The Kiribati Government’s war with the judiciary has gone up another notch as the nation is left without any senior judges following the suspension of the three judges that presided in the Court of Appeal ruling that did not favour the government.
In doing so, the Office of the President likened them to Nuremberg judges who made the decision to favour Nazi Germany and accused them of attempting a judicial coup.
“The government will continue to honor the “rule of law” and preserve and protect the customs and traditions, the Constitution and laws of Kiribati, and defend judicial independence even from members of the bar and bench who seek to convert the Sovereign Independent Republic of Kiribati into a judicial tyranny, as Nuremberg Judges did by aiding and abetting Nazi Germany,” president Taneti Maamau said in a statement.
He also accused the three judges of acting in a manner that raised questions about their judicial integrity.
“On August 26, Judges Blanchard, Hansen and Heath – acting in a manner that raise substantial questions about their Judicial Integrity – continue to dictate in apparent ignorance of the Laws, Constitution and the legally binding Customs and Traditions of Kiribati which they have sworn to uphold, by awarding David Lambourne with a Life-Time Judgeship,” said the statement.
“The latest judgment is breathtaking, as is its circularity of logic, and mis-statements of facts and law. This latest judgment upholding suspended-CJ Hastings’ predicate unlawful judgment by attacking and holding former Chief Justice Sir John Muria at “fault” exemplifies the base nature of the attempted Judicial Coup and its threat to the independent sovereign republic of Kiribati.”
The standoff between the government and the judiciary started in May when Justice David Lambourne was suspended and he was to face an independent tribunal following complaints against him.
Mr Lambourne then filed a case in the High Court against this decision in which Chief Justice William Hastings ruled in favour of Mr Lambourne.
Mr Hastings was then suspended and the government appealed the ruling, and now the judges who presided in the case have been met with same fate.
Mr Lambourne was detained and his deportation was only thwarted after the airline transporting him refused to fly anyone against their will.
Mr Lambourne is married to the leader of the opposition Tessie Lambourne and has been in Kiribati for over two decades.
The president and the government have rejected criticism that has come from the Commonwealth legal bodies and Australia.
These organisations have asked the government not to interfere with the independence of the judiciary.
This situation is not doing the nation any favours as the constant interference by the government is deterring qualified people from taking up positions on the island.
The backlog of cases is mounting and there seems to be no way out of it until the positions from which judges have been removed are filled.
Kiribati does not have enough qualified locals to take up the positions.