Nauru’s justice system has been thrown into chaos following the sacking of its chief justice and only magistrate – both Australian citizens.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison insists internal Nauruan politics is behind the Pacific nation’s sacking of its chief justice and only magistrate.
More than 100 asylum-seeker cases are in limbo, including those accused of rioting in 2013, after President Baron Waqa fired Nauru’s only magistrate, Peter Law, an Australian citizen.
Fellow Australian Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames attempted to intervene by issuing an injunction against the deportation, but it was ignored.
The president then cancelled Justice Eames’ visa, preventing him from returning to Nauru, and Mr Law was put on a plane back to Australia.
“I’d get better treatment in the Congo, you know, because I seriously was jostled and pushed by the arresting officer, it was quite unpleasant,” Mr Law told ABC radio.
Mr Morrison says he is “quite confident” that Mr Law’s sacking was because of internal Nauruan issues rather than over asylum seekers sent to the island nation by Australia.
“How or why this has occurred in Nauru isn’t 100 per cent clear yet,” he told Macquarie radio on Monday.
“But my best understanding at the moment is that it has nothing to do with how he was dealing with any asylum cases that are before him.”
Mr Law and Justice Eames believe the move was politically motivated, the ABC reports.
Earlier, Nauruan Justice Minister David Adeang had declared two Australian businessmen prohibited immigrants and gave them a week to leave the country.
The two men appealed to the courts and Mr Law had granted an interim injunction against their deportation.
The cases were due to come before the courts on Monday.
“The timing of this makes it very obvious in my mind what this is all about,” Mr Law said.
Mr Morrison insists the asylum seekers who are due to appear in court will eventually be dealt with under Nauruan law.
“The Nauruan government have given very clear commitments about that and we’re not seeking to overreact on that in any way,” he said.
The Judicial Conference of Australia (JCA), an association of serving and retired judges and magistrates, said Nauru’s actions were “unjustifiable and very concerning”.
The sacking interfered with the independence and effective operation of Nauru’s courts and rule of law, JCA president Justice Philip McMurdo said in a statement.