Republic of Nauru
Republic of Nauru
Joined United Nations: 14 September 1999
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 13 December 2012
No official capital; government in Yaren District
9,378 (July 2012 est.)
President elected by Parliament for a three-year term; election last
held 10 November 2011
Next scheduled election: December 2010
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
According to the Nauru constitution, the President is both the
Chief of State and Head of Government
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%
Protestant 45.8% (Nauru Congregational 35.4%, Nauru Independent Church 10.4%), Roman Catholic 33.2%, other 14.1%, none 4.5%,
unspecified 2.4% (2002 census)
Republic with 14 districts; Legal system is comprised of acts of the Nauru Parliament and British common law; accepts compulsory
ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Executive: President elected by Parliament for a three-year term; election last held 10 November 2011 (next to be held in 2014)
Legislative: Unicameral Parliament (18 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms)
elections: last held 19 June 2010 (next to be held in 2013)
Judicial: Supreme Court
Nauruan (official; a distinct Pacific Island language), English widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and
Nauru was first settled by Micronesian and Polynesian peoples at least 3,000 years ago. Nauruans subsisted on coconut and
pandanus fruit, and caught juvenile ibija fish, acclimated them to freshwater conditions, and raised them in Buada Lagoon, providing
an additional reliable source of food. Traditionally only men were permitted to fish on the reef, and did so from canoes or by using
trained Man-of-war Hawks. In 1798 John Fearn, captain of the British whaling ship Hunter, became the first European to land on
the island, naming it Pleasant Island. This name was used until Germany annexed the island 90 years later. From around the 1830s,
Nauruans had contact with Europeans from whaling ships and traders who replenished their supplies at the island. Around this time,
beachcombers and deserters began to live on the island. The islanders traded food for alcoholic toddy and firearms. The latter were
used during the 10-year war which began in 1878 and reduced the population from 1400 to 900. The island was annexed by
Germany in 1888 and incorporated into Germany's Marshall Islands Protectorate. The arrival of the Germans ended the war, and
social changes brought about by the war established kings as rulers of the island, the most widely known being King Auweyida.
Christian missionaries from the Gilbert Islands also arrived at the island in 1888. At the time there were twelve tribes on Nauru:
Deiboe, Eamwidamit, Eamwidara, Eamwit, Eamgum, Eano, Emeo, Eoraru, Irutsi, Iruwa, Iwi and Ranibok. Today the twelve tribes
are represented by the twelve-pointed star in the flag of Nauru. Phosphate was discovered on the island by New Zealander Albert
Ellis. Beginning in 1906, the Pacific Phosphate Company started exploitation of the rock, and the first shipment left Nauru in 1907.
In 1914 Australia took control of Nauru. Then Britain held control until 1920, when the League of Nations gave Britain, Australia
and New Zealand a Trustee Mandate over the territory. The British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) were given the rights to
phosphate mining. In 1932, the first Angam Baby was born. In 1940 the Nazi German auxiliary cruiser Komet sank five merchant
ships and bombarded the island, causing damage to the phosphate mining. In 1942 the Japanese occupied Nauru. The native
Nauruans were badly treated by the occupying forces. On one occasion forty nine leprosy sufferers were reputedly loaded on to
boats which were towed out to sea and sunk. In 1943 some 1200 Nauruans were taken by Truk (now Chuuk in the Federated
States of Micronesia) as slave labourers. On January 1, 1946 with Micronesia now under American control, the approximately 800
Nauruans who survived were returned to Nauru on a BPC ship 'Trienza'. During the post-war period, Nauru was administered by
Australia as a UN Trust Territory. On January 31, 1968 Nauru became the world's smallest independent republic. Phosphate rights
were acquired from Britain in 1970. Money gained from the exploitation of phosphate gave Nauruans one of the highest living
standards in the Pacific. By the close of the twentieth century, the phosphate supplies were fast running out. Nauru finally joined the
UN in 1999. As its phosphate stores began to run out (by 2006, its reserves will be exhausted), the island was reduced to an
environmental wasteland. Nauru appealed to the International Court of Justice to compensate for the damage from almost a century
of phosphate strip-mining by foreign companies. In 1993, Australia offered Nauru an out-of-court settlement of 2.5 million
Australian dollars annually for 20 years. New Zealand and the UK additionally agreed to pay a one-time settlement of $12 million
each. Declining phosphate prices, the high cost of maintaining an international airline, and the government's financial mismanagement
combined to make the economy collapse in the late 1990s. By the millennium Nauru was virtually bankrupt. In 2000, the G7 nations
put pressure on the country to review its banking system, which is used by Russian criminals for money laundering. In 2001, Nauru
was brought to world attention by the saga of the MV Tampa, a Norwegian cargo ship at the centre of a diplomatic dispute
between Australia, Norway and Indonesia. The ship carried asylum seekers, hailing primarily from Afghanistan, who were rescued
while attempting to reach Australia. After much debate many of the immigrants were transported to Nauru, an arrangement known
in Australia as the "Pacific Solution". Shortly thereafter, the Nauruan government closed its borders to most international visitors,
preventing outside observers from monitoring the refugees' condition. In December of 2003, several dozen of these refugees, in
protest of the conditions of their detention on Nauru, began a hunger strike. The hunger strike was concluded in early January 2004
when an Australian medical team agreed to visit the island. Since then, according to recent reports, all but two of the refugees have
been allowed into Australia. During 2002 Nauru severed diplomatic recognition with Taiwan (Republic of China) and signed an
agreement to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. This move followed China's promise to provide
more than U.S. $130 million in aid. In 2004, Nauru broke off relations with the PRC and re-established them with the ROC.
Nauru was also approached by the U.S. with a deal to modernize Nauru's infrastructure in exchange for suppression of the island's
lax banking laws that allow activities that are illegal in other countries to flourish. Under this deal, allegedly, Nauru would also
establish an embassy in China and perform certain "safehouse" and courier services for the U.S. government, in a scheme
codenamed "Operation Weasel". Nauru agreed to the deal and instituted banking reform, but the U.S. later denied knowledge of
the deal. The matter is being pursued in an Australian court, and initial judgments have been in favor of Nauru. The government is
desperately in need of money to pay off salary arrears of civil servants and to continue funding the welfare state built up in the
heyday of phosphate mining (Nauruans pay no taxes). Nauru has yet to develop a plan to remove the innumerable coral pinnacles
created by mining and make those lands suitable for human habitation. In February 2008 Australia ended its policy of sending
asylum seekers into detention on small Pacific islands, with the last refugees leaving Nauru. In April the Government of President
Stephen returned to office in snap elections, ending months of parliamentary deadlock over the budget and in November, Finance
Minister Kieran Keke announces plans to set up private bank to fill gap left by collapse of state Bank of Nauru in 1998. Australian
banks have declined an invitation to provide banking services to the country. In 2010 March voters rejected raft of constitutional
changes aimed at stabilising government and strengthen human rights in referendum. Early parliamentary elections in April and a
second attempt in June failed to produce an outright winner. Mr Stephen's administration continues in caretaker role while
negotiations continue.In November Parliament re-elected President Stephen for second three-year term under a coalition deal
aimed at ending an eight-month political impasse. A year later President Stephen resigns amid corruption allegations. MPs elect
Freddy Pitcher to succeed him. A week later, Mr Pitcher was ousted by a no-confidence vote, and Sprent Dabwido is elected
president. In June of 2012 President Dabwido sacks his cabinet, citing a legislative impasse.
Source: Wikipedia: History of Nauru BBC: Profile of Nauru
Revenues of this tiny island traditionally have come from exports of phosphates. Few other resources exist, with most necessities
being imported, mainly from Australia, its former occupier and later major source of support. In 2005 an Australian company
entered into an agreement to exploit remaining supplies. Primary reserves of phosphates were exhausted and mining ceased in 2006,
but mining of a deeper layer of "secondary phosphate" in the interior of the island began the following year. The secondary
phosphate deposits may last another 30 years. The rehabilitation of mined land and the replacement of income from phosphates are
serious long-term problems. In anticipation of the exhaustion of Nauru's phosphate deposits, substantial amounts of phosphate
income were invested in trust funds to help cushion the transition and provide for Nauru's economic future. As a result of heavy
spending from the trust funds, the government faced virtual bankruptcy. To cut costs the government has frozen wages and reduced
overstaffed public service departments. Nauru lost further revenue in 2008 with the closure of Australia's refugee processing center,
making it almost totally dependent on food imports and foreign aid. Housing, hospitals, and other capital plant are deteriorating. The
cost to Australia of keeping the government and economy afloat continues to climb. Few comprehensive statistics on the Nauru
economy exist with estimates of Nauru's GDP varying widely.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Nauru)
In late June 2004, Nauru's former parliament speaker Ludwig Scotty became the country's new president. His presidency followed
the exit of outgoing President Rene Harris following yet another non-confidence measure.
For his part, Scotty had resigned as parliamentary speaker in April 2004 in protest of the Nauru's financial crisis which included the
commencement of receivership proceedings by corporate giant, General Electric. During that period, Nauru faced the seizure of its
assets if the country failed to honor its debt payments.
Since Scotty's resignation as parliamentary speaker, the parliament was unable to convene as members of parliament could not
decide whom to appoint as his replacement. The scenario led to a political crisis, the financial crisis notwithstanding.
In mid-2004, the government of Australia sent envoys to help Nauru deal with its financial crisis. By August 2004, a report by the
Australian Center for Independent Studies suggested that Nauru might consider relinquishing its independent status in favor of
becoming an Australian territory. The report called for radical economic reform as well as the restructuring of both governmental
instruments and public service. The author of the report has offered Nauru economic advice in the past.
Scotty was re-elected to serve a full term in October 2004. Following a vote of "no confidence" by Parliament against President
Scotty on 19 December 2007, Marcus Stephen became the President. Following Stephen’s resignation in November 2011,
Freddie Pitcher became President. Sprent Dabwido then moved a motion of no confidence in Pitcher, and Dabwido was duly
elected President by the parliament, with nine votes supporting his nomination and eight votes opposing.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Nauru; Wikipedia: Marcus Stephen
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
|2011 Human Rights Report: Nauru
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
Nauru is a constitutional republic. The most recent parliamentary elections, held in June 2010, were generally free and fair. In November
2010 Parliament reelected Marcus Stephen as president. On November 9, Stephen resigned in the face of corruption allegations, and on
November 10, Parliament elected Freddie Pitcher to replace him. A few days later, however, Pitcher lost a no-confidence vote after an
additional Member of Parliament (MP) joined the opposition, and Sprent Dabwido became president. Security forces reported to civilian
Few human rights problems were reported.
There were some allegations of government corruption, and there were some instances of domestic violence, child abuse, and
discrimination against women.
Impunity was not an issue, as there were no reports that government officials committed human rights abuses.
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Nauru signs UN refugee convention
Date: June 18, 2011
NAURU has ratified the United Nations Refugee Convention, yesterday releasing a photograph of its president Marcus Stephen signing
the document to prove the point.
This boosts Opposition leader Tony Abbott's attack on the federal government over its Malaysia refugee swap, because Malaysia is not a
signatory to the Refugee Convention.
Signatories commit to key human rights principles, including not returning refugees to countries from which they have fled.
Mr Abbott last Saturday toured Nauru to argue a processing centre located there would be a ''more humane'' option for boat arrivals.
The Nauru government released a statement yesterday saying Mr Stephen has signed the instruments of accession to the 1951 Refugee
Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
''We will then deposit the documents with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and 90 days after he receives them, we will
become a party to the Convention and its Protocols,'' Nauru Secretary for Justice David Lambourne said.
Ms Gillard last year said the government wouldn't deal with Nauru because it wasn't a signatory. She said this week the government
wouldn't send asylum seekers to Nauru because this wouldn't break the people smuggler's business model.
Mr Abbott said yesterday: ''Now that the last of her so-called obstacles has been removed, Julia Gillard should swallow her political pride
and drop her floundering 'anywhere but Nauru' policy.''
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: ''The Coalition left people to rot on Nauru for long periods, and then the great
majority settled in Australia anyway.''
Mr Bowen yesterday responded to a High Court challenge to the Malaysia deal, saying ''we believe the arrangements with Malaysia are
on very, very strong legal grounds''.
The deal is yet to be signed, and is being scrutinised by the UNHCR in Geneva.
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Freedom In The World 2012 Report
Political Rights Score: 1
Civil Liberties Score: 1
Nauru experienced political upheaval in 2011, with shifting alliances among lawmakers and allegations of corruption resulting in the
country having three presidents in the course of one week. Former telecommunications minister Sprent Dabwido was elected president
in November and held the position through the end of the year.
With few viable methods of generating income, Nauru relies heavily on foreign development assistance. In May 2011, Nauru engaged in
talks with aid donors, including the Asian Development Bank, Australia, and New Zealand, about the creation of a new trust fund, with
stricter rules on how funds may be accessed, to better secure the long-term needs of its citizens. Nauru has secured considerable aid
from China and Taiwan by switching diplomatic recognition between the two rivals.
Between 2001 and 2008, Nauru served as a refugee detention and processing center for Australia in exchange for rent and aid; the center
had been criticized for detaining refugees for years while they waited for processing, adjudication, and settlement. Its closure in 2009
cost Nauru approximately one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. In May 2011, Nauru offered Australia renewed access to
the center, though Australia declined, citing Nauru’s failure to sign the United Nations Refugee Convention. In June, Nauru signed the
convention in hopes of motivating Australia to reopen the detention camp, though the facility remained closed at year’s end.
Intense political rivalries and the use of no-confidence votes have been a source of political instability. In August 2007, Ludwig Scotty
was reelected president; he was replaced by Marcus Stephen just months later, in December, following a no-confidence vote. Stephen
secured a second term as president in a snap election in April 2008. After Stephen survived a no-confidence vote in February 2010,
parliamentary elections were held twice, in April and June. With supporters and opponents of the government tied both times at nine
seats each, resulting in a hung Parliament, Stephen declared a state of emergency on June 11 and dissolved Parliament. On November 1,
the state of emergency was lifted after Stephen was reelected and former president Ludwig Scotty was chosen to be speaker of
Parliament, giving the government a legislative majority. On November 10, 2011, Stephen resigned as president amid corruption
allegations, and Frederick Pitcher was chosen as his successor. However, a no-confidence vote on November 15 ended Pitcher’s
presidency, and former telecommunications minister Sprent Dabwido was elected Nauru’s third president in the course of one week.
Nauru is an electoral democracy. The 18-member unicameral Parliament is popularly elected from 14 constituencies for three-year
terms. Parliament chooses the president and vice president from among its members. Political parties include the Nauru First Party, the
Democratic Party, and the Center Party, but many politicians are independents.
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Nauru camp a human rights catastrophe with no end in sight
23 November 2012
Amnesty International has found a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions creating an increasingly volatile
situation on Nauru, with the Australian Government spectacularly failing in its duty of care to asylum seekers.
Following a three-day inspection of the facility, Amnesty International researchers found the facility totally inappropriate and ill-equipped,
with 387 men cramped into 5 rows of leaking tents, suffering from physical and mental ailments-creating a climate of anguish as the
repressively hot monsoon season begins.
“The situation on Nauru is unacceptable. The unlawful and arbitrary detention of these men in such destitute conditions is cruel, inhuman
and degrading,” said Amnesty International’s Refugee Expert Dr Graham Thom.
“The climate of uncertainty was debilitating with no information being provided to asylum seekers and clear evidence that this temporary
holding facility has been erected in haste, with no consideration for the individuals languishing in such squalid conditions.
“On our final day speaking with the detainees, the downpour was torrential, the site was flooded, tents were leaking – one man’s shoes
drifted away as the current ran through the tent. We were also prevented from photographing conditions despite assurances we would
be able to do so.”
“The news that five years could be the wait time for these men under the Government’s ‘no advantage’ policy added insult to injury,
with one man attempting to take his life on Wednesday night,” said Dr Thom.
Amnesty International is calling on the Australian Government to immediately cease transfers to Nauru as the human rights organisation
can see no purpose in holding asylum seekers on Nauru other than penalising them for seeking asylum.
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Australia: End Offshore Transfer of Migrant Children
Policy Threatens Unaccompanied Kids, Young Asylum Seekers
November 24, 2012
(Geneva) – The Australian government should immediately stop transfers of migrant children - including unaccompanied migrant
children and child asylum seekers - to offshore processing sites in Manus Island of Papua New Guinea, and Nauru.
On November 21, 2012, Australia transferred 19 people, including 4 children, to Manus. The asylum seekers, from Sri Lanka and Iran,
were the first transfers to Manus since the Australian government reinstated its offshore processing policy for asylum seekers in August
2012. Under the policy, asylum seekers are transferred outside Australian jurisdiction to facilities on the islands of Nauru and Manus to
await processing of their claims.
“Migrant children are often survivors of traumatic journeys to reach Australia,” said Alice Farmer, children’s rights researcher at Human
Rights Watch. “Australia is callously disregarding their best interests and failing to provide them an opportunity for refuge when it
pushes them out of Australian territory.”
Australia’s policy violates its obligations to children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects all children in
Australia’s jurisdiction, including non-citizen children. The convention requires assessment of “the best interests of the child” in all
actions concerning children. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has interpreted this to mean a comprehensive
review of a migrant child’s needs for immigration status and basic services by qualified professionals in a friendly and safe atmosphere.
Transfer out of Australia’s territory without such a determination fails this test, Human Rights Watch said.
The facilities at Manus and Nauru are expected ultimately to have a combined capacity of 2,100 people. Migrants, including children,
may have to spend up to five years in Nauru or Manus. The government has also stated that unaccompanied migrant children - who
travel without parents or other caregivers - will be among those transferred.
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27 NOVEMBER 2012
Transferee interviews commence at Nauru processing centre
Transferee interviews for asylum seekers at the Australian run regional processing centre on Nauru have begun on the weekend (23
Fourteen Sri-Lankans have been interviewed over Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November.
The interviews went well and it is expected ten interviews will be conducted per day.
The transferee interviews are generally to gather information from the asylum seekers providing them the opportunity to tell their story
and why they are claiming asylum.
The overall processing including the transferee interviews are conducted by Nauru’s Department of Justice, with assistance from
officials from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
The announcement of the commencement of processing was made last week (Friday 23 Nov) when Ministers from the Nauru
Government visited the RPC.
Nauru’s Foreign Minister Hon Dr Kieren Keke who made the announcement was accompanied by Justice Minister Dominic Tabuna,
Chairman of the Working Committee on the RPC Mathew Batsiua MP, Secretary for Justice Lisa Lo Piccolo and two members of her
The Ministers also took questions from the asylum seekers following the announcement and initial briefing.
The second stage of the process will commence early next year when the asylum seekers can formally lodge their claims. Independent
legal advisors will be on island to assist them through this process.
The applications will be assessed by the Secretary for Justice and officials from the justice department.
The asylum seekers were also advised that there will be an appeals process should anyone be dissatisfied with the outcome of their
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Friday 14 September 2012
Offshore processing arrangements carry serious human rights concerns
The Commission has serious concerns that the human rights of asylum seekers sent to Nauru will not be adequately protected.
Following the arrival in Nauru this morning of the first plane load of asylum seekers to be processed there under the Government’s new
offshore processing arrangements, Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs said it was still unclear how the new arrangements
would work in practice.
“It is not yet clear how the processing arrangements will operate in Nauru so it is not possible to assess how consistent these
arrangements will be with Australia’s human rights obligations,” Professor Triggs said.
“There is no information as to how prepared Nauru is to process the claims and it is unclear whether those transferred to Nauru will
have access to legal advice.
“And of course, the question still remains as to whether or not Nauru is able to provide effective protection to asylum seekers
She said the Commission was particularly concerned by views expressed by the Minister for Immigration earlier this week in designating
Nauru as a country for the processing of asylum seekers’ claims.
“I am concerned that the Minister has expressed the view that even if the designation of Nauru for regional processing is inconsistent
with Australia’s international obligations, he will proceed on the basis that it is, in his view, in Australia’s national interest to do so,” she
“This is of grave concern to the Australian Human Rights Commission in light of our mandate to monitor Australia’s compliance with its
human rights obligations.”
She said the Commission was also unconvinced that the tent accommodation and facilities on Nauru will be adequate to deal with the
range of contingencies that can be expected to arise ranging from the weather and temperature variations through to the needs of women
and children, or the needs of those who have experienced torture and trauma.
“It’s essential that a pre-transfer risk and vulnerability assessment be conducted for each individual, and that these consider the specific
circumstances and vulnerabilities of each and every individual, in light of Australia’s international obligations,” she said
“We’ve had no indication that such assessments have been performed on those transferred today and call on the Government to conduct
such assessments prior to the transfer of any further asylum seekers.”
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Climate Change financing study commences in Nauru
PRESS STATEMENT 60/12
21st May 2012
A Climate Change financing case study has begun on the Pacific island nation of Nauru.
At the invitation of the Government of Nauru, a small team of officials from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was in-country this
month to begin the exercise.
The ultimate purpose of the case study is to assess the practical application of options for improved access to international finance and
related management of climate change resources for Nauru.
Nauru is the first country to agree to undertake such a review.
“I would like to congratulate the Republic of Nauru for taking on this important exercise,” said the Secretary General of the Pacific
Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade.
Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2011 reviewed an Options Paper prepared by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat that contained an
initial assessment of several modalities and options to improve access to, and management of, climate change resources.
To advance the work, Leaders tasked the Forum Secretariat with exploring how national and regional options could work in practice.
Mr Russ Kun, Secretary of Nauru’s Department of Commerce, Industry and Environment, welcomed the country study.
“Nauru welcomed the opportunity to take part in identifying options suitable for Nauru to access funds and improving linkages to various
international funding sources,” said Mr Kun.
“We anticipate that this study will assist our nation and people, and eventually, the region, in our shared struggle to address climate
change as the greatest challenge of our time.”
Mr Slade added that in undertaking this work, the Forum Secretariat will assess the feasibility of the options and associated risks and
benefits, taking into account the specific and varying needs of countries.
The Nauru study will be completed by August 2012 to allow preliminary recommendations to be presented to Pacific Islands Forum
Leaders when they meet in the Cook Island in August this year.
The case study will focus on budget support, general and sector support and national trust fund arrangements. Other options will also be
considered, based on national priorities as outlined in Nauru’s National Sustainable Development Strategy 2005-2025.
Consideration will also be given to the strengths and challenges of national systems, as considered under the Forum Compact Peer
Review process. (click here to view the Nauru Peer Review Report 2010)
The Forum Secretariat mission to Nauru was carried out in conjunction with other Climate Change-related missions undertaken by the
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
The mission held consultations with a number of senior Nauru Government officials from central planning and financial management
agencies and key agencies affected by climate change, including water, energy and fisheries.
Representatives of key development partners, non-government organisations and the private sector were also consulted, among others.
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President since 15 November 2011
President since 2014