PAC – COMMONWEALTH: PACNEWS PACNEWS SPECIAL: Wed 09 July 2008
Failure to adhere to the rule of law, a challenge for the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma
09 JULY 2008 EDINBURGH (Pacnews) --- Failure by some Commonwealth Member countries to adhere to the rule of law has posed great challenges for the 53 grouping of nations.
Fiji, in the Pacific, is grouped with Zimbabwe and Pakistan, for flouting the rule of law through the forced removal of a democratically elected government in December 2006. All the three countries remain suspended from the Commonwealth.
Opening the three day Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in the historical Scottish city of Edinburgh on Tuesday, new Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma said the record of member states to the rule of law and separation of powers ‘has some way to go.’
“Inevitably, it is the failures – a state of emergency involving a summary dismissal of the judiciary, the overthrow of a democratically elected government and the removal of the Chief Justice, flawed and violent elections – which command our attention.
“But we should look beyond the headlines, for both the accomplishments, like the development of new handbooks and training for court staff and prosecutors, as well as to the challenges, in which issues like inadequate availability of legal aid should concern us as much as the more flagrant political abuses, Mr Sharma said.
During the three day meeting, Law ministers are expected to discuss access to justice and their role in ensuring that justice is affordable and accessible. “Where legal costs are too high, the ends of justice are frustrated, as they are when legal delays are protracted, or where legal processes are undermined by any form of inefficiency or, worse, any form of bias or interference.
“We are challenged to consider the role of the Law Minister in defending the independence of the judiciary, especially when the judiciary struggles to exercise its right of reply. Ministers are also expected to endorse the first ever manual for court administrators.
“It is guideline or a tool that can be used for training court officials. It can be adapted to any member country, said Kevin Maguire, one of the authors of the model handbook.Also under review this week is the Commonwealth’s Principles of Accountability and Relationship between the three branches of Government – the executive, parliament ad the judiciary. Its is known as the Latimer House Principles, adopted in 1998…PNS (ENDS)