Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fiji: Tevita Mara cannot be extradited from New Zealand

Runaway Fijian colonel Tevita Mara is reportedly heading for New Zealand. So, predictably, the Fijian regime is trying to have him extradited on charges of sedition and mutiny. But the law is crystal clear: they can't.

Extradition from New Zealand is governed by the Extradition Act 1999. In addition to providing a general framework for extradition decisions, it also includes a number of limits on who can be extradited and on what charges, including a list of mandatory restrictions on surrender. These include the offence being "of a political character", the supposed offence being a pretext for persecution (including political persecution), the likelihood of not receiving a fair trial, and the offence being under military rather than civilian law. Mara's extradition request fails on all four of these counts. Sedition is a purely political offence, mutiny a military one, and it is clear both that there is no such thing as a fair trial in Fiji anymore and that the charges themselves were bought to persecute someone who had fallen out with the dictator over the direction of the coup.

This is a matter of clear statute law. I can only presume that Fiji's lawyers either hadn't bothered to read it before demanding extradition, or that they thought that our legal system was like Fiji's, with the law actually depending on the whim of the dictator. Either way, they've wasted their time; Mara cannot be extradited from New Zealand.