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Passport seizure appeal possible

Tuesday 13 September 2016 | Published in Regional

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NAURU – A former secretary of justice in Nauru, David Lambourne, says people on Nauru still have an option of appeal if their passports are seized.

The Nauru government gave itself sweeping new powers over passports last week, giving the relevant minister the power to remove passports for almost any reason and tried to remove any chance of appealing to the courts for a review.

Last month the Nauru government cancelled the passports of several former MPs and others who allegedly took part in an anti-government protest in June.

More recently, former president Sprent Dabwido, who needs to leave the country for medical treatment, had his passport removed.

“This action on the part of the Nauru government is in clear breach of that fundamental international principle of human rights,” David Lambourne says.

The Justice Minister David Adeang introduced the amendments to the Passport Act 2011, which passed with a voice vote in the house, where the government enjoys a 16-2 majority.

He told parliament the new law allows the government to cancel passports of people it reasonably thinks might engage in acts that threaten the national or economic security of the country.

The changes also mean that anyone who has had their passport cancelled who wants to review the decision must write to the president, who is the head of government in Nauru, rather than the courts.

Lambourne said the role of the court has not been fully excluded, so any decision outside the minister’s powers could still be challenged in the courts by judicial review.

“I think they think they have removed that ability but they haven’t. The law is extremely badly drafted,” he said.

“That is not surprising, given that the Nauru government over the last couple of years has kicked out just about any decent lawyer they have ever had, including some very good legislative drafters, and the law doesn’t, in some respects, do all I think the government wanted it to do. ”

Lambourne said it appears the Nauru Government wants to wield untrammelled power over people who speak out against it.

- PNC sources