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Fiji appeals court declares post-coup military government illegal

[JURIST] The Court of Appeal of Fiji ruled Thursday that the country's appointment of a military government following a 2006 coup [JURIST report] was unconstitutional and must be replaced immediately by an interim prime minister until democratic elections can be held. Ousted Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] brought the challenge against a November High Court decision finding that current President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] had the authority under the Fijian constitution [text] to appoint new leaders following Qarase's ouster. The Court of Appeals denied Qarase's request to be reinstated as prime minister, instead urging the president to appoint an independent interim prime minister to dissolve the current parliament and schedule elections. Current Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama [BBC profile] responded in a televised address to the nation [transcript] that the government has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, though an application to stay the declarations of the Court of Appeals pending appeal was denied. Bainimarama said that Iloilo will soon announce whether the government will comply with the court's instruction to appoint interim leadership, adding that security forces will "ensure that there will be no disruption to law and order." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a call [statement text] for the nation to respect human rights and the rule of law.

In September, Qarase made additional charges that Bainimarama and others who participated in the December 2006 military coup had committed treason [Fiji Daily Post report] by ousting Qarase's democratically elected government. Later that month, Qarase tried to make a statement [JURIST report] to police regarding the allegations, but they said they would not investigate the charges. Qarase then brought the suit [JURIST report] in October. Less than two days after the coup, a previous interim prime minister installed by the military characterized the coup as "illegal" [JURIST report], but defended it as necessary. Qarase's case was heard in the High Court by a three-judge panel led by Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, who was appointed [press release] after Bainimarama suspended former Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki [JURIST report].

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