NEW York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the International Labour Organization to establish a Commission of Inquiry into alleged violation of workers' rights in Fiji.
Human Rights Watch — a worldwide human rights defence organisation — said it believed such a commission would play a critical role in holding the government accountable for serious ongoing violations of the right to freedom of association, including intimidation, beatings and arrests of workers trying to form unions, and onerous legal restrictions on freedom of association.
Its deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said "the government of Fiji strips workers of their fundamental rights to form unions, directly contributing to a climate of fear and repression in the workplace".
"Supervisory mechanisms of the ILO have investigated and found that Fiji has imposed severe restrictions on labour rights for workers both in the public sector and in private sectors of the economy unilaterally designated 'essential industries' by the government."
In response, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Human Rights Watch was blatantly using false information to inappropriately influence and manipulate the ILO proceedings currently underway in Geneva.
"Their notion that workers in Fiji are denied their fundamental rights is based on ignorance, and is obviously out of touch with the reality of what is happening in Fiji," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
Mr Robertson claimed the government had been unwilling to engage in constructive dialogue with the ILO to end violations and restore respect for freedom of association.
"If the international community fails to act now, it will only add insult to injury caused by the government's defiance of its international obligations," he said.