Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said lasting peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without justice in the society.
“Whether justice is delivered through the International Criminal Court, domestic courts or other mechanisms, lasting peace is virtually impossible to attain without justice,” she said while delivering a keynote speech at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the opening of the new judicial year.“Our Charter expresses it clearly – international peace and the rule of law are essential to the progress
and prosperity of all.”
The 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.”
The Commonwealth Secretary General highlighted how countries can enshrine recognition of international law in their domestic legislation as an important step towards increasing access to justice, according to a press release from Commonwealth yesterday.
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 genocide.“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,” said the Commonwealth Secretary General and outlined how the Commonwealth assists member countries in meeting their international obligations.
She said 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.