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Kiribati brands foreign judges biased

The battle between the Kiribati Government and its judiciary continues as the Court of Appeal was branded as biased.

This happened as the Court of Appeal made a ruling upholding Chief Justice William Hastings’ judgement to allow David Lambourne to serve as a High Court Judge in Kiribati for life. This decision was labelled very biased and one-sided.

The duel between the government and judiciary started in May this year when the president of Kiribati Taneti Maamau suspended Mr Lambourne as a high court judge citing complaints by the public and a tribunal was set up to look into the complaints.

Mr Lambourne then filed a case in the High Court of Kiribati saying the decision by the Kiribati president was unfair.

Tessie and David Lambourne in Tarawa in Kiribati. Picture: Tessie Lambourne Facebook

The matter was before the Chief Justice and Mr Hastings ruled in favour of Mr Lambourne. This led to the suspension of Mr Hastings as well.

The Kiribati Government then changed its law to allow the president to reinstate or terminate judicial appointments.

This was followed by the attempted deportation of Mr Lambourne who is married to the opposition leader of the nation, Tessie Lambourne.

The deportation was only foiled when the pilot aboard the Fiji Airways plane refused to allow the judge to board against his will. Now the Court of Appeal’s decision has been criticised.

“The Government of Kiribati is gravely concerned by the actions of the Court of Appeal, particularly the decision by these foreign Judges to clearly disregard, disrespect and undermine normative and customary practices in the Kiribati courts system and our Constitution,” said the Office of the President in a statement.

The duel between the government and judiciary started in May this year when the president of Kiribati Taneti Maamau (pictured) suspended Mr Lambourne as a high court judge citing complaints by the public and a tribunal was set up to look into the complaints. Picture: Office of the President

The Kiribati Government said it was concerned how the foreign judges intentionally stated wrong facts and the law when making a decision on a case that was so important to the people of Kiribati.

The government said it would look into the Court of Appeal’s decision in more detail and Mr Lambourne remained suspended pending the outcome of an independent tribunal. The tribunal would commence after an interim Chief Justice is engaged to hear the case.

“The government will continue to respect and uphold the independence of the Judiciary as no one is above the law but at the same time will continue to undertake collective actions to ensure the protection of our Constitution and justice for the people of Kiribati,” said the Government of Kiribati.

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This action by Kiribati has received criticisms from legal bodies around the world who have asked the government to reconsider its position and allow the judiciary to be independent.

Kiribati was also warned that this interference could lead to a lack of interest from qualified professionals to take up appointment in the judiciary.

Kiribati’s former president Anote Tong said the fuss about Mr Lambourne was purely political because he was married to the leader of the opposition. He also warned the current president that he could find himself in contempt of court.

 

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