Shaista Shameem

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Shaista Shameem, a Fijian lawyer of Indian descent,[1] was director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) from 2002 to 2007, and its director and chairperson from 2007 to 2009. A graduate of the University of the South Pacific, she holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Waikato and a Masters in Law from the University of Auckland.

After working in the media and as a sociology lecturer in New Zealand, Shameen returned to Fiji and was involved in the constitutional case of Chandrika Prasad v the State which reinstated the 1997 Constitution following the coup d'état of 2000 led by George Speight. She served in 2004-05 as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries and has since 2005 been a member of the UN Working Group on Mercenaries.[2] In 2005 Shameem was invited to assist a UN assessment of the courts in Timor L'este, but was prevented from visiting the territory. In 2009 she was elected chair of the Working Group.[3] She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT).

Personal life[edit]

Shaista's sister Nazhat Shameem is a judge. Their father hailed from Multan, in present-day Pakistan, while their mother was born in Fiji.[1][4]

2006 coup[edit]

On 5 January 2007 Shameem published a report defending the December 2006 military coup, alleging that the previous government of Laisenia Qarase had committed human rights violations and crimes against humanity. She maintained that the 2006 elections were unlawful, and supported claims that Australia had intended to invade Fiji. Shameem acted as amicus curiae in the case of Qarase v the State where she submitted that the President of Fiji acted lawfully in dismissing the Prime Minister on 5 December 2006 and installing the military commander as Interim Prime Minister on 5 January 2007. While the High Court upheld this claim, in 2009 the Appeal Court overturned the decision and ruled that the 2006 coup and the President's action were unlawful.


On 16 July 2007, Fiji’s Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) announced the appointment of Dr Shameem as Ombudsman, designated as an ex officio position to the chairperson of the Fiji Human Rights Commission.[5] The international human rights NGO Human Rights Watch described her appointment as unlawful, and was highly critical of the FHRC's endorsement of the coup.[6]

Shameen ceased to lead the FHRC in 2009 when it was reconstituted under new legislation.

In 2011, she strongly criticised the military-led government's Essential National Industries Employment decree, which "takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights in essential companies [and] virtually abolishes the right to strike". Shameem said the decree showed the government had abandoned its "previous consensus building approach", and adopted an autocratic mode of government, "diminish[ing] or remov[ing]" workers' rights.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Love the law". Fiji Times. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Working Group mandate
  3. ^ "Fiji's Shaista Shameem new head of UN working group on mercenaries". Radio New Zealand International. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Fiji coup apologist Shaista Shameem heading to a NZ University". Coupfourpointfive. 
  5. ^ "Dr Shameem is new Ombudsman". Fijilive. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  6. ^ Human Rights Watch on ombudsman appointment and FHRC attitude to coup
  7. ^ "11 companies declared essential by Fiji military regime", ABC Radio Australia, 13 September 2011

External links[edit]