Judicial shake-up in Nauru

Opposition MPs decry deportations

Nauru’s Opposition has described the treatment of two of its highest judicial officers in the land as contempt for the rule of law. Opposition leader Mathew Batsiua alleged that the actions of Justice Minister David Adeang in refusing to abide by a court injunction against the deportation of Resident Magistrate Peter Law were an affront to the powers of the court.

“The actions of this Government are a clear defiance and blatant disregard for the Supreme Court and it is a clear case of contempt of court,” said Batsiua. “It involves the blatant disregard for Chief Justice Eames’ orders stopping Magistrate Law’s deportation from Nauru.” His comments come in the wake of the resignation of Nauru’s Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames. He stepped down after being denied a visa to return to work in Nauru. Justice Eames said the Nauruan Government had refused to publicly acknowledge that the removal of Mr Law from the island “constituted an abuse of the rule of law and a denial of the independence of the judiciary.”

“Given the government’s failure to concede that its actions against the Resident Magistrate and myself constituted breaches of the rule of law, it is clear that my relationship with the Government is such that I could not perform the duties of Chief Justice, even if my visa was restored.” The court drama began when Magistrate Law had granted an injunction to stop authorities from deporting two expatriates from Nauru.

This order triggered his own deportation from the island republic in January. The Nauru Government however said they had lost confidence in Magistrate Law’s ability to hear matters in a “fair and equal manner.” They also went on to criticise him for his personal conduct as justification for their action. But Opposition Leader Batsiua said the resignations had plunged the Pacific island into a judicial abyss, which seriously restricts anyone seeking a fair hearing in the courts.

Former senior minister and long-serving member of parliament, Roland Kun, said Nauru’s status of having one of the most effective and prestigious judicial benches in the Pacific has been eroded in a matter of months by a government that has become a law unto itself, with no respect whatsoever for the rule or law – especially in decisions not favorable to the government. “We place the blame for this unforgivable situation squarely at the feet of the present Minister for Justice, David Adeang, who has ridden roughshod over legal conventions and even the Constitution, to create a dictatorship for himself, where even the president is at his beck and call.”

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