Attorney-General (Fiji) v Robt. Jones House Ltd

JurisdictionNew Zealand
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date04 November 1988
Date04 November 1988
New Zealand, High Court.

(Jeffries J.)

Attorney-General for Fiji
Robt. Jones House Ltd

Governments Recognition Policy of not granting or withholding recognition of governments United Kingdom policy statement of April 1980 Whether adopted by the Government of New Zealand Coup d'tat in Fiji Whether new regime in Fiji the Government of Fiji Lease of premises in New Zealand to the Government of Fiji for use as premises of diplomatic mission Whether new regime in Fiji entitled to continue in possession of premises Whether Attorney-General in new Government of Fiji possessing locus standi in New Zealand courts Executive certificate Whether New Zealand and Fiji still having dealings on Government to Government basis Diplomatic relations between the two States not severed Whether implied recognition

Recognition Governments Policy of not granting or withholding recognition of governments Dealings on government to government basis Whether implied recognition

Relationship of international law and municipal law Executive statements Recognition of States and governments Certificate stating nature of dealings with new regime in foreign State but not taking position on recognition Role of the courts in interpreting certificate Whether the courts able to consider evidence contrary to certificate The law of New Zealand

Summary: The facts:Since 1970 Fiji had been an independent State within the Commonwealth. The Queen, represented by the Governor-General, was the Head of State. In May 1987 the Fijian armed forces deposed the newly elected Prime Minister of Fiji. The new regime in Fiji subsequently proclaimed Fiji a Republic and the former Governor-General became its President. In 1978 the Government of Fiji had entered into a lease with the defendant in respect of a building in Wellington. The building was used as the premises of the diplomatic mission of Fiji in New Zealand. Following the coup in Fiji the defendant informed the High Commissioner of Fiji that it would seek to repossess the premises, since the lease had been granted to the lawful Government of Fiji and that Government had ceased to exist. The Attorney-General for Fiji sought and was granted an interim injunction restraining the defendant from re-entering into possession. The Attorney-General for Fiji then sought to have the injunction made permanent. The defendant maintained that since the Attorney-General was part of a regime which was not recognized as the Government of Fiji by the New Zealand Government, he had no locus standi to bring the action in the New Zealand courts.

The Court requested a certificate from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, indicating whether or not the New Zealand Government recognized the new regime in Fiji and, if so, whether that recognition was de facto or de jure. The Minister's certificate1 stated that New Zealand no longer made formal statements of recognition of new governments in foreign States and left questions of recognition to be inferred from the nature and level of its dealings with such governments. Accordingly, New Zealand had made no formal statement regarding recognition of the new regime in Fiji. The certificate stated that New Zealand accepted the continued application of its treaty rights and obligations with Fiji, had not severed diplomatic relations and continued to regard the Fijian diplomatic mission in New Zealand as entitled to all the rights and obligations set out in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961. The certificate noted that relations between New Zealand and Fiji had reached a low ebb after the coup but that there had subsequently been some improvement.

Held:The Attorney-General for Fiji had locus standi and the injunction would be made permanent.

(1) The Government of New Zealand had adopted the policy announced by the United Kingdom in April 1980 of no longer granting recognition to foreign governments. Since, therefore, a Minister's certificate would no longer state whether or not a particular regime was recognized by New Zealand, it was for the Court to interpret the certificate and assess its true meaning and effect (pp. 79).

(2) Whether or not the plaintiff had locus standi depended upon the Court's analysis of the certificate and other relevant evidence about the nature of the dealings between the New Zealand Government and the Government of Fiji (p. 9).

(3) It was clear from the certificate that diplomatic representation between Fiji and New Zealand had been largely unaffected by the coup and that Government to Government dealings had continued. The plaintiff should thus be accorded locus standi in the New Zealand...

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