Fiji has been urged to ratify several international human rights conventions.
The country is undergoing its second appraisal under the Universal Periodic Review Process of the UN Human Rights Council.
Most countries speaking at a council meeting in Geneva overnight commended Fiji for steps taken since 2010 including holding elections and bringing in a new constitution.
But many also said it should make it a priority to ratify treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.
Several, including Germany, called for the repeal of decrees which restricted freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“Germany recommends bringing legislation on freedom of expression, assembly and association in line with international human rights standards in particular by repealing the
Media Industry Development Decree 2010 in order to end intimidation and harrassment of those that expressed criticism of the state,” said the European nation’s delegate.
Germany’s delegate was among 56 country representatives who spoke on Fiji, which is among 14 countries being reviewed in the current session of the Council.
Countries also called on Fiji to allow into the country independent experts like the Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The Fiji delegation which attended the meeting defended Fiji’s record and said it was trying to address cultural attitudes in cases of violence against women and torture during interrogation by security forces.
Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the meeting that Fiji was committed to ratifying several international human rights treaties.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum told the Human Rights Council gathering approval for ratifying the treaties is up to Fiji’s new parliament.
“Fiji of course has come along way since the last cycle including extensive reforms that go beyond the requirements of international instruments making us compliant even without raitification. However, we do recognise that ratification also helps develop new partnerships and international co-operation and we therefore remain committed to ratify these international instruments,” he explained.
Senior judicial figures from Fiji also told the UN gathering the country is addressing concerns about police brutality.
The Fiji delegation said plans are underway for training police interrogators, videotaping their interviews with suspects and stricter procedures under a review of the Police Act next year.
Chief Justice Anthony Gates says the problem is due to a cultural misconception.
“Torture during interrogation has been a long-standing problem in Fiji. Members of the police or prison service or others in authority have thought they had a right to impose an extra-judicial punishment on an arrested suspect or an escaped prisoner,” he said.
Justice Gates says the judiciary is helping fund videotaping and interrogation training as courts waste much time having to resolve whether confessions have been given voluntarily.