Magistrates in Vanuatu participated in a two-day consultation on 3 and 4 October aimed at strengthening their role in the implementation of the 2008 Family Protection Act which provides a framework for assisting survivors of domestic or family violence.
The consultation, led by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and supported by the German Development Bank (KfW), the Australian Government and the Government of Sweden, examined strategies for strengthening existing systems to support the domestic violence prevention and protection measures set out in the Act.
The consultation was facilitated by RRRT staff together with retired Judge Mere Pulea, who has on extensive experience working as a judge on family law matters in Fiji as well as drafting a number of domestic violence laws for Pacific Island countries.
The consultation for Magistrates included discussions on the links between gender, human rights and domestic violence, and the specific legal issues faced when applying the Act. In addition, guidelines to support the courts in interpreting and applying the Act were examined and refined. Once approved, these guidelines will be made available to all Magistrates.
The consultation was closed by Chief Justice Lunabek, who emphasised that while domestic violence is often seen only as an act of violence, it is also important recognize it as a human rights issue. He highlighted that Vanuatu still has very high rates of domestic violence that must be addressed through effective implementation of the Family Protection Act.
The consultation is part of RRRT’s regional judicial strengthening programme, providing tailor-made training programmes to support judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors in implementing family violence legislation.
In recognition of the need for continuous engagement with justice actors, RRRT provides on-going support after the initial consultation to collect data and develop judicial tools, and offers follow up training, as needed.
The first consultation of this regional programme was held in Tonga in December 2016 with subsequent meetings taking place in the Solomon Islands, and Marshall Islands in July and August of this year. Further consultations are planned in Kiribati and Nauru during the next 6 months.
Onorina Saukelo, RRRT Communications Assistant, [email protected] or +679 330 5582
SPC Regional Rights Resource Team: http://rrrt.spc.int