Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Fiji's constitution provides for an elected parliament and a prime minister chosen by parliament. However, in December 2006 armed forces commander Bainimarama overthrew the democratically elected government. A month later, Bainimarama installed a nominally civilian interim government headed by himself as prime minister. The interim government denies citizens the right to change their government peacefully, engages in intimidation of the media, and restricts the right to assemble peacefully. The judiciary was subject to political interference. Other problems include poor prison conditions, attacks against religious facilities, government corruption, deep ethnic divisions, violence and discrimination against women, and sexual exploitation of children.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The protection and promotion of democratic institutions and human rights are among the U.S. Government's top priorities. All embassy work and programs related to democratic values or human rights are harmonized with these key objectives. Immediate priorities are to encourage the country's return to democratic rule via free and fair elections, to strengthen human rights protections, and to promote a free and robust media.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government has joined with representatives of like-minded foreign missions and multilateral organizations to expedite restoration of the rule of law, strengthen civil society, and rebuild democratic institutions. The United States has encouraged the interim government to solidify a timeline for holding free and fair elections. The U.S. Government maintains regular dialogue with prodemocracy NGOs, regularly highlighting concerns and pressing the military-appointed leaders to maintain the commitment to the election timetable.
In response to ongoing human rights violations, the U.S. embassy continues its outreach to and public support for human rights NGOs and has made small grants to civil society organizations to build their capacity and support their activities. The U.S. Government uses the Secretary of State's annual "Women of Courage" awards and other such opportunities to raise public awareness of the country's human rights champions. Reporters, human rights activists, and even government auditors, whose job is to underpin good governance and anticorruption efforts, participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program. The U.S. Government has repeatedly met with human rights activists to underscore U.S. support and facilitate NGO outreach. Similarly, U.S. senior-level meetings with members of the interim government invariably accent deep U.S. displeasure with human rights violations since the coup. The U.S. Government also reaches out to local journalists and media organizations, emphasizing U.S. support for human rights, media freedom, good governance, due process, and rule of law. U.S. statements publicly condemn the coup, express support for a rapid return to a democratically elected government, and call on the military to withdraw from all political involvement.
The coup constrains traditional U.S. engagement with the military, and the U.S. Government continues to make clear its position on the military's proper role in a democracy and that the coup has damaged the military's once-proud reputation in the world's peacekeeping-operations community. Since the 2006 coup, the UN, the United States, and other major allies have stated that they would not support the country's involvement in new international peacekeeping operations.
In its annual engagement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on UN General Assembly voting, the United States has consistently urged the country to vote in accordance with respect for human rights and democratic values in a broad, international context. The U.S. Government maintains its outreach to women's and children's rights organizations concerning child prostitution in order to better assess the extent of the problem and discuss ways to address it.