Australian Legal Profession Deeply Concerned about Attacks on Judicial Independence in Kiribati
6 September 2022
The Law Council of Australia and the Australian Bar Association express deep concern about recent events in Kiribati.
On 2 September 2022, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau purported to suspend the nation’s three most senior remaining judges, Justices Paul Heath, Peter Blanchard and Rodney Hansen.
Those judges, who are retired senior New Zealand judges and distinguished jurists, last month quashed an administrative decision to deport High Court judge and Australian citizen Justice David Lambourne. These latest attacks on the judiciary follow the earlier suspension of Kiribati’s Chief Justice William Hastings and Justice Lambourne.
As a result, there are now no sitting judges in Kiribati.
Law Council of Australia President Tass Liveris said, “The Australian legal profession calls on the Government of Kiribati to respect the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, and to refrain from any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process. The decisions of Kiribati’s highest court, and its judicial officers, must be respected.”
Australian Bar Association President Dr Matt Collins AM QC added, “Judicial officers must have security of tenure. Respect for the rule of law demands that they be able to determine disputes between the state and the citizen according to law and, where those decisions go against the state, to do so free from recriminations and attacks on their integrity.”
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