SYDNEY, July 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --
"The poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable, those who are -for whatever reason -denied justice; it is they who should be foremost in our thoughts"-Secretary-General says
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma opened the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) in Sydney, Australia, on 12 July, urging delegates to champion those who are denied justice.
The fifteenth CLMM - the largest meeting of law ministers in the world - is hosted by Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O'Connor. Its theme is 'Fostering a Just and Secure Commonwealth'.
Law ministers and attorneys-general from the 54-member Commonwealth are discussing law and justice issues of common concern, and how to help strengthen the rule of law, human rights and security across the Commonwealth.
Addressing delegates Mr Sharma said: "Fundamental to all our work must be an enduring commitment to ensuring that our citizens enjoy access to justice. While we can find satisfaction in what the Commonwealth has already achieved, your deliberations - and the direction you give the Commonwealth Secretariat - will help us achieve yet more.
"The poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable, those who are - for whatever reason - denied justice; it is they who should be foremost in our thoughts."
The meeting will also focus on detention and overcrowding in prisons; judicial independence; administration of justice; provision of legal aid and assistance; Commonwealth action in terms of international law, juvenile justice and human trafficking; counter-terrorism; legislative drafting; climate change; cyber-crime; international child abduction; and forced and servile marriage.
This week, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba highlighted the legal issues attached to climate change, which is being discussed at the meeting: "What we will be doing in this forum is continuing to underscore and to look at legislative provisions that can acknowledge that climate change is upon us, and that there does need to be that recognition that deals and responds to the impact."
Mrs Masire-Mwamba said the meeting was an opportunity for ministers and attorneys-general to look at model laws and a chance for countries to learn from the experiences of others who had already dealt with advanced aspects of crime, including cyber-crime, and to prepare for the challenges.
"We are talking about the need for countries to collaborate and to be able to share information and expertise in responding to the challenge of new technologies," she said.
"What we are urging member states to look at is their own domestic environment so that their ability to collaborate is better enhanced."
Australia's Attorney-General Mr McClelland said the meeting allowed First Law Officers to take stock and look ahead: "Having the opportunity to draw together the expertise from around the Commonwealth to look at common challenges against the backdrop of our common legal heritage is particularly constructive.
"Because of our common heritage, we have that ability to look at translating the application of international principles into our broadly consistent domestic laws."
On Tuesday 12 July 2011, ministers discussed innovative ways of information sharing including the Commonwealth Connects portal - a new internet gateway that will enable Commonwealth citizens and member states to research, communicate and interact.
International Criminal Court (ICC) President Judge Sang-Hyun Song is in Sydney to attend the meeting as an observer. On 13 July 2011, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the ICC will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen and develop co-operation between their organisations to jointly support states implementing international criminal law.
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SOURCE The Commonwealth Secretariat