• 17 Oct 2018 09:42 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On 1 October 2018 CLA honorary life president Colin Nicholls QC chaired a side event at the Meeting of Senior Officials of The Commonwealth Law Ministries in London when Senior Officials were presented with the Commonwealth’s proposed Anti-Corruption Benchmarks – a framework of minimum standards, which countries can use as a ‘checklist’ to measure their anti-corruption practices and make improvements as required.

    Describing the benchmarks as an important advocacy tool to encourage Commonwealth countries to adopt high standards of good governance, he said the event would be followed by informal consultation with member countries to refine the benchmarks, with the aim of completing the work in time for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda in 2020

    The proposed benchmarks, developed in close cooperation with national standards institutions and professional membership bodies, were first unveiled at the 8th Commonwealth Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa in May 2018. They will include practical guidance to Commonwealth member countries on clear steps that can be taken to promote integrity and combat corruption in government and public sector bodies; together with a simple ‘checklist’ against which progress can be measured.

    Reflecting international best practice, they specify actions that can be taken to combat corruption, by national governments and public sector bodies, as well as success stories from governments and organisations as case studies.


    The benchmarks are the latest in a series of key initiatives by the Commonwealth to strengthen anti-corruption measures in member countries, building on the Framework for Commonwealth Principles on Promoting Good Governance and Combating Corruption adopted in 2000, the establishment of the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre in 2013, and the Tackling Corruption Together international conference hosted by the Commonwealth in 2016.


    Delegates welcomed the benchmark approach and requested the Secretariat to carry out a consultation process for all member countries.

    Read more

  • 03 Oct 2018 11:09 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The theme of this Presidency is one of 'Mission Commonwealth Connect' and I am honoured by the reception I have received at every destination.  My most recent trip has taken me to the Caribbean islands, to St Kitts & Nevis for the 15th Annual Regional Conference of the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Bar Association. Over 100 delegates from across 9 islands assembled at Park Hyatt to discuss on various topics on the theme ‘The Transforming Influence of Technology on the Law’. 

    The Conference was opened by Sir Samuel Weymouth Tapley Seaton QC, the Governor General of St. Kitts & former President and founding member of the OECS Bar. We were welcomed by our hosts: Thaddeus Antoine, President OECS Bar, Dahlia Joseph Rowe, President, St. Kitts Bar Association, Jean Dyer, OECS Regional Coordinator and Hon. Justice Janice Pereira, Chief Justice, OECS Supreme Court.

    In tune with the theme the topics centred around Blockchain, Crypto Currency, Regulatory Sandbox, Complex Real Estate Transactions, Trade Agreements, Globalisation, Value of Digital Trade, Technology and the future of trading legal services across borders. In addition, there were sessions on Paper Committals and New Sentencing Guidelines for the OECS and a session on Necessity of Law Revision and Consolidation for Economic Growth. The quality of the speakers was excellent and the presentations not just confined to Lawyers. It was inspiring to be in the presence of informative and thought provoking discourse. Given the challenges and opportunities that technology presents to lawyers across the globe the conference gave a valuable forum for discussion.

    I was honoured to be invited to address the delegates and took the opportunity to extend an invitation for our forthcoming Commonwealth Law Conference in Zambia next April. The Gala Dinner was a gathering of the great and the good of the region and attended by Mr Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis. We heard an address from Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis who also hosted a party on Nevis to celebrate 35 years of Independence.

    It was an all too brief visit to the most beautiful of islands and I extend my gratitude to my friends and colleagues for the kindness of their hospitality and hope to see many of them again at CLC 2019 in Livingstone next year.

    Ruggles Ferguson, President OCCBA; Santhaan Krishnan, President CLA; Peter Maynard, CLA Council; Thaddeus Antoine, President OECS Bar Association

    R Santhanakrishnan


  • 03 Oct 2018 10:55 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Justice Project is one of the most significant pieces of work the Law Council has ever undertaken: a landmark project examining the state of access to justice in Australia, particularly for disadvantaged people.

    Beginning at the commencement of my terms as President of the Law Council in early 2017, the Project was inspired by my realisation of a simple truth - that despite our lofty commitment to equality before the law, and years of informed careful advocacy, for many tens of thousands of Australians, equality, and justice, remain out of reach.

    The Justice Project was overseen by an expert Steering Committee of eminent lawyers, jurists and academics, and chaired by former High Court Chief Justice, the Hon. Robert French AC. A Progress Report was released in March 2018. 

    The Final Report includes 59 constructive and informed recommendations which provide a roadmap for future action, building the case for new, whole-of-government justice strategies secured by appropriate funding.

    It also includes dedicated chapters for each of the 13 groups identified in the terms of reference as facing significant economic and social disadvantage.

    The release of the Final Report has followed an extensive literature review and wide-ranging consultation process. This included more than 150 consultations undertaken across Australia during my term as President with policy staff with numerous rural, regional and metro visits including remote communities, prisons, bush courts, detention centres, nursing homes, hospitals, community legal centres, brothels and back offices gathering the real life examples and building the evidence base for our final report. 129 submissions were received. 

    It was my intention that we give a voice to those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of this inequality. It has been a privilege to work with the hundreds of lawyers and people who spoke directly to me, and to our team, over the course of the year of consultations. Their stories will stay with me forever.

    Read more

    Fiona McLeod SC 

    Past President

    Law Council of Australia 

  • 18 Sep 2018 11:35 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is pleased to announce the appointment of Brigid Watson to the post of Secretary General. Brigid joined in June and comes to us from a background in health and most recently business management in the education sector.

    Brigid says: “I am delighted to join the CLA at a time when the Executive team are forging ahead with plans to modernise and update. CLA clearly has a significant role to play in upholding the Rule of Law in the Commonwealth and expanding the reach and membership of our organisation will do much to facilitate that important work. I look forward to meeting many of you in Zambia for the Conference in April next year."

  • 18 Sep 2018 11:12 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are delighted to announce the appointment of brand, digital and experience agency, Compel, who will be supporting us as we embark on updating our digital marketing.

    Their brief is threefold; to help us support membership engagement and networking, to help us appeal and attract new and active members throughout the Commonwealth, and finally to enable us to offer our sponsors more value.

    Compel is a specialist agency working in the legal and financial services sectors and already, based on their early ideas and concepts presented, we are hugely excited about what we are going to be able to deliver to members.


    In the short term we will be launching a new association website soon to be followed by an interactive high value membership site – CLA | Online.


    Over the coming months we will be making more announcements.  Watch this space!


    In the meantime, we will be starting conversations with content contributors, so if your firm or association would like to be more involved, or you personally would signal interest in being a content contributor, please contact us.

  • 18 Sep 2018 10:44 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Save the date and join us at the Commonwealth Law Conference from the 8th to the 12th April 2019 in Livingstone, Zambia.

    Only minutes away from the Victoria Falls, one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Livingstone is one of the most romantic destinations on the Africa continent. It is rich in culture and history, with a host of adventure and adrenaline experiences to choose from.

    The CLC2019 is tailored to the interest of the following professionals:

    • Constitutional Lawyers
    • Corporate Lawyers
    • Commercial Lawyers
    • Government Lawyers
    • Judges
    • Legal Drafters
    • Human Rights Lawyers
    • Legal Professionals
    • Practice and Chambers Managers
    • Academics
    • Law Students
    • Those with an interest in the legal aspects of the Commonwealth
    • Those who would gain by a broader understanding of current Commonwealth legal issues

    **The Conference will be of interest and is open to all practitioners, legal professionals and Judges both from within and without the Commonwealth. 

    Don't miss the early birds rates, find out more and register here .

  • 04 Oct 2017 15:26 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear colleagues,

    I would like to share my first months in office with you so that you may understand some of the work of CLA. 

    June 2017 

    After the initial settling into my role as President, I found myself as a guest at the International Lawyers Cricket event, as cricket has always been a great passion of mine.  At the match, I had an opportunity to meet the Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, informally and discuss cricket and of course the CLA.

    During the match, I was invited to attend the 'India Business Awards 2017' event which was held at the House of Commons at Westminster celebrating the UK-Special relationship with India. At the function I met a number of Ministers, Parliamentarians, Lawyers, and Awardees, and also the Secretary General who was speaking at the event.  In her closing address, Baroness Scotland said in response to references to culture, that among other things, cricket was also part of culture. She stressed that beside India & UK there is third dimension called the Commonwealth.

    July 2017

    I visited the Southwestern Institute for International and Comparative, Plano, Texas, USA where a two day symposium in International Law and Global Markets was held. The symposium was part of a five week course undertaken by the Centre for American and International Law.  There were 49 lawyers from across the world attending the course, plus others who others who came to attend the symposium.

    August 2017

    As we are almost coming to the end of the second quarter, I thought I would share with you my second quarterly report.

    It should be noted that my reports sits beside the exceptional day to day work done by our CEO & Secretary General, Mrs Katherine Eden Haig, from our Secretariat London and I am grateful for the assistance she provides me in my role as President and to the CLA.

    The month of July was an opportunity for general interaction among the members of the legal fraternity in Delhi. Delhi, being the Capital city of India, and as the Supreme Court is located there, it is a popular meeting point for a number of lawyers from across India. I attended a one day conference of International Law Association in Delhi.

    A major part of the month of August was spent in either preparing to take the cricketing lawyers to Sri Lanka and in Sri Lanka for the 6th Lawyers Cricket World Cup. Twelve teams of Lawyers from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and West Indies participated in the event.

    I was invited to speak at the opening ceremony. The Hon. Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyasath Dep, was there to declare open the event. Alongside the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka De Silva, the legendary Sri Lankan Test Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga, Justice Suresh Chandra, and others were present on the dais. I was present at the closing ceremony to give away some of the prizes. Justice Suresh Chandra formally gave away the cup to the winning Australian team.

    The event was a good opportunity to meet and interact with the President and office bearers of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

    During the course of Lawyers Cricket in Sri Lanka I was in touch with a number of Lawyers from the Caribbean and told them about my intention to visit in the following month.

    September 2017

    I received an invitation to attend the Mediation Symposium in Trinidad between 11 and 13 September. That provoked my visit to the Caribbean.  Loy Weste from Antigua was helpful in getting me across to other Islands in the Eastern Caribbean during my visit. Sanjeev Datadin from Guyana was instrumental in getting me across to Guyana and I thank both Loy and Sanjeev for their assistance.

    Sadly, the hurricane did not allow me to travel to the Caribbean and on 8th September as planned. I was informed that Hurricane Irma passed through without any damage to Antigua, although Barbuda, and their island was badly damaged.  I delayed my trip until the 10th September.

    I landed in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 10th September to attend the three day mediation symposium hosted by the Mediation Board of Trinidad of Tobago. The first day, 11th September began with school children sitting around various tables and Justice Kokaram inviting them to express themselves, by putting to them simple questions relating to conflicts. The school children were of different age groups.  The children went to the extent saying that the Members of Parliament should behave well during the Parliamentary proceedings.

    In this background there was a formal opening of the symposium in the afternoon by the President of Trinidad & Tobago, the Hon. Anthony Thomas A. Caramona. Stressing the importance of mediation in today's world, the President said that if the concept of mediation had developed during the early part of last century, the world would not have witnessed the two world wars.

    About 300 delegates from across Trinidad attended the symposium, with a sprinkling of delegates and speakers from other Caribbean jurisdictions. The symposium comprehensively covered every aspect of conflicts that arise and about its resolution through mediation. Conflicts arising within the family, workplace, trade union, urban community, trade/commerce, psychological aspects etc., were comprehensively dealt with and discussed during various sessions between 11th and 13th September. In the entire Caribbean Islands, mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism is well entrenched and they have something to offer to the rest of the world.

    When I was invited to speak at the closing, I said that we must think big by creating a platform in the Caribbean, in the Commonwealth and beyond.  Taking my cue from the President's statement at the beginning of the symposium, I said that these initiatives would act as catalyst and mediation as a concept would be useful to ward off the possible third world war.

    The symposium provided enough opportunity for me to informally speak to various delegates about CLA.

    Justice Kokaram, as he is referred to, as a Head of their Mediation Board, brought to the fore, his thought provoking and innovative ideas, to do excellent work in presenting such a successful and comprehensive mediation symposium.

    The symposium came to an end with a presentation on Star Wars and the future of mediation.

    For the second leg of my tour, I flew on 14th morning to Antigua, the land of Vivian Richards, the legendary cricketer. It is located close to the northern part of the group of Caribbean Islands. What surprised me after landing at the modern Bird's International Airport (probably the best in Caribbean) completing the immigration process, I came out to see Loy Weste waiting outside. He took me to his office located almost in front of the magnificent court buildings. After having a glimpse of his office and after meeting Loy's senior colleague Mr Arthur I was taken to the court to have a meeting with the Hon. Justices Williamson, Thom, and Henry.  They were happy to know about the activities of CLA, and learn of our recent statements supporting the judiciary in Kenya. Earlier, the Registrar concerned took me around the court and introduced me to her staff and to the person in charge of the ‘Mediation Cell’.

    Loy, and his wife (who works in the same office) assisted me in ensuring that everything was in place for my next visit to Commonwealth of Dominica.  I thank them for their generous hospitality and assistance and hope that my visit has created stronger bonds with CLA.

    On 14th evening I landed in Dominica, for the third leg of my tour, I realised that there were a number of lawyers from different jurisdictions in the same flight coming to attend the Regional Conference of the Lawyers of the Eastern Caribbean States. The lady Vice-President of the Dominica Bar, Noelize N. Knight Didier, was at the Airport, to welcome the delegates and assist with the immigration process.  

    It was the 14th OECS Regional Lawyers Conference in the Commonwealth of Dominica, 15-17 September. The conference centre was located next to the house of the Prime Minister, Mr Roosevelt Skerrit, who set the ball in motion with his opening remarks along with the Chief Justice of Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Justice Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira.

    The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean State (OECS) Bar Association is a federation of Bar Associations of Nine Eastern Caribbean States with a Common Currency and a Common Supreme Court. The Nine States Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Grenada, Anguilla, Monserrat & Virgin Islands, are smaller but independent States. The OECS Bar Association came into existence 14 years ago. They meet annually for a conference and their Executive meet quarterly at various islands, both on rotation.

    The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has just completed 50 years of its existence. It has 6 Judges and among them 3 are women which include the Chief Justice. They sit in rotation in various Islands to hear Appeals from the respective High Courts.

    On the second day OECS formally recognised me and announced my attendance at the conference. Subsequently they invited me to observe the meeting of their Bar Council on afternoon of the 16th. At the meeting Thaddeus M. Antoine, the President of the OECS Bar Association formally introduced me to the council and asked me to give my welcome remarks.

    During the course of the second day there was concern about reports that another hurricane was developing and could hit Dominica. On 17th morning when everyone the word spread that the hurricane Maria was going to hit the next day.   

    Fortunately my flight to Grenada was not cancelled.  I only realised the severity when the hurricane Maria hit Dominica the next day.  It was devastating and even the roof of the Prime Minister's house was blown out and my flight on 18th to Port of Spain was cancelled.

    On the afternoon of the 18th the President of Grenada Bar Association, Lady Anande T. Joseph, came down to meet me.  I went to the High Court and I was introduced to other office bearers and some members of the Bar. I had a chance meeting with a senior lady lawyer who had just come out of a mediation. She briefly told me about the development of mediation in Grenada. After going through the court building facing the sea, I was taken to a hall for the purposes of our meeting. At  their request I spoke about CLA, and its activities, my own background and the judicial system prevailing in India.

    Later on Ruggles Ferguson, the past President of Grenada Bar and OECS Bar,  showed me around. Our council member from Caribbean, Peter Maynard, has regular contact with Mr Ferguson. There will be an Arbitration summit in the Bahamas in January and that will be an opportunity for me to meet with other lawyers in the area and also to make a short visit to Jamaica and Belize.

    On 19th I was taken to the Maurice Bishop International Airport in Grenada, where, after going through immigration I was taken to the VIP lounge. A little later I realised that the Prime Minister his Excellency Dr Keith Mitchell was in attendance.  I was introduced to him and during our brief meeting we discussed the Commonwealth, CLA, hurricanes, global warming and the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly which was in session.

    As circumstances forced me to spend an extra night in Grenada I only reached Guyana only on 19th night for the fifth and last leg of my tour to Caribbean and therefore the visit to Berbice Bar in Guyana on 19th afternoon was cancelled.

    I was able to visit the court in Georgetown where I met a number of lawyers and a sitting Judge of the High Court.  On the 20th September there was a dinner reception. The President, Kamal Ramkarran, Secretary Pauline Chase, Vice President and few other members of the Executive of the Guyana Bar Association were present.

    Earlier in the day meetings were arranged with the Prime Minister of Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Hon. Moses V. Nagamootoo.  During our meeting he recalled his association with the veteran cricketer Rohan Kanhai from Guyana. He also recalled our meeting last year when he came to Delhi to address the lawyers.

    Overall it was an excellent opportunity to interact with the many members of legal fraternity, its leaders, and develop a deeper understanding about the function of the Bar Associations and the judicial systems across the Caribbean and the challenges they face.

    All the Caribbean countries are independent Island States excepting Guyana, which is part of the South American continent.  They are all practising democracies with independent judiciary. The Eastern Caribbean countries have a common Supreme Court, so the judges of the Supreme Court go to various Islands on rotation to hear Appeals. This year it has celebrated its 50th anniversary. There is a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which serves the entire Caribbean. It is on par with the Privy Council with some exceptions where jurisdiction of Privy Council jurisdiction is still invoked.

    I am very much looking forward to meeting more of our members and colleagues across the Commonwealth during the next quarter.  I encourage professional colleagues to join CLA and become a part of the worldwide network of legal professionals.

    R. Santhanakrishnan


    The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is an international non-profit organisation which exists to promote and maintain the rule of law throughout the Commonwealth by ensuring that an independent and efficient legal profession, with the highest standards of ethics and integrity, serves the people of the Commonwealth. www.commonwealthlawyers.com

  • 20 Jun 2017 17:22 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    People often assume that government and public sector legal practice is jurisdiction centric. However, many of the issues confronting practitioners are common across jurisdictions, as I discovered through my involvement, over the years, with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA).

    The CLA is a body that seeks to, “uphold the rule of law, by encouraging exchanges between members of the profession, through projects, conferences and workshops, and by driving improvements in legal education.

    The CLA’s very existence and nature also facilitates friendships between members, where they can share their experiences and ideas to better serve the needs of their respective communities and jurisdictions.

    I first met Graham Leung at a CLA dinner in Kenya in 2007. Graham is a human rights lawyer and practitioner with regional and international experience. He is currently Secretary for Justice and Border Control for the Republic of Nauru. Graham has a special interest in the role of judges and lawyers in promoting the rule of law, democracy and good governance, especially for countries in transition.

    He invited me to travel to Nauru in May to deliver a series of continuing legal education and training seminars to government lawyers and officials. Never one to decline an invitation to talk and share ideas with lawyers in other parts of the world, I accepted.

    While we were initially expecting a small number of participants from the Department of Justice and Border Control, the turnout over the two days was three times the originally anticipated audience as representatives of other agencies became aware of the availability of the training sessions and chose to participate. despite the stunning warm weekend weather which could easily have limited attendance.  

    Topics formally covered in the seminar series were:

    • Ø  Current issues in procurement.
    • Ø  The who, what, when and why of contract.
    • Ø  Legal ethics and model litigant principles.
    • Ø  Contract negotiation skills and tactics.
    • Ø  Common commercial agreements.
    • Ø  Contract management, discussion and Q&A.

    Procurement is a constantly developing dynamic. It is a specialist field for lawyers and for procurement practitioners. Officials of the Republic of Nauru thought it would be beneficial for its people to provide training to its staff on current developments in a larger jurisdiction.

    The legislatively prescribed Procurement Handbook for the Republic of Nauru has provision for something called a Procurement Agent to have been appointed to handle much procurement on behalf of the Republic.

    In doing so, that methodology, to an extent, draws upon a UK precedent of the 19th century when Crown Agents were instituted to provide procurement services to certain British Colonies. With Colonies becoming independent over the years, they had a choice of whether to continue with the Procurement Agent concept or to establish their own procurement capacity. However, the methodology has been adapted to the 21st-century. Reasons include the cost expense and time involved in developing a sophisticated procurement process for any sovereign entity.

    Also, for a number of smaller island countries, there was recognised benefit in what might be described as pooling of procurement through a Procurement Agent so as to obtain better prices.

    As the Republic of Nauru has developed its internal procurement capacity is often placing less reliance upon the former Procurement Agent model.

    Other aspects of procurement discussed included the use of the procurement system to further social policy, such as greater involvement of indigenous suppliers into the chain of supply and the potential impact of the implementation of the recently promulgated ISO 20400 standard  to do with building sustainability into the chain of supply.

    Possible impact of blockchain technology on procurement was discussed, particularly in context of potential risks to sovereign entities of that type technology.

    We also discussed the availability of online training in some fields relevant to government and administrative law and government procurement, as well as issues to do with overseas legal qualifications, when they will and will not be recognised in NSW. The availability of online training, of course can be much more cost effective and immediate as it avoids the not insignificant cost and inconvenience of travel and staff spending time away from Nauru and since my lectures in Nauru I have facilitated access to various training sites.

    As was to be expected from the interaction with other Commonwealth Lawyers, it was a great experience to be able to share ideas with about 35 fellow Commonwealth colleagues. In addition to the Nauruan lawyers and officials attending, those present included people from Fiji, Australia, USA, and Nigeria.

    We in the larger and more developed countries here, from time to time, about threats to smaller nations of rising sea levels. Whilst in naru, staying in a hotel room only two meters above the ocean made it clear to the writer how perilous the existence many of our Pacific neighbours is, with the challenge of rising sea levels and climate change. Indeed, we discussed the need, in context of Government Procurement for the Republic of Nauru for performance criteria of suppliers to touch upon and implement policies capable, long-term, of lessening adverse ecological impact of production methodologies, as may be relevant to lessening rising sea levels.

    Whilst sharing common problems and issues, the day-to-day differences between practice in Nauru and Australia could hardly be greater than they are.  Scarcity of public sector resources in the sense of access to current law and capacity to deal with issues is, to an extent, a shared problem, though in jurisdictions as small as the Republic of Nauru the issue is more palpable.

    However, what became obvious was that lawyers and officials in both countries share a very real concern about how the rule of law is best supported with increasingly scarce resources.

    Of particular significance is that, in a small jurisdiction, there is a significantly higher potential for personal and professional conflicts of interest to arise.

    This led to a discussion of how lawyers might best maintain professional independence in a very small jurisdiction, where everyone is known to everyone.

    Whilst lawyers have, for centuries, unable to operate as employees of corporations and Government, the important issue is to recognise the need for them to be able to exercise professional independence and judgement.

    It is not simply for lawyers to facilitate at all costs.

    However, that is not to say that lawyers might not, in response to a particular proposal with which they have legal policy concerns, rather than simply say “no” outline their legal concerns and say that in light of those concerns and the law/policy another way of achieving the desired outcome which does comply with the law may be available.

    Options for dealing with perceived conflicts included discussing of the issues with more senior practitioners or, in the bureaucracy, one’s relevant supervisor and recognising that, both for lawyers and bureaucrats, their role is to provide advice as best they can. It is for those charged with responsibility for implementation who are to determine whether and to what extent they will accept the advice of lawyers and bureaucrats.

    Visiting and presenting in Nauru raised interesting questions for me about how and why things are done a certain way in much larger jurisdictions. This included, for the writer, whether the manner in which larger jurisdictions and world financing organisations provide funding by way of grant a fair, reasonable and appropriate.

    I can see significant room for improvement in how larger jurisdictions share, interact and contract with smaller jurisdictions better.

    Greg Ross

    June 2017 

  • 03 Mar 2017 15:18 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) has been monitoring the situation in Cameroon through the Latimer House Working Group.  There is great concern about the unfolding crisis in Cameroon and the conflict with its roots.  Civil unrest arises at the flash point of language. 

    Cameroon has French and English as the principal languages and the Common Law and Civil legal systems co-exist. Protests have arisen in recent years on the issue of language which, amongst other things, led to the establishment of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) an organisation to promote English speaking (Anglophone) rights in Cameroon through non-violent strike action, and protests, and other activities to support the English speaking Cameroonians.

    CACSC since been banned by the Government and its senior members, President, Barrister, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, and its Secretary General, Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, were arrested under the mantle of terrorism offences, rebellion against the State, civil unrest and breach of the Constitution. 

    The CLA has heard reports of harassment and arrests of lawyers, who have had to stay in hiding or even flee Cameroon, due to growing difference with the Government over the future of Anglophone Cameroon and CLA issued an joint statement with the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) and Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) on the 8th February (see our home page  www.commonwealthlawyers.com)

    This activity evinces a substantial breach of the Latimer House Principles to which Cameroon are a party, especially if terrorism laws are used to suppress freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the right to express opinions in a public discussion.

    Our colleagues in the international legal bodies have expressed grave concern about the current situation in the Cameroon and are closely monitoring it.  We understand that groups from the Cameroon are lobbying the official Commonwealth seeking support and assistance.

    I have previously commented on my concerns over the increasing problem of the dangers to lawyers in the daily work. Lawyers should have the same right to freedom of expression and association as any other citizens in their execution of their profession.  

    Article 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/RoleOfLawyers.aspx   

    We understand the trial of the four lawyers has been adjourned till the 23rd of March, 2017 we continue to monitor the situation.

    The CLA works to continually uphold the rights of lawyers throughout the Commonwealth to practise their profession. 

    Alexander Ward

    CLA President

    03 March 2017 

  • 08 Oct 2016 22:40 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The CLA has been a supporter in a case involving the constitution of the Commonwealth country of Belize and section 53 of the Criminal Code which essentially criminalised homosexuality since 2010.

    The case was pursued by a Mr Caleb Orozco and the CLA was an interested party in the litigation along with the Human Dignity Trust and the International Commission of Jurists. The other interested party was UNIBAN which is a voluntary organisation representing LGBTI people.

    Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code provided that:

    “Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.”

    The accepted statutory interpretation of carnal intercourse against the order of nature included the criminalisation of anal sex between two consenting adult males in private.

    The Belize Constitution recognised personal privacy as well as human dignity and the privacy of the home.

    The matter proceeded before the Honourable Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin who  made a declaration that s.53 of the Belize Criminal Code contravened the Constitution to the extent that it applied to carnal intercourse against the order of nature between persons.

    The evidence before His Honour demonstrated that Mr Orozco had been discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation.  There was no evidence to show that such discrimination was justifiable.

    In Belize, the Supreme Court has the power to advise the language of an existing law to bring it into conformity with the Constitution.  This law was in place prior to the Constitution.  The challenge in the case was that the restriction to consensual acts between adults in private.  The challenge did not extend to non-consensual acts, nor sexual acts with children and sexual acts with animals.

    As a result of the case the law was written down to make it clear that the section did not apply to consensual acts between adults in private.

    Belize is therefore the latest in a number of Commonwealth countries that had repealed or written down the anti LGBTI laws that were brought in under colonial rule across the Commonwealth.

    We are especially pleased by the comments in the judgment that the CLA has an “impressive track record of intervention in major human rights cases worldwide”, and we thank the dedicated lawyers who assisted in the presentation of the case on our behalf.

    Interested parties who were also involved in the litigation included the Roman Catholic Church of Belize, the Belize Church of England Corporate Body and the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches. 

    The court heard evidence that criminalisation of homosexuality and the associated stigmatisation perpetuated systemic discrimination and violence.  It also had an affect on serious health issues.  The stigma of homosexuality would cause a reluctance on a person with HIV to seek treatment, thus leading to an increase in the prevalence of HIV.

    In my own jurisdiction of Australia, there will be a plebiscite taken of the nation (providing enabling legislation passes the Parliament) with respect to same sex marriage.  I have no doubt that the churches will be involved in raising their concerns with that.  If same sex marriage is introduced in Australia I am of the understanding that churches will not be forced to conduct such proceedings (indeed in my own jurisdiction some churches will not conduct wedding ceremonies for people who have previously been divorced).

    However it is a much more serious matter to for the churches to try and enshrine the criminalisation of homosexuality.

    His Honour the Chief Justice noted the respect and influence that the churches in Belize have. He also noted the acknowledgement of the supremacy of God in the preamble to the Constitution.  However, Belize is a secular state with a written Constitution which provides for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedom.

    I noted the Criminal Code criminalised homosexuality, and it also carried a very significant penalty of imprisonment for ten years.

    I find it difficult to see any justification for a view to be taken - and sought to be enforced by law - that activities of consenting adults in private should render them liable to imprisonment for ten years. I am frankly astounded that the churches would fight to enshrine that law.

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