From the President's Desk
Special Edition - Paris Bombings
This week Europe remains in shock at the senseless loss of life caused by the recent incidents in Paris but we are all too quickly and tragically reminded that terrorism respects no territorial boundaries and those who carry out acts of terror do so dispassionately and indiscriminately. To the terrorist humanity is an undiscovered country.
As I write this I am reminded that the victims of terrorism are not just those who pay the ultimate price of losing their life but the hundreds of people whose lives are changed for ever by acts of terror, of the displaced and unsettled men, women, and children who are left injured, both physically and emotionally, and to the many who are made homeless or stateless.
Our thoughts go out to the people of Nigeria following the incident in Maiduguri market committed by two young women who took both their lives and killed and injured a number of others, to the hostages of the Mali hotel siege, and the family of those killed in the church massacre in Charleston, and to all those who suffer at the hands of terrorism.
In my last post I talked about the importance of freedom of expression and how often the driving forces for policy change is an act of terrorism. Governments must now tackle the problems of the new threats and seemingly random attacks. By example we have seen the recent reaction of the UK government who announced on 19th November their intention to increase the financial commitment to the UK security forces with a view to toughening security measures for the further protection of its citizens and a unanimous vote but the UN Council to act against the so called "Islamic State"
At the same time Commonwealth governments must balance reaction against the reality of the thousands of refugees on their borders, many escaping brutal regimes. UK Prime Minister David Cameron in his recent Munich speech said "A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things”.
It is also vitally important that incursions on liberty which societies will accept in extraordinary circumstances will be used only for those purposes.
The difficulty in reflecting upon these events not a recent phenomonon but one over which in the past years there has been a lack of obvious purpose for these terrorist acts. Countries within the Commonwealth and the world strive to find a ways to deal with the problems at their roots, as to what the causes are that create the individuals who consider it their right to indiscriminately kill innocent people, without regard to their ethnicity or their religious beliefs.
Alas, we see Governments being forced to deal with the problems in the aftermath of attacks with greatly increased security measures, anxieties as to otherwise fair and just immigration policies, and incursions on civilian privacy as a necessary means to try and prevent the violence.
In these difficult times, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association remains committed to upholding the rule of law, the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and the Latimer House Principles.
23 November 2015