Republic of Nauru
Nauru is the smallest republic in the world, with a single island of just 21 sq km. It lies near the equator, close to its fellow Micronesian neighbour of Kiribati. A raised coral atoll, Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The exact origins of the Nauruans are unclear, since their language does not resemble any other in the Pacific. The island was annexed by Germany in 1888 and its phosphate deposits began to be mined early in the 20th century by a German-British consortium. Nauru was occupied by Australian forces in World War I and subsequently became a League of Nations mandate. After the Second World War Nauru became a UN trust territory. It achieved its independence in 1968 and joined the UN in 1999.
Following many years of high incomes from phosphate mining, when most of the island's needs were imported, traditional fishing and horticulture declined. A decline in incomes due to the decline in phosphate income has led to the revival of skills possessed by former generations.
The President of Nauru, Ludwig Scotty, is both Head of State and Head of Government. Cabinet comprises the President and five other ministers. Nauru has a unicameral Parliament with eighteen seats. Members are elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms.
Nauru has a population of approximately 8,600 people, of which about 7,600 are indigenous Nauruans of predominantly Micronesian origin. The remainders are mostly Chinese and some Australians. In 2006, 377 Tuvaluan and 1077 i-Kiribati guest workers and their families sought repatriation from Nauru to their home countries. The repatriation exercise was arranged by the Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru Governments with assistance from the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.
Revenues of Nauru have traditionally come from exports of phosphates, now significantly depleted. Few other resources exist with most necessities being imported, mainly from Australia, its former occupier and later major source of support. 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 faces virtual bankruptcy.
Court structure and the legal system
Nauru has a standard structure if inferior, superior and appeal court. The appeal court however is the High Court of Australia. The High Court of Australia is able to hear appeals from the Supreme Court when it sits with a full court of at least two justices. It has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Supreme Court against any final first instance judgment and may hear appeals with leave of the trial judge or the High Court, against an interlocutory order or judgment. Additionally the High Court (with leave) may hear an appeal from the Supreme Court exercising jurisdiction in appeals from the district court. No appeal to the High Court is permitted (among other circumstances) where the appeal involves the interpretation or effect of the Constitution; or from a determination by the Supreme Court of a question concerning membership of Parliament.
The Supreme Court is constituted of the Chief Justice and other judges appointed by the President. To be appointed to the bench, candidates must be persons qualified to practice as a barrister or solicitor in Nauru for at least five years. The District Court is constituted of a resident magistrate and no fewer than three lay magistrates appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice. Candidate resident magistrates must be qualified for appointment as a Supreme Court judge and lay magistrates must be qualified for appointment as a pleader.
Custom and the influence on the legal system
Customary law is recognized in Nauru pursuant to section 3 of the Custom and Adopted Laws Act 1971. That section states that the institutions, customs and usages of the Nauruans shall be accorded recognition by every court and have full force and effect of law to regulate matters specified in the Act.