First sitting of the Nauru Court of Appeal

A historic event has heralded in a new era for the Republic of Nauru and a new chapter in the legal and judicial journey for the nation.

On Tuesday 4 December, Nauru formally opened the Court of Appeal, allowing the country, for the first time, to take full ownership and responsibility for all aspects of its justice system.

In January this year, President Baron Waqa told Parliament that, “Severance of ties to Australia’s highest court is a logical step towards full nationhood and an expression of confidence in Nauru’s ability to determine its own destiny.” 

On May 10, 2018, the Act came into force which provided for the establishment of the Nauru Court of Appeal as the final appellate court. 

Simultaneously the Nauru Court of Appeal Act 2018 also came into force, effectively repealing and replacing the act that provided for appeals from the Supreme Court to the High Court of Australia. 

During the ceremony the President of the Court of Appeal, Nauru Chief Justice Filimone Jitoko, warmly welcomed the new jurists saying they are of a very high-calibre and understand Pacific Island issues.

“It has always been said that having a court that is unfamiliar with the customs and practices of litigants in matters pertaining to them, is a court apart, handicapped in arriving at a just and fair decision.”

“We remain eternally grateful to the people and governments of Australia for their assistance and kindness in helping the Nauru judiciary navigate its way through the early years of its nationhood. The mantle of judicial leadership has today been passed on to us.

“Today marks the coming of age of our Nauru judiciary.”

The members of the Nauru Court of Appeal are:

•             Sir Albert Palmer, Chief Justice of Solomon Islands

•             Sir John Muria, Chief Justice of Kiribati

•             Michael Scott, acting Justice of Appeal and former Chief Justice of Tonga

•             Vincent Lunabek, Chief Justice of Vanuatu,

•             Nicholas Kirriwom, from the National and Supreme Courts of Papua New Guinea

•             Jiten Singh, previously of the High Court of Fiji

Two additional judges will be sourced from Australia or other jurisdictions to deal specifically with refugee appeals originating from the Refugee Status Review Tribunal through the Nauru Supreme Court.