The Commonwealth Latimer House Working Group



Members of the Latimer House Working Group with the Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Scotland QC

The Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the accountability of the relationship between the three branches of Government 

In June 1998, a group of distinguished parliamentarians, judges, lawyers and legal academics drafted guidelines which would provide an operational manual of good practice with regard to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth and the commitments contained in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration and Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme. The guidelines were further refined and endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government in November 2003 as the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government (the Principles). 

The Principles provide an effective framework for the implementation of the Commonwealth's fundamental values of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law and became an integral part of these values following agreement by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in 2005.

The Principles essentially provide a road map for democracy and good governance through their emphasis on the separation of powers between the three branches of government as guarantors of the rule of law, promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and the entrenchment of good governance based on the highest standards of honesty, probity and accountability. The ability of citizens to hold their governments to account, in addition to an independent and efficient judiciary, reduces the prevalence of corruption and has a significant impact on transparency and improved governance.

The CLA has been actively engaged in the promotion and implementation of the Principles, most notably through the Nairobi Plan of Action for Africa, and continues to work towards strengthening and developing the Principles further and is a member of the Latimer House Working Group. Read the guidelines


Commonwealth Working Group on Media and Governance

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is pleased to participate in the Commonwealth Working Group on Media and Governance convened by the Commonwealth Journalists Association its members include the Commonwealth Secretariat Rule of Law Division (ComSec); Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA); Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS); the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI).


In 2012 the Commonwealth identified Cyber-crime as one of the leading areas of concern for Commonwealth states.  Hon. Life President Mr Colin Nicholls QC, was approached to lead the Commonwealth Working Group on Cyber-crime. 

The report of the group was accepted by the Ministers at the Law Ministers' Meeting in Botswana in 2014 read more:


Blaphemy Legislation in the Commonwealth

Project Leader:  Alexander Ward - Immediate Past President (Australia)

In 2012 CLA identified some concerns regarding the increasing use of blasphemy legislation in the Commonwealth and commenced a project to examine how legislation was used as a remedy by courts in Malta, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Australia

The project was supported by a number of young voluntary authors.  In 2013 CLA sought further assistance to complete the work on Pakistan. 


The Death Penalty

In 2009 the Commonwealth Lawyers Association published is policy on the death penalty.

Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) - Policy on the Death Penalty

The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) is opposed to the death penalty as a form of punishment in all instances.

Whilst acknowledging the sovereignty of all governments, the CLA is committed to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in Commonwealth jurisdictions wherever it remains as an available sentence.

It is the position of the CLA that regardless of the nature of the crime an individual is alleged to have committed, the nationality of that individual, or the proposed method of execution, no individual should be subjected to the death penalty.

The CLA opposes all forms of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The CLA is committed to working with its members, local, regional and international legal and human rights organisations and governmental entities to abolish the death penalty for capital and all other offences.

In 2011 Professor William Schabas presented his paper "The Commonwealth and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" commissioned by CLA to the meeting of Commonwealth Senior Officials of the Law Minister (SOLM) in London. 

The Australian Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade: Inquiry into Australia's Advocacy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty 2015 

In October, 2015 the CLA made a submission to the committee. Ron Heinrich AM, past President of the CLA, is due to address the committee in November 2015.  A copy of the submission may be seen in our latest news section. On 5 May, 2016, the Australian government published its final report. read the report

Indigenous Land Rights 

This project is in the early stages.  More information to follow. 

Freedom of Expression 

On the 20th October, 2015 the CLA together with the CJA, CMJA and COSW, presented a joint paper to Commonwealth Committee of the Whole in a pre CHOGM meeting for Civil Society Organisation arranged by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The paper entitle "Freedom of Expression: Rights and Responsibilites" will be noted in the final commumnique of the meeting.  read the paper

"Magna Carta to Commonwealth Charter" celebrating the influence of Magna Carta throughout the Commonwealth  

In 2015 the CLA, CMJA and CLEA made a joint application to the Magna Carta 800 Committee for one of several grants offered for projects focusing on the Magna Carta celebrations.   Following a successful application in the 2nd round of the grants, The "Magna Carta to Commonwealth Charter" travelling  exhibition was born.  The aim of the exhibition was to look at major landmarks in the law which influence us today between the inception of Magna Carta and the signing of the Commonwealth Charter by HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

With assistance from our colleagues across the Commonwealth the exhibition was launched on the 12th April, 2015, at the 19th Commonwealth Law Conference in Glasgow and travelled to five Commonwealth countries finishing its journey in New Zealand.    

Mr Alexander Ward, CLA’s new President from Australia,  Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale, Caribbean Regional Vice President  of the CMJA and Chief Justice of Turks and Caicos, and Prof David  McQuoid-Mason, President of the CLEA from South Africa jointly cut  the ribbon to officially open the Exhibition. 

The Exhibition was opened in the presence of the Minister for Community, Safety and Legal Affairs, The Rt. Hon Paul Wheelhouse, the immediate past President of the CLA, English solicitor, Mark Stephens, and the representative of Glasgow, Bailie Jonathan Findlay as well as representatives from over 56 jurisdictions in the Commonwealth and beyond attending the Conference. The Exhibition then made its way to Osgoode Hall in Toronto,  Canada where it was on display from 4-15 May 2015 before travelling to Barbados, Malawi, Malaysia and then on to Wellington, New Zealand.

 The Chief Justice shares a Magna Carta history lesson with local school children 

   when the exhibition visits Barbados. 


We would like to thank the following who were responsible for the success of the tour:

  • Magna Cart 800 Committee for their grant 
  •  our sponsor Lexis Nexis who assisted with the build costs

Our Hosts

  •  Osgoode Hall, Canada
  • The Supreme Court of Barbados
  • The High Court of Malawi
  • The Supreme Court of Malaysia
For more information:   

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