Nauru has fired its only magistrate and expelled its chief justice from the country. Its Solicitor-General has tendered his resignation. In less than two weeks the independence of Nauru’s judiciary has been annihilated. These events highlight the vulnerable position of courts, and the need for Australia to take action.
On 19 January Nauru’s President Baron Waqa fired magistrate and Supreme Court registrar Peter Law, an Australian citizen and resident of Nauru. Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames intervened by issuing an injunction against the deportation. In response, the government ignored the injunction, then prevented Eames’ from returning to Nauru by cancelling his visa.
On 21 January the Nauru Department of Justice released a statement justifying Law’s removal on the grounds of a ‘loss of confidence’. The Department cited complaints of inappropriate behaviour such as drunkenness and interfering in cases. Despite this statement, little doubt seems to exist that the removal of Law and the subsequent expulsion of Eames were politically motivated. Law and Eames have pointed to the President’s displeasure with a decision by Law that prevented the government from deporting three resident foreign nationals – including two Australian businessmen.
See also: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-20/nauru-sacks-deports-australian-magistrate-chief-justice/5207600