Statement / Statement regarding proposed legislation in Samoa


Whereas the CLA, after:

– Recalling that the CLA, together with other legal organisations accredited by the Commonwealth Secretariat and forming the Latimer House Working Group, have produced the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the three branches of Government endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at Abuja in 2003;

– Noting section 4 of the Latimer House Principles which states:

“An independent impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice”;

Further noting reference in the Commonwealth Charter (adopted on 19 December 2012 and officially signed 11th March 2013) to the Rule of Law which states:

“We believe in the rule of law as an essential protection for the people of the Commonwealth and as an assurance of limited and accountable government. In particular we support an independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary and recognise that an independent, effective and competent legal system is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice”.

– Further noting the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary which were adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held at Milan from 26 August to 6 September 1985 and endorsed by General Assembly resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985 and which state:

“The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary”. 

Expresses concern that, if passed, the Proposed Bills:

– would grant the Judicial Services Commission of Samoa, an unelected body comprising of a majority of appointees of the Executive, unlimited power to dismiss judges of the Supreme Court, which would undermine the independence of the Judiciary;

– would remove the Constitutional protection of the salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court and allow for their salaries to be administratively varied, which would adversely affect the security of tenure of the Judiciary and also subject the Judiciary to potential external influence or interference, particularly in determining disputes involving the Government of Samoa;

– would establish a separate and parallel court system – the Land and Titles Court – which will remove the primacy of the Supreme Court in the administration of justice of Samoa and prevent the Supreme Court from exercising supervisory scrutiny over the decisions of the Land and Titles Court, and;

– would allow for decisions made by the new Land and Titles Court that impinges on the constitutional liberties of Samoans to be insulated from judicial review by the Supreme Court, which is tantamount to a denial of access to justice and a deprivation of fundamental rights.

Now the CLA:

Urges and calls upon parliamentarians in the Parliament of Samoa to: –

– uphold and respect the Latimer House Principles and ensure that any legislation respects the independence of the Judiciary and the legal profession; and

– uphold and respect the Commonwealth Charter; 

– engage in real and meaningful public and stake-holder consultations, and 

– uphold and preserve the Rule of Law.

Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)
26th May 2020

To view the original statement in full, click here.