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Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 16th May 2013.

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Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

(1) what discussions his Department has had with the Government of Fiji about that country's human rights record;

(2) what discussions his Department has had with the Government of Fiji about the status of Fiji within the Commonwealth;

(3) what discussions his Department has had with the Government of Fiji about the effects on Fiji of its suspension from the Commonwealth;

(4) what his policy is on the readmission of Fiji to the Commonwealth; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We regularly raise our concerns about the human rights situation in Fiji with the Fijian authorities, including Ministers, the civil service, Police Commissioners and election bodies. In view of the seriousness of the human rights situation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has included Fiji as a 'country of concern' in its Annual Report on Human Rights for both 2011 and 2012.

Further, in consultation with the British high commission in Suva, the local EU delegation has issued a number of statements on the human rights situation in Fiji, including: concern around the political parties' registration decree; investigations into allegations of torture; and the importance of freedom of expression and assembly. We have also encouraged the local EU delegation to raise these issues with the Fijian Foreign Minister which it did most recently earlier this month. We are encouraging the EU to pursue a dialogue on criteria for EU election observers. In view of the lack of democratic progress, EU development assistance to Fiji remains suspended.

Fiji remains suspended from the Commonwealth until it returns to democracy. Our view is that should democracy in Fiji be restored through free and fair elections, we stand ready to consider further assistance and look forward to the day Fiji is re-instated as a full member of the Commonwealth family. I used my visit to the region last month to make public statements on these points. I have spoken along similar lines to the Fijian high commissioner in London.

I have encouraged the Commonwealth Secretary-General to continue his organisation's outreach to Fiji to discuss assistance that Fiji would need to enable a return to democracy. The British high commission in Suva met a Commonwealth Secretariat needs-assessment mission that recently visited Fiji.

In relation to all of these issues, we continue to work closely with our partners in the region, including Australia and New Zealand.

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