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Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.
Magistrates' courts deal with most routine legal matters. There is a Supreme Court; however, an Appeals Court is the highest national court and hears appeals from the Supreme Court. The Appeals Court has three judges, two appointed by the President and one chosen from among the Supreme Court judges of other South Pacific nations. Judges cannot be removed without cause.
The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. However, the judiciary was relatively weak and inefficient, and some defendants spent extended periods in pretrial detention as a result. The judicial system is based on British law. The courts uphold constitutional provisions for a fair public trial, a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, a prohibition against double jeopardy, a right of judicial determination of the validity of arrest or detention, and a right of appeal to a higher court.
Judges, prosecutors, and the police complained about large case backlogs due to a lack of resources and limited numbers of qualified judges and prosecutors. Years can pass before a case is brought to trial.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
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