Pacific magistrates and judges share experiences on human rights in courts

Auckland, New Zealand – A Pacific regional consultation on ‘Human Rights and the Law’ for senior magistrates and judges from the Pacific opens today in Auckland, New Zealand.

Organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the consultation gathers together 25 senior magistrates from 15 Pacific Island countries to discuss experiences around the application of human rights in courts around the region.

Speaking at the opening today South Australia's former director of public prosecutions and more recently justice of the High Court in the Solomon Islands, Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, said "I would estimate that more than 90% of the work I did over my last two years on the bench involved serious sexual crime. It was a tragic parade of damaged women and children in the one hand and a rogues gallery of stupid, misigynistic, pathetic males on the other."

Justice Pallaras added that "To me, it was obvious that there is a real and urgent need for change and here I was (in Solomon Islands) having being put into the position of enormous authority and so given the opportunity (as all of you have) to do something about this dreadful situation. I had two choices. I could just shake my head and say how terrible it all is and hope that something would be done or I could at least try and do something about it, try at least to do some good and try at least to make a difference. I determined to try".

Key themes of the three-day event include access to justice, implementation of domestic violence laws and regulations, and family law, and linkages to good governance and development.

”This is an important forum because it provides a vibrant space for judicial decision makers to exchange their experiences and knowledge on the application of human rights in courts,” Deputy-Director of SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), Mark Atterton, said.

Guest speakers at the consultation this week include Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, Chief Justice of Nauru, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, and former Fiji Family Law Court Judge Madam Mere Pulea.

Human rights covers many aspects of our daily lives, including rights to food, shelter, education, health, protection, freedom of expression and many more.

”We trust this consultation will strengthen the developing jurisprudence in the Pacific in the area of human rights by encouraging the use of human rights principles in human rights conventions, in Pacific courts ,” Mr Atterton added.

SPC, through its Regional Rights Resource team, assists governments and civil society organisations in Pacific Island countries and territories to increase the observance of all human rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural) and governance standards to enhance development in the Pacific. SPC hosts annual trainings on human rights for a range of stakeholders including Members of Parliament, judges and magistrates, lawyers, civil servants and civil society groups.

The Senior Magistrates consultation in New Zealand this week is supported by the Australian Government and the European Union.

Media contacts

Jilda Shem    Communications Officer – Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), [email protected] or +679 9314174.

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SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team receives core funding from the Australian Government and additional project support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP), European Union (EU) and the German Development Bank (KfW).