17 September 2007The United Nations top human rights official has voiced deep concern over the re-imposition of a state of emergency in Fiji. Under accepted rules of international law, “such far-reaching restrictions of rights may only be introduced in time of a public emergency when the life and existence of the nation is threatened,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement issued in Geneva. “Restrictions may only be applied to the extent and time strictly required by the situation and they may not be discriminatory in application. The impact of the measures imposed in Fiji is heightened by the increased pressure being placed on the independence of the country’s judiciary,” she added. Six expatriate Court of Appeal judges in the South Pacific country resigned earlier this month to protest against the acting Supreme Court Chief Justice’s handling of the administrative matters of the Court. Extended delays are said to continue in the formation of an independent tribunal to hear the case of the removal of the Chief Justice in January, the statement said, noting that the ability of truly independent institutions to function effectively and vindicate rights is indispensable, particularly in the current circumstances. Ms. Arbour underlined the need for the Fiji Human Rights Commission to play an effective and independent role in addressing current human rights challenges in the country, fully in line with the international standards applicable to national human rights institutions.