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network Colloquia Why the rule of law rules commonwealth The Law Ministers Meeting, held in Botswana in May, asked the Commonwealth Secretariat to assess implementation of the Latimer House Principles in member countries as a means of upholding the rule of law Shailesh Vara We are all stronger when we are united and them. Of course it is important that regional Commonwealth members are privileged to cultures and traditions are recognised and be part of a body of nations able to debate, respected, but there are international standards advise and share best practice on the world to comply with and live up to, and, as stage. stated in the Commonwealth charter, democracy I was delighted to take part in the Commonwealth and human rights must prevail. Law Ministers Meeting in Botswana I believe the treatment of women is particularly in May, where a packed and varied important. We cannot and must not agenda set the tone to explore myriad legal tolerate second-rate treatment of women in issues. any society. Topics of international importance included Some Commonwealth countries have Commonwealth activity in the fields experienced recent challenges in respect of of human rights, judicial development, the rule of law and judicial independence, international legal co-operation, enforcement so this was much discussed. I believe judicial of judgments, prevention of violence independence has to remain a critical against women, anti-corruption, counterterrorism part of the rule of law, and this, in turn, is and cybercrime. a key enabler for social and economic development. Inevitably, such a diverse programme Where challenges exist, they ignited differing and strongly-held views, should be discussed openly. Sadly, this is and, as in other international fora recently, often not the case and not all countries are language about violence against women prepared to open themselves up to scrutiny. was high on the agenda – and hotly debated. It is, therefore, significant that the meeting We can learn much from one another’s agreed that the Commonwealth Secretariat unique experiences and it is important to be tasked with taking forward work hear a wide range of viewpoints. However, to assess implementation of the Latimer we must also remain bound by the fundamental House Principles across the Commonwealth. principles of equality and humanity The Latimer House Principles provide within a society shaped by the rule of law. a roadmap for democracy and good Certain principles should remain inviolable governance with their emphasis on the within the Commonwealth partnership separation of powers between the three – and all nations must adopt and adhere to branches of government – the executive, 84 l www.global -br ief ing.org four th quar ter 2014 global legislature and judiciary – as guarantors of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights, and entrenchment of good governance. Many of the values of freedom and justice that underpin the rule of law have a long and proud tradition in the UK, dating right back to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. The 800th anniversary of that landmark event takes place next year with, among other tributes, the Global Law Summit in London. I am very pleased to be able to share perhaps one of our greatest exports with Commonwealth partners and other delegates who will visit the UK in February. International leaders in law, government and business will join in this world-class celebration of the rule of law, and discuss its importance to business and development. It will be a great opportunity to celebrate the UK as a global leader in legal expertise. World-class leadership is something we should all strive towards and the Commonwealth, in particular, has evolved greatly throughout the generations – it is now a voluntary partnership in which dominance by any one country is no longer tolerated. I know the UK delegation – which included the Lord Advocate from Scotland and the Attorneys-General of Jersey and Guernsey – would agree that the tone of the Commonwealth Law Ministers meeting overall was encouraging, and I am confident the Commonwealth will continue to work together towards shared aspirations and legal values. The experience of the Botswana conference has convinced me that the Commonwealth can continue to evolve so that what remains is a modern and effective organisation ready to tackle the challenges of the future. The Commonwealth brings together almost every race, religion and region on earth – creating a valuable forum with enormous potential to enhance the rule of law, and values of tolerance and equality globally. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara represented the UK at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Botswana


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