The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission strongly recommends that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
This is the submission by the Director of the Human Rights Commission Ashwin Raj to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Standing Committee of Parliament this morning.
The submission was based on the following reasons:
- The Fijian Constitution, through its Bill of Rights provisions, already includes the most salient features of the ICCPR and ICESCR. The inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Fijian Constitution renders our Bill of Rights as far more progressive than ICCPR.
- The covenants place a positive obligation on the state to not only protect individuals against violations committed by the state but also against acts committed by private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of covenant rights.
- Given that human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible and discrimination is intersectional, and, as Fiji’s history instructs us that civil and political rights and economic and social rights are mutually constitutive, therefore, ratification of both covenants is necessary. And, one must not be preferentially framed over another covenant.
- Following its Universal Periodic Review in 2014, Fiji has ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), invited the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism and most recently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ratification of ICCPR and ICECSR would demonstrate Fiji’s sustained commitment towards strengthening legal safeguards in the interests of protecting and promoting fundamental human rights and freedoms and opening itself to international scrutiny and will bolster Fiji’s efforts to secure a seat at the Human Rights Council and strengthen its relationship with civil society, international community, the national human rights commission and development partners.
- The ratification of ICCPR can be a catalyst for a much needed national discussion on justifiable limitations on civil and political rights in international law and how to interpret those rights.
- The ratification of the ICESCR will also enable the realisation of our commitment to sustainable development goals.
- Ratification of the two covenants will serve to further strengthen the interpretation provisions of the Bill of Rights of the Fijian Constitution through the application of international law in the interests of promoting values underpinning a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.