after 
failing to pass its 1994 budget.  The Constitution provides for 
a formal review of its provisions within 7 years of its 
promulgation and every 10 years thereafter.

When Prime Minister Rabuka's 1994 budget was rejected by 
Parliament in November 1993, Rabuka asked the Acting President 
to dissolve that body in accordance with the Constitution.  The 
subsequent snap general election in February, considered free 
and fair by all observers, returned Rabuka and his party to 
Parliament in strength.  Rabuka was again selected as Prime 
Minister.

Fiji has a dozen political parties.  Four are predominantly 
Indo-Fijian.  The major ones, the National Federation Party 
(NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) pledged to continue their 
opposition to the Constitution in the Parliament.  NFP and FLP 
Indo-Fijian parliamentarians are joined on the opposition side 
of the legislature by another ethnic Fijian party (the Fijian 
Association) and one multiracial party (the All National 
Congress).

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no local groups in Fiji which focus solely on human 
rights matters, but the women's rights movement, the labor 
movement, and various political groups (including organized 
political parties) are engaged in promoting human rights.  
There are also several small, not very active, foreign-based 
organizations which concentrate on human rights causes in Fiji, 
including the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (with offices in 
New Zealand and Australia) and two United Kingdom-based groups, 
the International Fiji Movement and the Movement for Democracy 
in Fiji.

The Government in past years inhibited certain investigations 
of the political and human rights situation by external 
organizations, considering them to constitute external 
interference in its domestic affairs.  However, in 1994 it 
allowed foreign representatives to attend and participate in 
the University of the South Pacific's consultation on the 
national agenda.  That discussion roundly criticized many 
government policies and politicians as well as the 
Constitution.  The views expressed were fully and prominently 
covered in the press.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of, and 
provides specific affirmative action provisions to improve the 
conditions of those disadvantaged as a result of, race, sex, 
place of origin, political opinion, color, religion, or creed.

     Women

Despite Constitutional provisions, the Government practiced a 
form of sexual discrimination in the recognition of spousal and 
offspring rights.  For example, spouses of Fiji citizen women 
are not automatically granted residence, whereas spouses of 
Fiji citizen males are.  Offspring of female ethnic Fijians 
married to nonethnic Fijians are not entitled to registry in 
the document governing which persons share in income from 
communal ownership of native lands, and who has the right to 
vote as an ethnic Fijian, and who holds ethnic 
Fijian-designated seats in Parliament.  Men, however, confer 
ethnic Fijian status to their offspring regardless of the 
mother's ethnic background.  In a high-profile 1992 court 
challenge to the registration restrictions, the son of a 
Chinese father and ethnic Fijian mother won his appeal to be 
registered as an ethnic Fijian.  The Government withdrew its 
appeal of the decision in October.  The long-term effects of 
the decision on registration restrictions and, thus, a woman's 
right to pass on her ethnic status remain unclear.

Women in both the Fijian and Indian communities have functioned 
primarily in traditional roles, although some women achieve 
responsible positions in the public service, politics and 
business.  The female Minister of Education served as Acting 
Prime Minister during Prime Minister Rabuka's April-May visit 
to the United States.  Women can also attain high status in 
Fiji's traditional chiefly system.  The President's wife is, in 
her own right, Fiji's second highest ranking traditional 
chief.  The Minister for Fijian Affairs, a woman, is widely 
believed to be the best candidate to become Fiji's highest 
ranking traditional chief.

In general, women in the Fijian community are more likely to 
rise to prominence in their own right than are women in the 
Indo-Fijian community.  Women have full rights of property 
ownership and inheritance, and a number have become successful 
entrepreneurs.  Women are generally paid less than men, a 
discrepancy that is especially notable in the garment 
industry.  Garment workers, most of whom are female, are 
subject to a special minimum wage considerably lower than that 
in other sectors.

There is a small but active women's rights movement, which has 
pressed for more serious treatment of rape in the courts.  The 
convicted persons tend to draw widely varying, but usually 
short, prison sentences (a few years).  Efforts are under way 
to have all rape cases heard in the high court (vice 
magistrate's court at the accused's choice) where sentencing 
limits are higher.

Domestic violence is also a problem in Fiji and its mitigation 
is a second major focus of the women's movement.  The 
authorities are generally reluctant to intervene in cases of 
domestic violence unless it is necessary to save the woman's 
life.  Few cases result in prosecution, as the victim generally 
does not press charges.  The Government has not been active in 
dealing with domestic violence.

Suva, the capital, and the regional center of Ba have privately 
funded women's crisis centers which offer counseling and 
assistance to women in cases of rape, domestic violence, and 
other problems, such as child support payments.  There is, 
overall, a growing awareness of women's issues.

     Children

Changes centered around the undermining of the traditional 
village and extended family-based society--and improvements in 
record keeping--have revealed a major problem of child abuse in 
Fiji.  Reported cases have almost doubled over the last 4 
years.  The legal system is inadequate for protecting the 
rights of children, as children's testimony is inadmissible 
unless corroborated by an adult.  The Government created a 
Child Welfare Committee in 1993 to address these problems, but 
it is likely to remain reluctant to become involved in family 
matters.

Corporal punishment is widely practiced in schools and at 
home.  The Ministry of Education has guidelines for the 
administration of such punishment by principals and head 
teachers.  One principal in the Rewa Delta area was fired in 
1993 for overstepping these restrictions.  There are credible 
reports that not all abuses are reported or punished.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The stated purpose of the 1987 military coups was to ensure the 
political supremacy of the indigenous Fijian people and to 
protect their traditional way of life and communal control of 
land.  To this end, a number of measures have been taken that 
favor the Fijian community over other ethnic groups.  The most 
obvious are the apportionment of seats in Parliament to 
guarantee a preponderance of ethnic Fijians and constitutional 
provisions ensuring selection of an ethnic Fijian president and 
prime minister.  The Government is also committed to raising 
the proportion of ethnic Fijians and Rotumans in the public 
service to 50 percent or more at all levels.  This is reflected 
in current promotion and hiring policies in the public service 
favoring ethnic Fijians; as a result some Indo-Fijians have 
complained that, despite their experience and higher 
educational achievements, they are not promoted beyond middle 
management.

Control of land is a highly sensitive issue.  The British 
colonial administration instituted present land ownership 
arrangements to protect the interests of the indigenous 
Fijians, who currently hold, communally, about 83 percent of 
the land.  Most cash crop farmers are Indo-Fijians, who lease 
their land from the Fijian landowners through the Native Lands 
Trust Board.  Freehold land title is not an indigenous concept; 
lands owned currently by the State (8 percent) and by 
individuals (9 percent) were transferred from customary owners 
during the colonial period.  Many Indo-Fijians, particularly 
farmers, believe that the absence of secure land tenure 
discriminates against them.  Between 1997 and 2000, the 
majority of the current leases will expire.  A review of the 
current land tenure and leasing arrangements is underway, with 
all indications that few changes will be made to the existing 
system.

     People with Disabilities

Legal discrimination against physically disabled persons in 
employment, education, and provision of other state services in 
Fiji does not exist, however, there is no legislation or 
mandated provisions for accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The law protects workers' rights to form and join unions, elect 
their own representatives, publicize their views on labor 
matters, and determine their own policies, and this is observed 
in practice.  However, the law permits restrictions to be 
applied to government employees; or in the interests of 
defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or 
public health, or to protect the rights and freedoms of other 
persons.  An estimated 19 percent of the labor force is 
unionized.

All unions must register with, but are not controlled by, the 
Government.  The only central labor body is the Fiji Trade 
Union Congress (FTUC), which was closely associated with the 
opposition Fiji Labour Party until mid-1992.  It currently 
takes a more independent political stance.  The FTUC is free to 
associate internationally and does so.  The labor movement is 
led largely by Indo-Fijians, with ethnic Fijians beginning to 
assume leadership roles.  Persons with close ties to the 
Government have started rival unions primarily for ethnic 
Fijians; these unions are more amenable to political 
cooperation with the Government.

In April the Parliament completed a 2-year process of reforming 
labor legislation by amending the previous acts on industrial 
associations (eliminating a ban on holding multiple union 
officer positions) and trade unions (eliminating restrictions 
on seeking international support on labor issues).

Strikes are legal in Fiji, except in connection with union 
recognition disputes.  The Government remains involved in 
certifying union strike balloting, which can be an elaborate 
process given the distance between some of the island locations 
in the country.  The Ministry of Labour had recorded five 
strikes as of September 15.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Fiji law recognizes the right to organize and bargain 
collectively.  Employers are required to recognize a union if 
more than half the employees in a workplace have joined it.  
Recognition is determined by union membership numbers rather 
than by an election.  The Government has the power to order 
recalcitrant employers to recognize unions and has done so.  
Key sectors of the economy, including sugar and tourism, are 
heavily organized.  Following the May 1992 elections, the 
Government lifted wage guidelines, and unrestricted collective 
bargaining on wages is now the norm.

Wage negotiations are conducted on an individual company or 
enterprise basis rather than on an industry-wide basis.  A 
government proposal to introduce such negotiations has been 
opposed by employers and unions.

Antiunion discrimination is specifically prohibited by law.  In 
practice, the unions are generally successful in preventing 
discrimination against workers for union activities, but the 
law does not mandate that fired workers be reinstated.

Fiji's export processing zones are subject to the same laws as 
the rest of the country, and many of their firms have unions 
which have negotiated collective bargaining agreements.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits forced labor, and there 
is no indication that it is practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children under 12 may not be employed in any capacity.  
"Children" (under age 15) and "young persons" (ages 15-17) may 
not be employed in industry or work with machinery.  
Enforcement by the Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations 
generally is effective, except in the case of family members 
working on family farms or businesses and "self-employed" 
younger street urchins.  Education is not mandatory.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage.  Certain sectors have 
minimum wages set by the Ministry for Labour and Industrial 
Relations, which effectively enforces them.  Minimum wage 
levels will generally support a barely adequate standard of 
living in all sectors, except for the garment industry, in 
which the starting wage, $0.50 (F$0.72) for learners and $0.65 
(F$0.94) for others, is based on the assumption that workers 
are young adults or married women living at home and not 
supporting a household.

Fiji has no regulation specifying maximum hours of work for 
adult males.  Women are prohibited from night work in factories 
(other than overtime work in the garment industry) and 
underground work in mines.  Certain industries, notably 
transportation and shipping, have problems with excessive hours 
of work.  Indo-Fijians, who generally require a cash income to 
survive, are more vulnerable to pressure to work long hours 
than ethnic Fijians.  Many ethnic Fijians can and do return to 
a non-cash economy way of life in their villages rather than 
work what they consider excessive hours.

Fiji has workplace safety regulations, a Workmens' Compensation 
Act, and an accident compensation plan.  Awards for workers 
injured on the job are set by a tribunal.  Government 
enforcement of safety standards under the direction of the 
Labor Ministry suffers from a lack of trained enforcement 
personnel, but the unions do a reasonable job of monitoring 
safety standards in organized workplaces.  The International 
Labor Organizations recommendations in November 1992 cited the 
need to improve working conditions (problems are particularly 
widespread in the garment industry).  The Government drafted 
legislation to address these shortcomings but Parliament had 
not acted on it by year's end.


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