Nauru chief justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames, resigns

Nauru chief justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames, resigns

Nauru chief justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames, resigns

Updated 13 March 2014, 23:47 AEST

The chief justice of Nauru, Australian Geoffrey Eames, has resigned two months after his visa was revoked by the government.

Justice Eames says it was impossible for him to continue and he had no option but to tender his resignation.

He says the cancellation of his visa and the forced deportations of resident magistrate Peter Law and former media adviser Rod Henshaw in January amount to serious breaches to the rule of law.

"They (Nauru government) simply don't accept that as the case," Justice Eames has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"And as long as they don't understand that and don't accept it then the rule of law is in a very parlous state."

Justice Eames says the Nauru government has declined to reverse its decision to cancel his visa, making it impossible for him to perform the duties of chief justice from Melbourne.

At the time, Nauru faced accusations of having a political motive behind the moves, but rejected that as an "attack on (Nauru's) sovereignty" and said it was acting to combat cronyism in the judiciary.

Australian response 'extraordinary'

Justice Eames says it's "extraordinary" that the Australian government viewed the situation as a "domestic dispute" and says Canberra made a mistake by not taking stronger action against Nauru.

He says negotiations with the Nauru government conducted by the Australian and New Zealand foreign ministers have failed to produce a public acknowledgment by Nauru that their actions constitute an abuse of the rule of law.

"The second they characterised such a gross and patent violation of the rule of law; the second they trivialised it by making it sound as though it was a fight over parking spaces they lost all prospects of being able to get through to the Nauru government that this was a serious breach, and a serious breach to the rule of law matters."

However, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Brett Mason says both Australia's Prime Minister and Australia's Foreign Minister made it very plain that Australia takes the rules of law very seriously and we are in constant contact with Nauru about these issues.

"We take them very seriously, the Nauruan Government can be in no doubt about Australia's attitude with respect to the rule of law," he said.

"Nauru is a democracy, any democracy has to take the rule of law very seriously.

It is not something you can give and take at convenient moments.

Our High Commission in Nauru has been up-front with the Nauruan Government and has explained how important the consistent application of justice is in Nauru."

Justice Eames says the Nauru government still has not given him an explanation for the cancellation of his visa.

"Life will proceed without me being involved in it, but it will proceed in circumstances where I would think any new appointees would be extremely wary about whether their judicial independence will be compromised the moment they make a decision the government doesn't agree with."

In January, Nauru's president Baron Waqa fired resident magistrate Mr Law and forced him out of the country.

Justice Eames intervened by issuing an injunction against Mr Waqa's deportation of Mr Law, but that was ignored.

The president then cancelled Justice Eames' visa.

Both judicial figures say the move was a politically motivated attempt to change the outcome of cases that were due to come before courts.

Nauru opposition member and former Foreign Minister Kieren Keke says the government of President Baron Waqa has treated former chief justice, Geoffrey Eames shamefully.

Dr Kieren Keke who was a member of the government who hired Justice Eames says its a shameful situation for Nauru.

"I think its highly regrettable that Geoffrey Eames has been forced into a position where he felt that he had no option and to do the right thing by resigning," he said.

The full television interview with Justice Eames can be seen tonight throughout the region on The World on Australia Network.