(+) Whose Court Smells of Rotten Fish?

The normally "moderate" and well informed anti-Government blog Fiji Today has published what some could believe to be a subtantiated post on the Bainimarama assassination plot trial that claims the  verdict was staged. The post is titled "The Smell of Rotten Fish in the Courthouse."

The blog said in investigating the story it (presumably one of the four editors) held "several clandestine meetings with a senior serving officer in the RFMF" and  from these meetings with this one officer of unknown rank and unknown access to information on military personnel or court procedures, the blog claims it can confirm:
  1. The Chief Registrar of the High Court army lawyer Major Ana Rokomokoti is still listed as being on active duty with the RFMF. 
  2. The Chief Registrar nominated both the judge and the assessors for this case.
  3. Three of the five assessors in this case are serving or territorial members of the military.
  4. The lawyers concerned were in no position to argue against the choices of the Chief Registrar Major Rokomokoti as she is also the person who gets to decide if they are issued with a practicing license to be a lawyer.
The blog concluded that the trial was staged, making much of the statistical odds (1 in 2.7 million) of three serving soldiers being randomly selected as assessors.   My information, from legal sources, does not support most of their claims. 

Their first claim is accepted. It is no secret that many military people are currently performing civilian functions. Ana Rokomokoti is a qualified lawyer fully capable of performing the tasks of Chief Registrar.

Their second claim is false. The Chief Registrar did not pick the judge or the assessors. The High Court criminal registry has a system of random case allocation which is monitored by the judges themselves, and not by the Chief Registrar.

Their third claim is also false. No member of the military was an asssessor and defence counsel were specifically asked to verify that this was case.

Their fourth claim is speculation. Assessors are vetted by the prosecution and the defence in a pre-trial conference.

There is no objective way of knowing or testing the professional integrity of the lawyers, the judge or the Chief Registrar, although some I know who attending the trial thought the evidence pretty conclusive, and the assessors' guilty verdict was unanimous.

Disagreeing with their verdict is an insufficient ground to question their integrity.


Anonymous said…

Just because the Regime's judiciary has a random method of choosing assessors, this is no guarantee that it was used in this particular case. The appointment documents still have to go through the Chief Registrar in the end.

The fact that any judge of the regime court is overseeing anything is no guarantee of impartiality or integrity either. They are all tainted - Madigan almost as much as Gates!

As for defense counsel verifying the assessors, they are not the experts. They can only ask questions for which they rely on the court for answers. But now that the identity of the assessors is known in any case, anybody's assertions about their military status will be 2nd rate to the straightforward process of finding that out for oneself!

Croz Walsh said…
@ Puzzled. I understand the reasons for your concern but there are few guarantees in this life. In the end, you will be left with the decision of which explanation is the more probable. My information is that the usual checks were used in this case. I think it "highly probable" but there is no way I can be "certain."
Anonymous said…
Two of the assessors are listed as being on active duty in the RFMF pay records. Neither of the assesors is a known soldier.

Croz Walsh said…
@ Basa, Thanks for this. But I don't understand. How can the assessors be on active duty and on the pay records and not be soldiers? Do you mean they are civilians working for the RFMF? If so, do you know how they are employed? Do you know anything else about them?
Anonymous said…
Only they are both on the payroll at the level of a corporal and have been since 2007 and 2009 respectivly. I have not personally viewed the payroll data but have confidence in the source.

daucina said…
Necessary and sufficient grounds: two small terms so visibly absent from the thought processes of so many in Fiji (particularly those associated with the practice of law). That is precisely why justice has infrequently been done, and been seen to be done, in Fiji for more than twenty years. If we are honest we know this to be so. Judicial Officers of the past must be turning in their graves?

What light did an errant Fiji media, so wanting in fastidious oversight - shed on this? How many academics who ought to have done, failed to demonstrate this? Still in fact fail? Where are they to be seen in the Courts of Fiji? By their very absence, they are to be held to account. Likewise the so vocal NGOs. Are the court benches too hard?

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