Action by the Kiribati government to deport an Australian citizen and senior Kiribati judge married to the country’s opposition leader has been declared invalid and overturned by the Pacific island nation’s Court of Appeal, amid tensions between the executive and the judiciary continue to overflow.
Lawyers for Australian David Lambourne, a former Kiribati Solicitor General who was appointed to his High Court in 2018, successfully petitioned the country’s Court of Appeal earlier this month for an urgent order releasing him from detention immigrants pending a new hearing.
The parties returned to court last Friday and Sydney lawyers Perry Herzfeld, SC, and Daniel Reynolds, acting for Lambourne, fought to overturn the eviction notices issued to him by the government.
In a ruling on Friday, the Kiribati Court of Appeal – retired New Zealand judges Peter Blanchard, Rodney Hansen and Paul Heath – said an eviction liability notice and two eviction orders issued to Lambourne on August 11 were “hereby declared invalid and void”.
He also declared invalid an attempt by Kiribati President Taneti Maamau this month to “revoke, nullify and nullify” Lambourne’s lifetime judicial appointment and reappoint him for a term that expired on June 30 of the last year.
The Court of Appeal said “no attempt was made by the Attorney General to explain how Mr. Lambourne could rationally be considered a security risk”, as the Kiribati government claimed in seeking to expel him. He said Kiribati Deputy Solicitor General Monoo Mweretaka “seemed somewhat lost [in court] justify the order”.
US Attorney Ravi Batra appeared for the Kiribati government at last week’s hearing. In a theatrical performance that involved banging his fist on the table at one point, New York-based Batra said, “A judge is as close as we come to a messenger of God on Earth. David Lambourne is nothing like it.
“This court should show maximum deference, as our Supreme Court does when our president sends a letter saying, ‘Get out of this, it’s a matter of national security.’ You do not know [the reasons why]. This is called the separation of powers.