Talanoa Newsletter July 2019Website Administrator
PILON – Sexual and Gender Based Violence Workshop
25 – 27 March Apia, Samoa
In March 2019, the PILON Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Working Group held a workshop on providing Quality Evidence without Re-Victimisation: Promoting Special Measures for Vulnerable SGBV Complainants.
The Attorney General’s Office of Samoa hosted the workshop, with funding from the Australian Government and the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community. It brought together Honourable members of the judiciary from across the Pacific, including NZ and Australia, senior lawyers and police from 14 Pacific Island countries. The Pacific island countries that participated are Fiji, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Tonga, together with Australia and New Zealand.
SGBV is a significant problem across the Pacific region. The Prime Minister of Samoa, Mr Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who opened the workshop, noted that domestic physical assaults can sometime be the tip of the iceberg, with other serious crimes committed against persons in vulnerable domestic situations, including our young children. He reinforced to delegates that the Samoan Government takes the fight against domestic violence very seriously. The costs of sexual and gender based violence to Pacific communities, including Samoa, are high and place enormous burdens on health, law and justice and other Government systems. The costs of SGBV, which limit full participation by women and girls in social, political and economic life holds back the development of Pacific Island countries.
In keeping with the commitment by Pacific Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009 and the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in 2012, PILON member countries have recognised that contributing to the eradication of SGBV through effective law and justice responses continues to be one of its key strategic priorities.
Pacific leaders, including Tuilaepa, have acknowledged the high rates of SGBV in Samoa and across the Pacific region and have committed to eradicating SGBV and ensuring all individuals have equal protection of the law and equal access to justice.
Implementation of the principles is intended to minimise distress experienced by vulnerable witnesses and maximise the ability of these witnesses to give reliable and truthful evidence in SGBV court proceedings. In doing so, the Principles seek to ensure that the criminal process does no further harm to the person and that their safety is prioritised while ensuring a fair trial for the accused. Maximising the ability of vulnerable witnesses to provide their best evidence and preventing their re-traumatization may also improve trust in the criminal court process, thereby increasing the likelihood of reporting of SGBV offences.
The PILON SGBV working group will continue to support PILON members on implementation of the General Principles and are currently working on model provisions to encourage the enshrining of some of these practices in legislation.
The PILON Secretariat would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions made to the Conference by all distinguished speakers, delegates and others that made this event possible, in particular the staff from the Pacific Community’s RRRT whose support for this workshop was greatly appreciated.
Pacific Human Rights Law Digest Vol 6
28 March Apia, Samoa
One of the highlights of the SGBV Workshop was the launching of RRRT’s Pacific Human Rights Law Digest, Volume 6. To officially open the ceremony was Justice Vui Nelson and members of the Samoa diplomatic core, government officials, and all SGBV delegates were invited.
This is the sixth volume of the Pacific Human Rights Law Digest (PHRLD) produced by the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community (SPC). The previous volume (Volume 5) was released in September 2015.
Over the past 20 years RRRT has been working with, and has engaged in training of, members of parliament, non-governmental organisations, law students, lawyers, magistrates and judges in the Pacific region. This training has focused on encouraging the use of conventions, international standards and constitutional bills of rights in the courts and contributed to increased reliance on, and use of, these instruments by magistrates, judges and lawyers across the region.
The overall purpose of this Pacific Human Rights Law Digest is to disseminate, for use by Pacific law students, lawyers, magistrates, judges and human rights advocates, a collection of analysed, recent human rights case law that can be used as precedents in the courts, and as tools for policy initiatives.
The PHRLD is not just for lawyers, but also for human rights activists and other stakeholders. It is therefore not just a compilation or compendium of cases with headnotes, as commonly found in law reports, but rather it is an analysed summary of judgments, highlighting significant human rights issues.
SPC’s RRRT has a vast network of local-level human rights defenders who are increasingly using the law as a tool for change in the areas of governance and human rights. The experience of this network of human rights actors has now been reflected in the Diploma in Leadership, Governance and Human Rights, which is jointly sponsored by SPC’s RRRT and the University of the South Pacific (USP), and is offered through 12 USP campuses in the Pacific region.
RRRT’s ultimate objective is to help to build a human rights culture that enhances the rule of law and democracy in the Pacific region. Promoting the use of human rights standards in law, practice and policy is part of RRRT’s broad, long-term strategy for achieving that goal.
PILON Executive Committee Meeting
29-30 April Nadi, Fiji
The PILON Executive Committee met at the Nalagi Hotel in Nadi, Fiji on the 29-30 April 2019.
In attendance were Committee members, Chair, Mr Stuart Baker, Solicitor General, Cook Islands, Incoming Chair, Mr Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, Attorney General, Samoa, Ms Karen Moore, Assistant Secretary, Australia, Mr Joses Gallen, Secretary for Justice, FSM, Mr Graham Leung, Secretary for Justice and Border Control, Nauru, Ms Jo Mildenhall, Senior Crown Counsel, New Zealand, and Mr Johnathan Kawakami, A/g Attorney General, RMI.
The Executive Committee welcomed presentations from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat including the Pacific Legislative Drafters Technical Forum, the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Programme (UN-PRAC), the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and Oceania Customs Organisation. The Committee embraced the opportunity to engage with these regional organisations and investigated options for further strengthening PILON’s working relationship with fellow Pacific agencies and coordination of activities across the region.
The Committee took advantage of the opportunity to explore continued and increased collaboration with UN-PRAC on Corruption issues into the forward years of PILON’s Strategic Plan and discussions will be ongoing with this key regional stakeholder to ensure that efforts are joined up and coordinated.
The Executive Committee reviewed PILON’s progress in the key areas of Cybercrime, Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Corruption, as well as broader governance matters and preparations for the 2019 Annual Meeting. Updates on progress towards PILON’s key strategic priorities will be provided at the 38th PILON Annual Meeting to be hosted by the Samoan Office of the Attorney General, at the Taumeasina Island Resort, in Apia from the 4th – 7th November 2019.
AGD Pacific Legal Policy Champions and Twinning Program
Are you a high performing Pacific law or justice officer looking to develop your policy skills?
The Australian Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) is pleased to invite PILON member countries to apply for AGD’s Pacific Legal Policy Programs. Applications for the 2019 Programs are now open and due by Wednesday 7 August 2019.
There are two programs, the Pacific Legal Policy Champions Program from 14 to 25 October 2019 and the Legal Policy Twinning Program from 14 October to
6 December 2019.
AGD is happy to welcome seven places for Policy Champions and three places for Policy Twins.
The Pacific Legal Policy Programs are delivered in Canberra, and are intensive training and professional development opportunities focussed on strengthening legal policy-making skills to build Pacific law and justice agencies capabilities, which align with PILON strategic priorities.
More information about the Programs and application process are available at AGD’s Pacific Law and Justice Program webpage, click here. Please do not hesitate to contact Pacific@ag.gov.au to find out more.
PACIFIC LEGAL POLICY CHAMPIONS PROGRAM
Date: 14 October – 25 October 2019
Location: Canberra, Australia
PACIFIC LEGAL TWINNING PROGRAM
Date: 14 October – 6 December 2019
Location: Canberra, Australia
PILON 38th ANNUAL MEETING
Date: 4 November – 7 November 2019
Location: Apia, Samoa
Venue: Taumeasina Island Resort
PILON LITIGATION SKILLS WORKSHOP
Date: 25 November – 4 December 2019
Location: Apia, Samoa
Venue: Tanoa Tusitala Hotel
Tribute to Lorrie Johnson-Asher from PILON Litigation Skills Faculty
It is with much sadness that the faculty of the PILON litigation skills programme acknowledge the passing of fellow faculty member, Lorrie Johnson-Asher
Lorrie obtained her law degree from the University of the South Pacific School of Law in 2002. For eleven years she was a prosecutor for the various Attorney-General’s offices throughout the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). She first served as an Assistant Attorney-General for the Pohnpei State Government in 2004, then moved on to the Federal Government’s Department of Justice in 2008.
In 2013, Lorrie was appointed as the Attorney-General for Kosrae State Government. In 2010, Lorrie obtained her LLM Degree from the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law. With a keen interest in the protection of human rights, Lorrie joined the FSM criminal defense team at the FSM Office of the Public Defender in March 2015. In September 2015, she was appointed the Chief Public Defender for the FSM and became a cabinet member to FSM President, H.E. Peter Christian.
We came to meet, and get to know, Lorrie when she was a participant in the Litigation Skills programme; first in the 2010 Basic course in Vanuatu and then in the 2016 Advanced course in New Zealand. With her admirable skills together with her personable nature, Lorrie became an obvious target for recruitment as faculty for future courses.
Participating as faculty for a senior government lawyer is a big commitment in time and energy but offers the chance not only to share skills but also to increase continuing education opportunities in their home offices. Lorrie was a hard-working teacher which, in combination with her gentle manner and natural flair for teaching, made her an immediate friend and colleague to all other faculty. She inspired both the participants and her fellow faculty to achieve their best.
The news of her death, with so much achieved and obviously so much still ahead of her, was met with shock and grief by all those who had the PILON faculty connection.
In addition to her many professional accomplishments, Lorrie was a lovely woman. She was clever, courageous, warm and fun. Lorrie was a leader of the Pasifika region, committed to access to justice and upholding the rule of law. She will be greatly missed by all those that knew her. We pay special tribute to her husband, their children, families and community.