The Fiji Access to Justice Project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, supported the Fiji Correction Service in setting up the remote conferencing facilities through the provision of laptops and data packages.
Prisoners have been able to meet their children, spouses, siblings and parents living in Fiji and overseas through the video conferencing facilities.
For many of them, they have not been able to see their relatives in years, due to the travel distance required to come to the prison.
Deputy Commissioner of Fiji Correction Service, Senior Superintendent Apakuki Qura said, “This is an historic moment for the Fiji Corrections Service. We are working hard to ensure that the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners are upheld within our prisons. Ensuring that inmates are able to access legal counsel and continue their basic rights to visitation was important to us, particularly in the complex and uncertain situation presented by the global pandemic. With this technology, we have been able to protect the health and safety of the inmates and our officers, while upholding the basic rights of inmates. We are thankful for the generous support from the EU and the UNDP Access to Justice project, without which we would not have achieved this.”
The video conferencing facilities had the additional benefit of linking into the existing Court system to allow for remote representation during the recent Supreme Court seating.
Maximum and medium-security corrections centres in Naboro, Nasinu, Suva, Lautoka and Ba were connected to the Courts for the first time, which enabled inmates to attend trials from the facilities, reducing exposure of inmates, corrections officers, judges and court officials.
Acting Chief Justice, Kamal Kumar said it was indeed a historic event.
“Proceedings went quite well and it was great to see that FCS officers assisting the Court and the inmates during the course of the proceeding,’’ Acting Chief Justice Kumar said.
“We can continue to call all matters listed to fix hearing dates or give directions via Skype for Court of Appeal and Supreme Court matters. Our staff will work closely with FCS officers to ensure that matters dealt via skype are conducted without technical issues,’’ he added.
The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports access to justice, in particular for impoverished and vulnerable groups.
It does so by empowering people to access their legal rights and services, strengthening key justice institutions to deliver improved services, and strengthening the capacity of Civil Society Organisations to deliver justice accompaniment services, with a special focus on supporting persons with disabilities and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
As the impact of
the pandemic has urged global efforts to accelerate towards the Sustainable
Development Goals, the EU and UNDP work with the Fijian people and government through
the Fiji Access to Justice Project to leave no one behind and achieve Sustainable
Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.