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21.10.2005 General News

C'wealth Law Ministers issue communique

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Accra, Oct 21, GNA - At the close of their three-day deliberations, the Commonwealth Law Ministers issued a 33-point communiqu=E9, which among other things, called for the adoption of the United Nations Resolution on victims of crime and abuse of power. They stated that, "frequently their families, and others who aid them were subjected to loss, damage or injury and that they may, in addition, suffer hardship when assisting in the prosecution of offenders".

The meeting reaffirmed the principles that such victims must be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their personal dignity.

It called on member countries to consider the implementation of the measures designed to give practical effect to these Principles, in particular for serious crime.

The Ministers also agreed that they would give consideration to the passage of legislation that would assist in the realisation of adherence to the Basic Principles.

They further agreed that national consideration should be given to the development of appropriate mechanisms designed to provide assistance to the victims and recognised that the precise form that such mechanisms could take must remain a matter for national decision, taking into account economic, social and cultural norms of each member country.

The Law Ministers welcomed the work on "Juvenile Justice", which had already been undertaken by the Commonwealth Secretariat and asked that the Secretariat should explore the issues further, drawing in particular on the experience of developing countries and including issues concerning the child as a witness.

The meeting encouraged the Commonwealth Secretariat to continue to support member countries in complying with the United Nations Convention and to bring a further paper on good practice in juvenile justice to their next meeting.

The Ministers welcomed the development of the Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII), which is an internet research facility providing free access to legal information from all Commonwealth countries.

The meeting encouraged countries to co-operate in the development of CommonLII by providing, to the extent possible, access to their legal materials, including legislation, case law and law reform reports and asked the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division to continue work in this field.

The Division should also give advice and assistance on the development of appellate court structures and systems; reviewing bills of rights in Commonwealth Constitutions; and capacity building in establishing sound constitutional structures.

It recognised the importance of enacting and enforcing laws for the achievement of gender equality and resolved to play their part in the implementation of the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality.

Having heard from the Law Ministers of a number of Commonwealth Land-locked States, which had not yet become parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and endorsed the efforts of the Commonwealth Secretariat to sensitise member countries to the immediate need to accede to UNCLOS.

The Secretariat was tasked to encourage both Land-locked States and their coastal neighbouring States to utilise the provisions of UNCLOS, to foster relations and recognise the benefits of entering into regional arrangements for access to the sea. The Law Ministers agreed that any further consideration would be assisted by a more balanced analysis of the issues by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Ministers, having heard testimony about the successful use of civil recovery provisions, agreed to endorse the draft Model Law. They welcomed a proposal developed by their Senior Officials for the further enhancement of the effectiveness of legal co-operation in criminal matters in the Commonwealth by the establishment of a Commonwealth Network of Contact Persons.

The main purpose of the Network would be to facilitate access to practical information on the requirements and procedures of a country to which a request for assistance would be made.

They asked the Commonwealth Secretariat to review the intra-arrangements for the recognition and enforcement of money-judgements, which were seen as obsolete having regard to developments in recent decades.

The Law Ministers resolved that Senior Officials and Commonwealth Secretariat should examine the development of appropriate responses to piracy and counterfeiting of intellectual property products within the Commonwealth and make recommendations at the next Law Ministers Meeting.

At the end of their meeting, the Commonwealth Law Ministers paid a courtesy call on the President John Agyekum Kufour, at the Castle. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of sovereign independent States, each responsible for its own policies, consulting and co-operating in the interest of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace.

Members of the Commonwealth include people of many different races and encompass every State of economic devel opment, rich variety of cultures, traditions and institutions.

The Law Ministers' deliberations covered many important contemporary issues touching on aspects of their responsibilities for civil and criminal justice, the progressive development and reform of the law, the role of the law and the legal profession in supporting democracy and good governance, as well as certain areas of international law.

Terrorism, human rights and juvenile justice in the Commonwealth were some of the major issues on the agenda of the plenary sessions of the 13th Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) in Accra from October 17 through 20, 2005. The Ministers and their representatives from the 53-nation Commonwealth, comprising over 160 delegates expressed their appreciation for the generous hospitality accorded them by the government of Ghana and the preparations for the meeting made by their host and the Commonwealth Secretariat.