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Interim Fiji PM installed by military acknowledges coup 'illegal'

[JURIST] Interim Fiji Prime Minister Dr. Jona Senilagakali admitted Thursday that the military coup [JURIST report] carried out in the country earlier this week is "illegal" but defended the takeover as necessary "to clean up the mess of a much bigger illegal activity of the previous government." Fiji [JURIST news archive] military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] appointed Senilagakali and a new head of police after overthrowing the civilian government Tuesday. Bainimarama has taken over the presidency but hopes to have a interim government set up by next week.

After Bainimarama declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] Wednesday Senilagakali defended the crackdown on civil liberties and said that elections are up to two years away. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile, JURIST news archive] has meanwhile called on Fiji [press release] to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and to abide by international obligations covering civil, political and other rights. Arbour noted that the country's 1997 Constitution [text] protects human rights and fundamental freedoms. The UN News Service has more.

The Fiji coup was carried out after ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase [official profile] refused to stop proposed legislation that would have given coastal land ownership to the indigenous population of Fiji, rather than use it as a region for tourism, and also would have given pardons to individuals who plotted a coup against the government in 2000. Qarase, who claims he is currently under house arrest, has accused Bainimarama of "raping" the country's constitution. The US has joined New Zealand and Australia [JURIST news archive] in objecting to the coup by suspending $2.5 million in assistance to the nation. Tuesday's coup marks the fourth in the nation during the past 14 years. ABC Australia has more. The Fiji Times has local coverage.

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