Lasting peace and the
prosperity that comes with it cannot be achieved without justice, the
Commonwealth Secretary-General has declared, during a keynote speech in the
Patricia Scotland was
addressing the International Criminal Court (ICC) as guest of honour for the
opening of the new judicial year.
The distinguished lawyer and former Attorney General in the United Kingdom explained how a fair justice system is an indispensable precondition for democracy, adding that systems must be trustworthy and accessible if they are to be effective.
She said: “That is why building strong public institutions capable of delivering sustainable, democratic development, has always been central to the work of the Commonwealth.”
She added: “Whether
justice is delivered through the International Criminal Court,
domestic courts or other mechanisms, lasting peace is virtually
impossible to attain without justice.
“Our Charter expresses it
clearly – international peace and the rule of law are essential to
the progress and prosperity of all.”
She highlighted how
countries can enshrine recognition of international law in their domestic
legislation as an important step towards increasing access to justice.
Praising the important role
in promoting peace and security that the ICC plays, she said:
“Commonwealth nations seek to realise their commitment to increasing
access to justice. We realise that we need to keep in mind the
victims of offences such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and
“The ICC was not designed to
hear from all victims of these crimes, so it is crucial for domestic
justice systems to be equipped to provide some form of redress.
“The inclusion of
international crimes in domestic law represents an important step in this
process, to be followed then by effective prosecution.”
The Secretary-General outlined
how the Commonwealth assists member countries in meeting their international
The Rome Statute, the treaty
adopted in 1998 that established the ICC, has been ratified by 36 of the 53
Commonwealth countries – more than 60 per cent of members.
The Commonwealth has
developed a model law to assist further implementation of the Rome
Statute, while extensive experience in legislative drafting and law reform can
also help countries include international crimes in their domestic laws.
The Secretary-General also
spoke on other elements of the Commonwealth’s longstanding programme of work to
strengthen public institutions.
This includes curbing
corruption through the development of anti-corruption benchmarks that will be
presented to heads of government for endorsement at their next
meeting in Rwanda in June this year.
She added: “The
benchmarks address the importance of combatting corruption in
the court system and enabling the judiciary to operate
effectively and independently.”