THE Commonwealth says lasting peace cannot be achieved without justice.
Delivering a keynote speech at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Secretary General Patricia Scotland said justice was a key ingredient to democracy.
Scotland spoke as guest of honour at the opening of the new judicial year.
“Lasting peace and the prosperity that comes with it cannot be achieved without justice. That is why building strong public institutions capable of delivering sustainable, democratic development, has always been central to the work of the Commonwealth,” she said yesterday. “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.”
Scotland, who is also the United Kingdom’s former attorney general, explained how a fair justice system was an indispensable precondition for democracy.
She said systems should be trustworthy and accessible if they were to be effective.
“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,’’ Scotland said.
“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.”
She outlined how the Commonwealth assisted member countries in meeting their international obligations.
Scotland explained other elements of the Commonwealth’s longstanding programme of work to strengthen public institutions.
“The benchmarks address the importance of combatting corruption in the court system and enabling the judiciary to operate effectively and independently,” said Scotland.
The Rome Statute, the treaty adopted in 1998 that established the ICC, has been ratified by 36 of the 53 Commonwealth countries, representing 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.