Panel Discussion 2: Biennial High Level Panel - Death Penalty
Permanent Mission of Fiji to United Nations Geneva
Statement of Fiji at the Biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty
Human Rights Council
Fiji abolished the death penalty formally in February of 2015, with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Amendment Act 2015.
In debating the Bill, Parliament was told that there was a growing international trend to remove the use of capital punishment from all laws. Additionally, abolishing the death penalty was consistent with Fiji’s Constitution which provides that every person has the right to life and must not be arbitrarily deprived of life.
During the last UN General Assembly in December 2016, Fiji confirmed its positive vote for the second time in a row for the resolution entitled “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”. Fiji abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 1979 and removed the last references to the death penalty in the Penal Code in 2002. The only remaining reference to the death penalty existed in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Act, which referred to the UK Army Act of 1955 which had a provision on the death penalty.
What led Fiji to take this step, 25 years after it had become redundant in our criminal laws?
Firstly, the weight of domestic and international opinion. More and more countries in the world have become abolitionist, preferring the use of both custodial and non-custodial sentences as sentencing options for the judiciary.
Secondly, Fiji’s Universal Periodic Review process in the Human Rights Council in 2014. Whilst in preparation for the second cycle review, Fiji was reminded that it still preserved the death penalty, although it had never been used, in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Act, as a result of the applicability of the United Kingdom Army Act. This discussion persuaded us to give the matter some urgency.
Thirdly, political will. Fiji’s Government is aware that the death penalty has little deterrent effect on the committing of serious crimes, and that sentencing policies now require a delicate balance between the sentencing principles of deterrence, rehabilitation, denunciation and punishment. A sentence which only denounces and deters can have a limited positive effect on the individual offender. A death sentence, and especially a mandatory death sentence, fails to give to the judge, a discretion to balance these factors and to pass a sentence which is suited to the individual. A death sentence says to the community; there is no hope for this individual. There will never be any hope for this individual.
Such a philosophy has no place in the Fijian way of life.
For Fiji, the abolishing of the death penalty was both logical and principled and we are proud to have taken this significant step in our history.