Pacific News Minute: No Right of Appeal to a Higher Court in Nauru

Apr 4, 2018

Flag of Nauru
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The justice system of the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru is in an uproar after the government abandoned its appeals system, without setting up a replacement. Right now, defendants in Nauru have no right to appeal. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

On its independence, 50 years ago, Nauru agreed with Australia to provide judicial review.

On appeal, decisions of Nauru’s Supreme Court were referred to Australia’s High Court for a decision. According to ABC, Australian radio, Nauru secretly triggered a three-month notice for withdrawal from that agreement last December 12. Which means the appeals process evaporated in mid-March.

Nauruan officials say they will establish an appeals court of their own, but that would require a constitutional amendment and parliament will not convene again until late this month,

Nauru’s Justice Minister, David Adeang, said the decision reinforces Nauru’s independence and sovereignty. And he said that, once its formed, a Nauruan court of appeals will cut costs and provide easier access to justice.

Satellite image of Nauru.
Credit Simple Wikipedia

Former Justice Minister Mathew Batsuia called the decision an outrage. He is among 19 defendants, many of them former members of parliament, who face charges related to an anti-government protest. He told RNZ Pacific that they planned an appeal to the Australian High Court, and believes the withdrawal was intended to eliminate that option.

The decision also affects the rights of asylum seekers held at the notorious Australian run detention camp in Nauru. According to George Newhouse, the head of Australia’s National Justice Project, the Australian High Court overturned 90 percent of Nauruan court decisions over the past 12 months.