Page last updated at 22:14 GMT, Sunday, 29 November 2009

Commonwealth urges Fiji to restore democracy

Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama
Voreqe Bainimarama says reforms must precede democracy

Commonwealth leaders have urged Fiji's military rulers to restore democracy and ensure human rights are protected.

The call was made in the final statement of the body's three-day summit in Trinidad.

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in September after refusing to commit to holding elections by October 2010.

Fijian leader Frank Bainimarama, who toppled the elected government in 2006, said more time is needed for reforms.

Leaders of the 54 Commonwealth nations called on Fiji's interim government to "commit itself to a credible, inclusive and time-bound political dialogue towards the restoration of constitutional civilian democracy without further delay".

They expressed "deep concern at the further deterioration of the situation in the Fiji islands with regard to the adherence to the fundamental Commonwealth values".

In their final communique, leaders also denounced "ongoing restrictions on human rights including freedom of speech and assembly".

They also defended a decision to suspend Fiji from the 2010 Commonwealth Games, saying it was in line with the organisation's principles under which "sporting ties are inseparable from the values of the association."

In September, Amnesty International called for global action over Fiji's alleged human rights abuses.

It criticised "the ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, lawyers, clergy and government critics".

Commodore Bainimarama has insisted that he will only call elections after constitutional changes, by September 2014.

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