The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission has strongly recommended that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Commission director Ashwin Raj made this statement to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in Parliament yesterday.
Mr Raj said the Fijian Constitution, through its Bill of Rights provisions, already included the most salient features of the ICCPR and ICESCR.
He said the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Fijian Constitution renders the Bill of Rights as far more progressive than ICCPR.
He said the covenants placed a positive obligation on the state to not only protect individuals against violations committed by the state but also against acts committed by private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of covenant rights.
Mr Raj said given that human rights were interrelated, interdependent and indivisible and discrimination was intersectional, and Fiji’s history was that civil and political rights and economic and social rights were mutually constitutive, the ratification of both covenants was necessary.
Mr Raj further said that the ratification of ICCPR could be a catalyst for a much needed national discussion on justifiable limitations on civil and political rights in international law and how to interpret those rights.
He added that the ratification of the ICESCR would also enable the realisation of our commitment to sustainable development goals.
“Ratification of the two covenants will serve to further strengthen the interpretation provisions of the Bill of Rights of the Fijian Constitution through the application of international law in the interests of promoting values underpinning a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.”