Australian lawyer Peter Law, who was Nauru’s resident magistrate until Sunday, when he was sacked and deported from the Pacific island, says he’ll sue over defamatory allegations used to explain why his was dismissed.
In a four-paragraph media release issued on Tuesday, Nauru’s Government Information Office (GIO) said it had lost “confidence” in Mr Law’s ability to hear cases in a “fair and equal” manner after “a number of complaints raised by former governments, members of the public and judiciary staff”.
Mr Law told ABC radio’s Pacific Beat he’ll sue over the “totally and utterly ridiculous” claims, which he says were made by a disgruntled and suspended staff member, saying it was “abusive and ridiculous”.
Mr Law told Pacific Beat that Nauru had been “pressured to provide an answer of some sort” to counter his claim that he’d been sacked for remaining independent of the Justice Minister and making decisions contrary to his views.
In its statement, the Nauru GIO said “The complaints included inappropriate behaviour towards staff, improper conduct towards staff, drunk and disorderly behaviour, allegations of interfering in cases, advising aggrieved parties on how to conduct their cases, dereliction of performing his duties as a magistrate, undermining senior public servants, and exclusion of certain members of the judiciary staff from needed training, to name a few.”
It did not outline whether the matters had been investigated or if a view on the complaints had been reached, but concluded “The government of Nauru deemed it appropriate that Mr Law leave Nauru as soon as possible before any more damage is done to the reputation and good standing of the Nauru judiciary.”
In the wake of the move, Nauru’s president, Baron Waqa, cancelled the visa of Nauru’s Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames, who is also Australian.
Meanwhile, another Australian, the island’s Solicitor-General Stephen Bilim, resigned in protest.
Justice Eames told Fairfax Media that he told the President about the allegations on November 26 last year, adding “I have never seen the slightest evidence of any one of them” and that the President rejected them and maintained his confidence in Mr Law.
Nauru is currently being used to house Australian-bound asylum seekers as part of the Abbott Government’s border protection policy. Conditions at the camps there have been criticised by doctors and the UN.
Two weeks ago, Nauru also increased the price of a visa for visiting media to $8000.
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