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Twist in Kiribati judiciary crisis

The judicial drama in Kiribati has taken a new turn as the government has been given more time by the Court of Appeal in Tarawa to file new evidence.

The hearing which was to take place this week will now happen in August.

The appeal is against the decision of the High Court which said the termination of Justice David Lambourne was unlawful by the government.

The Kiribati Government has said that the presiding judge in that case, Chief Justice William Hastings needed to recluse himself from the case because he had a preconceived notion that the government was wrong.

The government said this was evident in an article written by Mr Hastings to a legal journal.

“This is to allow government to file a new and fresh appeal, based on the discovery of new evidence written by the Chief Justice William Hastings and published online titled ‘A personal Journey through the Rule of Law in the South Pacific’,” said the government in a statement.

Justice William Hastings during a hearing in Kiribati. The judicial drama in Kiribati has taken a new turn as the government has been given more time by the Court of Appeal in Tarawa to file new evidence. Picture: Supplied

“The article by the Chief Justice published on the Judicature International in October, 2021 openly expresses the Chief Justices views on the same issues as that raised in the Lambourne case being appealed.

“The Chief Justice failed to take the honourable step of recusing himself from presiding over the Lambourne case which raises elements of bias or apprehension of bias when he decided on the case.”

Kiribati is yet to fill the positions left vacant by the departure of Mr Lambourne who was suspended in May, and Mr Hastings who was told to go in June.

According to Kiribati, there were complaints against Mr Lambourne by members of the public and an investigation was warranted. The complaint has been called a political move just to remove the judge.

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Mr Hastings then presided over a challenge filed by Mr Lambourne against Kiribati for their action against him, and ruled in favour of Mr Lambourne.

This situation has raised concerns about the existence of separation of powers, between the executives, the legislative, and the judiciary in Kiribati.

Reports from the ground have said that cases are now backlogged more than ever as there has been very low interest shown by legal practitioners to join the Kiribati judiciary.

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