Nauru's mixed track record with regards to democracy, the rule of law and human rights continued during 2018. In early 2018, the Nauru Supreme Court Judge Muecke ordered the prosecution of the 'Nauru 19' (a group of former MPs that the Government is accusing of rioting outside Parliament in 2015), to be permanently thrown out and in his ruling criticised the Nauru government for "executive interference". In response, the Nauru government appealed his decision and the case began once again in mid-December, in the new Nauruan 'Court of Appeals' which the government established after ending its links to Australia's highest court in April 2018. The overall situation for refugees and asylum seekers in the regional Offshore Processing Centre (OPC) has slightly improved given that the Government has decided an "open door camp" policy but also because the majority of children have now been evacuated from the OPC, although 17 still remain there. Many refugees started living in town or were free to move and work during the day and use the OPC as a residence. Several commercial activities and restaurants have been opened by the refugees. Although the situation remained difficult for many refugees and asylum seekers, cases of depression and self-harming decreased consistently following the easing of the detention conditions. Other human rights issues included climate change and related problems.
EU action - Key focus areas: The EU holds regular political and policy dialogues with the authorities. Human rights related issues that were raised, were primarily connected to the 'Offshore Processing Centre' refugees and climate refugees' challenges. Through an EU-funded project, the EU promoted human rights and gender equality, in particular with regard to drafting the 'Family Protection Bill'.
A 'Working Group on Treaties' has been recently set up within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with Human Rights-related Treaties and Conventions. Nauru has not yet established a 'National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)'.
EU bilateral political engagement: The informal EU-Nauru Political Dialogue took place in May 2018, focusing inter alia on the post-2016 elections political situation, human rights, sustainable and inclusive development in Nauru, as well as the situation of refugees and asylum seekers. During 2018, the EU Delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting the Pacific Island States, including Nauru, to support EU human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level. In a positive development, Nauru amended its Criminal Code in 2016, abolishing the death penalty and decriminalising homosexuality. However, the EU was concerned over the recent criminalisation of criticism towards Nauru's ruling administration. The EU Delegation in Fiji continued to actively promote climate change awareness, as in the Pacific region, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined.
EU financial engagement: Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential element for the implementation of the regional roadmap for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the Pacific. To this purpose, the EU also worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other donors. In the National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th EDF, a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 1 million).
Multilateral context: Despite the ratification of International Human Rights Treaties and the protection from inhuman treatment provided for in Nauru's Constitution (Part 2.7), the actual protection of refugees remains fragile due in part to limited financial capacities. Human rights challenges included separation of family members, lack of appropriate medical care, assault and robbery towards refugees and serious mental health problems.