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  • 10 Dec 2018 11:47 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are delighted to announce our first confirmed keynote speaker for our 21st Commonwealth Lawyers conference in Zambia on 10th April.

    The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC of Dominica is the first woman to be Commonwealth Secretary-General, and has had an extraordinary career to date, with a focus on domestic violence reform:

    • Trained as a lawyer and became the first black woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1991.
    • At 35, was also the youngest woman ever to be made a QC.
    • Was the first black woman to be appointed Deputy High Court Judge, Recorder and Master of Middle Temple.
    • Joined the House of Lords in 1997 as Baroness Scotland of Asthal going on to serve as a minister in the Foreign Office, Home Office and Lord Chancellor’s Department.
    • Undertook major reform of the criminal justice system, including the introduction of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act.
    • Was appointed Attorney General in 2007 – the first women to hold the post since it was created in 1315.
    • Founded the Eliminate Domestic Violence Global Foundation in 2011.
    • Appointed Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to South Africa in 2012.
    • Elected as the Alderman of Bishopsgate in the City of London in 2014.
    • Other offices include Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Patron of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, Patron of Lifeline (Trinidad & Tobago) and the Caribbean Science Foundation.

  • 07 Dec 2018 16:48 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CLA is pleased to announce that we are open to receive tenders to host the next CLC in 2021.

    Please register your interest and apply for the bidding guidelines by emailing: info@commonwealthlawyers.com

    Closing date is 31st January 2019, with the successful host being announced at the conference in Zambia in April 2019

    Download the full details here:
    CLC 2021 Calls to bid.pdf

  • 07 Dec 2018 16:39 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance: CLA participates in important new initiative.

    In the spring of 2018, a working group of Commonwealth organisations (including the Commonwealth Lawyers Association represented by Desmond Browne QC) adopted a set of Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance.

    It has taken over two years to develop the Principles, which draw on existing Commonwealth declarations and international commitments by Commonwealth countries and offer the organization for the first time a cogent set of standards for the role of the media. The working group was co-chaired by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Commonwealth Journalists Association with participation by representatives of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (UK) and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. 

    The Commonwealth Secretariat was represented in an advisory capacity. The working group also drew on the expertise of a range of senior officials, judges, lawyers, journalists and broadcasters in Commonwealth countries as well as international experts in this field. It reached agreement on the text in March this year and the Principles were launched at Senate House in London University on 11 April.  

    The Commonwealth Secretary General endorsed the broad aims of this initiative in a lecture at Senate House in April 2017. She said: ‘For those of us hoping to move towards adopting distinctive Commonwealth Principles on the media in line with the normative framework of international human rights law, the process by which the Latimer House Principles came into being is an encouraging example of how the Commonwealth works.’ 

    The working group has been inspired by the Latimer House process in which CLA members have played a leading role since its inception in 1998. In placing the role of the media within the broader context of good governance. the new Principles deal not only with the role of the media and the safety of journalists but also with relations between the media and the three branches of government.

    The Principles draw on existing Commonwealth commitments to democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression, which are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and on International commitments at the United Nations relating to the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.  They demonstrate the importance of Commonwealth organisations coming together to promote good governance and accountability. The Principles, if adopted officially, will provide The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) with a useful reference point in undertaking its role  in overseeing compliance with the rule of law in the Commonwealth..  

    The working group has called on CMAG in its role as the guardian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values to take the lead in re-asserting Commonwealth commitments in this important field. An encouraging response was received from the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs in her capacity as Vice-Chair of CMAG. Dr Peter Slinn, member of the CLA executive committee will assist in a briefing to the CARICOM diplomatic caucus in November, 2018. It is hoped that the Principles, following the Latimer House precedent, may eventually be adopted as part of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. As in the case of the Latimer House Principles, the CLA is proud to play a key part in an imitative which contributes to our role in furthering the rule of law and good governance in the Commonwealth. The full text of the Principles may be found at www.cja-uk.org, the website of the Commonwealth Journalists Association.

    Peter Slinn

    31 October 2019

    The Commonwealth principles on freedom of expression and the role of the media in good governance can be read here:

    Commonwealth Principles - role of the media in good governance.pdf

  • 28 Nov 2018 10:30 | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Recalling the statement issued by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on the 8 November 2018, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary association expresses its concern at the recent political developments in Sri Lanka.

    The full statement can be viewed here:

    CLA makes joint statement on Sri Lanka with CLEA and CPA.pdf

  • 22 Nov 2018 16:52 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards will celebrate outstanding innovators and innovations that are helping Commonwealth countries and their people achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and advance the values in the Commonwealth Charter that commit Commonwealth countries to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity.

    Key Objectives

    • Recognise innovations that are advancing sustainable development in Commonwealth countries in line with the Commonwealth Charter and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
    • Highlight the innovative potential across the Commonwealth;
    • Inspire the next generation of Commonwealth innovators.


    • The award-winning innovations must reaffirm the core values and principles of the Commonwealth as declared in the Commonwealth Charter
    • There will be three award winners for innovations in each of the five categories:
      1. Improve the well-being (i.e. health, education, human rights etc.) of Commonwealth PEOPLE
      2. Improve PROSPERITY (i.e. economic development, trade, etc.) in the Commonwealth
      3. Promote PEACE and justice in the Commonwealth
      4. Protect the PLANET and the natural environment in the Commonwealth
      5. and promote PARTNERSHIPS for sustainable development in the Commonwealth
    • The winners will be chosen for the impact or potential of their innovations to advance one or more of the 17 SDGs in Commonwealth countries:

    Awards will be decided on the basis of:

    • Level of impact or demonstrable potential of innovation;
    • Fresh approaches to problem-solving;
    • Quality of achievement so far;
    • Quality of the evidence provided;
    • Impact or potential impact of innovation on achievement of SDGs in Commonwealth countries

    Entry Criteria

    • Entrants must be:
    • Commonwealth citizens (female and young Commonwealth innovators are especially encouraged to apply)
    • Government ministries / departments / public sector agencies in Commonwealth countries
    • Social or voluntary sector enterprises in Commonwealth countries
    • Private sector enterprises based in any Commonwealth country
    • The nominated innovations focusing on the SDGs must be supported with evidence that they are taking place in a Commonwealth country.
    • Nominees must have been engaged in developing their innovations for more than 12 months, either in a professional or voluntary capacity.
    • Award winners must agree to take part in Commonwealth-supported activities and initiatives.

    Nomination Process

    The nomination process will be via an online platform only. Self-nomination is permitted. Each nominee can enter submissions for up to two of the five categories. Please click on the link below for details.

    Deadline for nominations

    31 December 2018

    Selection Process

    An independent Judges’ Panel will oversee the selection process. The 15 winners will each receive a trophy, a certificate and prize money of £2000.

    Enter Here

  • 22 Nov 2018 16:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In August 2016 the Chief Justice of Belize held that s. 53 of the Belize Criminal Code which purported to criminalise private consensual homosexual conduct was unconstitutional in violating the Constitution on a series of grounds: Section 3 (the right to dignity), Section 6 (the right to equality before the law), Section 12 (the right to freedom of expression, Section 14 (the right to privacy) and Section 16 (the right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex).

    The Government accepted the findings on Sections 3, 6 and 14 and the read down to effect decriminalisation which resulted. The Government nevertheless appealed against the findings on Sections 12 and 16. The Respondent, Caleb Orozco opposed both grounds of appeal on the basis that they were (a) academic in nature given the other accepted findings and (b) that they were in any event of no merit.

    The hearing involved consideration of a range of recent Commonwealth jurisprudence from the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Indian Supreme Court, the High Court in Kenya and the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago.

    The CLA, together with the International Commission of Jurists and the Human Dignity Trust, intervened in support of Mr Orozco at first instance and did so again at the hearing before the Court of Appeal.  The CLA was represented pro bono by Timothy Otty QC of Blackstone Chambers, Leslie Mendez of Marine Parade Chambers Belize and Debevoise Plimpton LLP.

    Argument in the case concluded on 29 October 2018 and judgment has been reserved.

  • 22 Nov 2018 16:35 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 2004, 2006 and  2008 the CLA intervened as amicus curiae in the three United States Supreme Court cases to consider the reach of habeas corpus and the detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Less than 40 detainees remain held at the base, one of them is Khalid Ahmed Qassim. He has been detained for 16 years and despite the Court’s accepted jurisdiction to grant habeas relief he complains that he has yet to be told the basis for his detention. The CLA has intervened in his latest challenge to his detention again as amicus curiae, represented pro bono by Professor Joseph Margulies of Cornell University, and Timothy Otty QC and George Molyneaux (both of Blackstone Chambers in London).

    The central issue before the Court relates to the extent to which the common law confers basic due process rights on a detainee in the determination of the availability of habeas corpus relief. The main purpose of the CLA brief is to set out the position in this regard as a matter of English common law, and to explain the basis upon which the Courts of England and Wales have historically exercised jurisdiction in habeas corpus cases. The brief does not purport to address the particular facts of Mr Qassim’s case or the correct approach as a matter of the law of the United States of America. Instead it seeks to assist the Court with a summary of how, as a matter of common law and absent clear statutory displacement, an English Court would be required to approach determination of a habeas corpus application, and any attempt by the Executive in the United Kingdom to justify detention by reference to classified material not disclosed to the detainee. The summary of argument in the brief reads as follows:

    “The protection against arbitrary detention is among the oldest and most fundamental rights known to the common law, and now has the status of a ius cogens peremptory norm in international law. Any questions regarding the Court’s obligations in its exercise of the habeas jurisdiction must be addressed in that light. As a matter of English law, it is for the Court, and not the Executive, to determine whether there is a factual foundation for any deprivation of liberty based on the detainee’s alleged status. It has, furthermore, been clear that this has been the case under English law since at least 1759. When discharging its role as the finder of fact, the Court must adhere to the requirements of natural justice, which under the common law include the detainee’s right to see, and respond to, all evidence and submissions presented to the Court by the Executive. This too has been clear since the 18th Century at least.

    Accordingly, if it were the United Kingdom, and not the United States of America, which controlled the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and the persons detained there, (a) it would be the English Courts, and not the Executive, which would determine any issue relating to any “enemy” status alleged against Mr Qassim; and (b) in determining such issues, the Courts could not receive or have regard to any evidence or submissions withheld from him, absent a clear statutory derogation from his fundamental rights at common law. We believe that the same position would apply before Commonwealth Courts were any other Commonwealth State to be in control of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.”

    An oral hearing in the case is anticipated for early 2019.

  • 15 Nov 2018 17:12 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Association and the Commonwealth Legal Education Association are gravely concerned by reports of public protests and serious threats of violence, which have followed the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the case of Asia Bibi.

    Read the full press release statement here:
    ASIA BIBI - CLA Statement BS 2-1-1511182.pdf

  • 09 Nov 2018 13:07 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Two recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada that dealt with the balancing of freedom of religion and the ability of Law Societies under their public interest mandates to deal with discrimination, has generated considerable debate in Canada and will be of interest to lawyers and legal institutions throughout the Commonwealth. 

    Trinity Western University (TWU) is an evangelical Christian university that required all of its staff and students to sign a “Community Covenant” under which they agreed that the only healthy form of sexuality occurs in a marriage between a man and a woman, and that they abstain from sexual intimacy outside marriage, and even inside marriage in the case of same – sex marriages.   A breach of the covenant could lead to sanctions, up to and including expulsion from the university. 

    TWU wants to establish a law school.  It sought to have its law programme accredited so that its graduates would be eligible for admission to practice in all provinces and territories in Canada.  The Law Societies of each province and territory in Canada control accreditation and admission to practice in their respective jurisdictions. TWU brought court challenges against three Law Societies -the Law Society of Upper Canada (now the Law Society of Ontario) the Law Society of British Columbia, and the Barristers’ Society of Nova Scotia, each of which had refused to accredit TWU’s law programme.   The refusals were based on determinations by each Law Society that it would not be in the public interest to accredit a law school that had a discriminatory admissions policy. (The refusals were NOT based on concerns about the quality of the legal education TWU’s students would receive). 

    The Nova Scotia challenge did not proceed after the decision of the Court of first instance.  The other two challenges proceeded through appellate courts to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

    In its decisions in Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University  2018 SCC 32,  https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-l-csc-a/en/item/16437/ , and Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada  2018 SCC 33,  https://scc-csc.lexum.com/bcc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/17141/

    (both June 15, 2018), a majority of the Supreme Court  held that the Law Societies, under their statutory mandates to protect the public interest,  have an overarching interest in protecting the values of equality and human rights.  The Court found that the decisions to refuse to accredit TWU represented a proportionate balance between any limitation on the freedom of religion of the TWU Community (freedom of religion is protected under subsection 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and the public interest statutory objectives that each Law Society was seeking to protect.  The Court found that these objectives could and did include equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and the prevention of harm to LGBTQ students. 

    The decisions have attracted considerable commentary, both supportive and critical, for their expansive interpretation of Law Society mandates, and the relatively limited scope of the freedom of religion of  the TWU Community in this context. 

    Shortly after the decisions were published, TWU announced that adherence to its “Community Covenant” would no longer be required of students at the university but would be voluntary.  The future of TWU’s law school plans is not yet certain. 

    This article was written by Robert G Lapper, one of our Americas Hub Members

    Robert Lapper is a semi-retired lawyer who was most recently the CEO of the Law Society of Ontario, following a career as a senior lawyer and Deputy Minister in British Columbia.

  • 17 Oct 2018 10:26 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On 3rd October I was honoured to have been able to join CLA’s own friend and long standing Council Member and Head of the African Regional Hub, Mr. Nene Amegatcher in Accra to witness his taking oath as Judge of the Supreme Court of Ghana. At the Swearing in Ceremony The President of the Republic of Ghana gave the oath of office to Hon. Justice Nene Amegatcher, along with three others. Two were from the Appeal Court and two including Justice Amegatcher were directly elevated from the Bar.

    Hon. Justice Nene Amegatcher receiving the letter of Appointment from the President of Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo.

    The Ceremony was in Jubilee House of the Presidential estate with a reception afterwards on the lawn.

    Newly sworn in Justice Amegatcher with the President of Ghana and the Executive of Ghana Bar Association including Anthony Forson, newly elected President of the Bar.

    It was a priviledge to have been so warmly welcomed by the President of Republic of Ghana and the legal fraternity and I felt that my presence for the swearing in ceremony sent a great message of connection for Commonwealth lawyers across the globe.

    Later in the evening we were hosted at a reception given by another old friend and colleague of CLA who heads Justice Amegatchers firm – Mr Sam Okudzeto.

    R Santhanakrishnan


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