• 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

    President 


    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.


  • 15 Aug 2016 21:44 | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    The CLA covers the interests of 53 countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations.  The circumstances for the legal profession and the rule of law in those countries vary enormously.  Even so our laws have similar heritage which is enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter: upholding the rule of law and everything necessary to do that. 

    United Nations Sustainable Goal 16 states “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”  

    It is a fundamental right of people to have access to law and it is an equally fundamental right that lawyers should be free to assist their clients, especially so when that may be unpopular generally, or at odds with Government views, or in any other circumstances.

    One country where the lawyers must be particularly courageous to carry out their work is Pakistan, and from my experience over the last 30 years, they are very courageous.

    The President of the Baluchistan Bar Association, Mr Bilal Anwar Kasi was assassinated in Quetta on the 8th August.  He was driving in his vehicle when an assassin on a motorbike killed him.  Mr Anwar’s body was taken to a hospital in Quetta where a large group of lawyers mourning his murder, as well as journalists and others, had gathered at the emergency department to accompany his body on its journey to its final resting place.

    As they were there showing their respect, a suicide bomber with an explosive belt detonated his device causing massive destruction, death and injury.  The news report from Pakistan referred to an entire generation of lawyers being wiped out in the close knit legal community.

    Various terrorist organisations have claimed responsibility and, more worryingly for our colleagues, said they will continue to carry out such attacks.

    Lawyers acting in the course of their business or mourning the death of their colleagues are not fighting in a war or suppressing people, or posing any threat that needs to be dealt with.  Indeed mostly it is the lawyers who would be representing people charged with terrorist offences who are brought before the court.

    CLA has often reflected upon and made representations concerning past anti-terrorism law where the balance between their necessity and human rights can be blurred, increasingly so. 

    We record here most emphatically our outrage and disgust at the cowardly and perplexing attack.  We also give our deepest sympathy for the families and friends and colleagues of all those who were murdered.

    Our colleagues in Pakistan have been attacked in the past and have always come back to continue to practice their vital role in the justice system.  They will again, more difficult as it becomes, and have our very sincere respect for their courage.

    Pakistani lawyers staged a nationwide strike on Tuesday after dozens of colleagues were slain in a suicide bombing that killed at least 70 people at a hospital in the South Western city of Quetta.

    “How weak and pathetic are these people who target hospitals, where women and children, where patients, go to get treatment?” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Pakistan’s attorney general, said on Tuesday at a protest outside the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad. Supreme Court Bar President Ali Zafar called for the government to do more to protect lawyers.

    Alexander Ward

    August 2016


  • 18 May 2016 14:43 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Following the Commonwealth Lawyers Conference in Hong Kong in 2009, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association adopted and published a policy on the death penalty.

    The policy is clear cut in that the CLA is opposed to the death penalty as a form of punishment in all instances.

    We put upon ourselves a commitment to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in Commonwealth jurisdictions wherever it remains as an available sentence.

    The death penalty is always an emotive issue.  It has been abolished in many of the Commonwealth countries as any form of punishment but still remains in use in a significant number of Commonwealth countries and in some instances, has been recently reintroduced after suspension. 

    It remains an available penalty in the world’s most powerful countries including the USA and China. 

    I was present at a meeting of the various Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth when one of the Attorneys was advocating for the use of the death penalty on this proposition: ‘Why should prisoners who have committed crimes be kept alive to be fed and housed at the expense of the State? ‘

    How far does one take such a proposition?

    Of course there are heinous crimes where one considers the most severe punishment should be appropriate.  However, if you say it would be an appropriate penalty for some crimes, it then becomes an issue of what is considered to be appropriate? 

    Our advocacy on this position has recently come to the fore with cases arising in Bangladesh of Motiur Rahman Nizami (Executed on the 11 May) & Mir Quasem Ali (awaiting execution) who had convictions handed down against them by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal.

    The death penalty is now in contemplation for them.  The Supreme Court has dismissed their appeals against conviction notwithstanding an acknowledgment that there were concerns with regards to the process that occurred in the proceedings.

    The Tribunal was established in 2009 to investigate and prosecute suspects of crimes committed in 1971 during what is described as the Bangladesh Liberation War. 

    Human Rights Watch has criticised the Tribunal for issues of fairness and transparency and alleged harassment of lawyers representing the accused persons and their witnesses.

    Given the absolute severity of the penalty, even if one approves of capital punishment, it has no place where there is the merest suggestion of any irregularity in proceedings or the procedures leading up to the proceedings.

    In Pakistan, a moratorium on executions was in place since 2008, but following a cowardly attack on the Army Public School in December 2014 by terrorists with extensive loss of life (mostly children) the moratorium was lifted.  The lifting of the moratorium was connected with the decision to execute terrorists, with the establishment of military courts to expedite such matters.  Since lifting the moratorium, various organisations have estimated well over 300 executions have taken place in that country.

    I certainly accept that the gutless murdering of children would give rise to calls for the most severe penalty. But the use has gone beyond that particular instance. Establishing a tribunal to deal with these matters expeditiously causes great alarm. If the death penalty is an available punishment why oust the existing Courts with their legal oversight to ensure fairness and propriety?

    I note with great concern that our colleagues in Malaysia are urging the Singaporean Government to grant clemency for convicted murderer Kho Jabing, a Malaysian from Sarawak. It is reported that he was charged with murder in connexion with a robbery. Initially sentenced to hang in 2010, he appealed (twice) and in 2013 a sentence of life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane was imposed. This sentence was then appealed by the prosecution.  Singapore Court of Appeal imposed the death penalty on a 3/2 split decision in January 2015.

    An appeal from that decision was dismissed, with the Appeal Court reported as finding:

    “Finality is an integral part of justice. It would be impossible to have a functioning legal system if all legal decisions were subject to constant and unceasing challenge”

    The use of the term ‘finality’ in relation to death penalty cases demonstrates the very need to allow for Judicial review, especially if the sentencing court was not unanimous.

    In keeping with our clear policy, we join the call for clemency in Kho Jabing’s case.

    The CLA acknowledges the sovereignty of all Governments.  One can certainly have a sense of the most severe justice in response to gutless acts of terrorism where innocent victims are targeted.  However the CLA is committed to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in Commonwealth jurisdictions wherever it remains as an available sentence.

    If the death penalty is an available sentence in legal systems where there can be any concern as to the validity or propriety of proceedings, then those Commonwealth countries must be subject to urgent scrutiny by the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth has an obligation for the promotion of the administration of justice and the protection of human rights.  These are in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Harare Declaration of 1991, the Latimer House Principles of the Commonwealth 1998 and the Commonwealth Charter of 2013.

     Alexander Ward


  • 20 Dec 2015 20:08 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Victims: should we be taking better care of them?

    As we head towards the festive season and all the chores that it brings, accidents are hopefully not on the top of our list.

    None of us want or expect to have an accident nevertheless how we deal with accidents and the compensation of victims is as important to upholding the rule of law as any of the other laws which govern our modern societies.

    The entitlement to compensation arises if somebody has suffered a loss as a consequence of the tortious act of another.  If the person can establish that he has been wronged, and then establishes his loss, he is entitled to compensation.

    In my view any attack upon rights and entitlements can present a challenge to the rule of law and it stuck me while reading that in a recent review the UK Government proposed a raft of changes including restrictions on personal injury compensation, which is concerning.

    With the increase of the use of motor vehicles injuries arising from them have become far more commonplace.  As a means of protecting the injured victims from other people’s negligence, compulsory third party (CTP) schemes have been introduced by Governments in many parts of the world who run, or oversee the schemes.

    A person injured in a motor vehicle accident is no less a victim than someone injured by an unprovoked assault or other event as a result of which they suffer an injury.  They have an entitlement to compensation to the extent to which they were not responsible for their injuries.  In the case of motor vehicle accidents, to say that such a person is not entitled to compensation simply because the mechanism for injury involved the tortious use of a car is difficult to support. 

    Why do we not trust the courts to measure the extent of compensation?  If the injuries are minor then the compensation awarded will be accordingly minor.  A person should not be stigmatized as unworthy purely by measurement of the extent or type of injury. Compensation is not awarded if a person is not actually injured and in my 30 years’ experience in the field (more often acting for insurers) it did not appear that people would, generally speaking, intentionally suffer an injury simply to receive a financial windfall.

    Any erosion of the rights of victims should be carefully scrutinised.  We can only try to implement changes to the conditions and to improve safety for these victims but this is not best served by curtailing genuine compensation in the event of accidents. There should be a significant and compelling justification to do that.

    When I talk about victims I am quickly reminded that it is a broad term and of the ways in which the peoples of the Commonwealth may become victims through car accidents as above but also through crime, or as victims of war, hatred, and terrorism. 

    This week I came across an article describing the 20 year anniversary of the murder of Philip Lawrence, a headmaster of a boy’s school in London, who was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight outside his school.  Mr Lawrence was one of an increasing number of victims of knife crime, a problem shared by many of our Commonwealth member states including my own.  

    Knife crime is particularly prevalent amongst the young and many of these young people may also be victims of a culture of fear, bullying or a gang culture the leads them to carry knives in the first place. They also deserve our help and support to change their circumstances and forge a better future.  Mr Lawrence’s widow chose to address the problem at the root cause turning young people away from gangs by starting and award programme for positive contribution of young people between the ages of 11-20. 

    In Australia we are saddened to see an increasing number of young people become victims of radicalisation by terrorist groups who turn the social media tools intended for positive expression into weapons which breed dissatisfaction and draw our youth into a culture of violence.  The pointless violence was demonstrated in the Lindt Café siege and killings in Sydney one year ago.

    As I noted at the beginning of this article, when we think about how people come to be victims it is broader than just a single cause but how we deal with them under all circumstances should be even handed and appropriate. Any less than this is a cause for concern and does both the victim and us a disservice.

    We are guided by the Latimer House Principles and the Commonwealth Charter which set out the objectives and good governance guides for all the member states.  CLA remain committed to those objectives.  

    May I wish you and your families a peaceful and joyous festive season and good wishes for the New Year.

    Alexander Ward is President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and a qualified barrister who practises at Edmund Barton Chambers in South Australia.


  • 23 Nov 2015 20:03 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From the President's Desk

    Special Edition - Paris Bombings

    This week Europe remains in shock at the senseless loss of life caused by the recent incidents in Paris but we are all too quickly and tragically reminded that terrorism respects no territorial boundaries and those who carry out acts of terror do so dispassionately and indiscriminately. To the terrorist humanity is an undiscovered country.  

    As I write this I am reminded that the victims of terrorism are not just those who pay the ultimate price of losing their life but the hundreds of people whose lives are changed for ever by acts of terror, of the displaced and unsettled men, women, and children who are left injured, both physically and emotionally, and to the many who are made homeless or stateless.

    Our thoughts go out to the people of Nigeria following the incident in Maiduguri market committed by two young women who took both their lives and killed and injured a number of others, to the hostages of the Mali hotel siege, and the family of those killed in the church massacre in Charleston, and to all those who suffer at the hands of terrorism.  

    In my last post I talked about the importance of freedom of expression and how often the driving forces for policy change is an act of terrorism. Governments must now tackle the problems of the new threats and seemingly random attacks.  By example we have seen the recent reaction of the UK government who announced on 19th November their intention to increase the financial commitment to the UK security forces with a view to toughening security measures for the further protection of its citizens and a unanimous vote but the UN Council to act against the so called "Islamic State"

    At the same time Commonwealth governments must balance reaction against the reality of the thousands of refugees on their borders, many escaping brutal regimes. UK Prime Minister David Cameron in his recent Munich speech said  "A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone.  It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them.  Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality.  It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things”. 

    It is also vitally important that incursions on liberty which societies will accept in extraordinary circumstances will be used only for those purposes.

    The difficulty in reflecting upon these events not a recent phenomonon but one over which in the past years there has been a lack of obvious purpose for these terrorist acts. Countries within the Commonwealth and the world strive to find a ways to deal with the problems at their roots, as to what the causes are that create the individuals who consider it their right to indiscriminately kill innocent people, without regard to their ethnicity or their religious beliefs. 

    Alas, we see Governments being forced to deal with the problems in the aftermath of attacks with greatly increased security measures, anxieties as to otherwise fair and just immigration policies, and incursions on civilian privacy as a necessary means to try and prevent the violence.

    In these difficult times, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association remains committed to upholding the rule of law, the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and the Latimer House Principles.

    Alexander Ward

    23 November 2015



  • 17 Sep 2015 19:58 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Members, I am delighted to be able to post this note on our new website and trust that you are as impressed with it as I am as a way of getting forward information on behalf of the CLA.

    My home jurisdiction is South Australia, in Australia. 

    South Australia was the first jurisdiction in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality forty years ago on 2nd October 1975.  The criminalisation came about with the founding of the colony of South Australia in the 1830s and the imposition of the English law, much as every other country colonised and forming part of the British Empire, now the Commonwealth of Nations.

    The decriminalisation of homosexuality was a tremendous milestone for my jurisdiction and has us in the position in 2015 where it is inconceivable to the general population that homosexuality would be a crime.  That is not to say there is a complete removal of discrimination, but compared to other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, the LGBTI community is respected and (relatively) free of discrimination – but there is always more work to do.

    A catalyst for the change in South Australia was the killing of Law lecturer, Dr George Duncan on 10 May 1972.  Dr Duncan was a lecturer at the University of Adelaide (where I obtained my degree).  Dr Duncan was thrown into the River Torrens which runs through Adelaide near the University precinct.  He drowned. The allegation was that this was done by members of the police force. A senseless, wasteful killing in the pursuit of “poofter bashing”.

    According to an excellent biography prepared by Mr T Rees, the case gained nationwide publicity back in 1972 because it involved “the broader issue of homosexuality and attitudes towards it”.  On 15th September 2015 The University recently set up a memorial tribute to Dr Duncan and to mark the 40th year anniversary of the repeal of the laws, and this was opened by Commonwealth Eminent Person and dear friend of the CLA, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

    Homosexuality is now decriminalised in all jurisdictions within Australia, and a number of other Commonwealth countries.  The decriminalisation of LGBTI practices is a matter that the CLA continues to have under discussion, from the very point of the classification of such behaviour between consenting adults in private as criminal, to the proportionality of punishment. It is an issue the CLA placed firmly on its agenda at the Hong Kong CLC in 2008.

    The purpose of this blog will be to provide updates on activities of the CLA and our advocacy over all of the regions.  I therefore welcome any contributions from CLA members of particular issues in your home jurisdictions or issues of which we should be mindful on a wider basis.

    Our cover photo: (L to R) Barrister A Durkin; The Hon M Kirby AC CMG; Alexander Ward President CLA; and Dean of Adelaide Law School Prof John Williams at Dr Duncan commemoration on Friday 11 September 2015

    Note: all submissions should be addressed to membership@commonwealthlawyers.com with the subject line "for CLA blog" all submissions must follow our conditions for use of the site and will be moderated by the CLA web administrator.


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