Category: About the WJA

Opening Session Miami: “Covid-19: Boon or Detriment for Gender Equality?”

Under the title “Covid-19: Boon or Detriment for Gender Equality?”, the World Jurist Association (WJA) and the Bass Institute for Diversity and Inclusion organized this much-needed and current panel of discussion. Eight women from different countries debated the topic, agreeing that overall the pandemic caused by Covid-19 has been problematic and disadvantageous for women.

The panel was moderated and chaired by Hilarie Bass, Trustee of the World Law Foundation, Founder of the Bass Institute for Diversity and Inclusion and President of the American Bar Association (2017-2018). The presentation of this event opened with a moving video tribute to the deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was presented with the WJA World Peace & Liberty Award in February 2020 in Washington, D.C. Justice Ginsburg was a pioneer in advocating for gender equality and respect for the rule of law, and WJA is committed to continuing the dissemination of her legacy. 

The round of discussions was opened by Patricia Menendez-Cambo, Deputy General Counsel of SoftBank and General Counsel of the SoftBank Latin American Fund, who pointed out that the leading companies in gender parity rankings are achieving 50% more profitability compared to those with a lower gender parity index.

Meanwhile, Christiane Feral-Schuhl, President of the French National Council of Lawyers and former president of the Paris Bar Association, emphasized the “negative increase in cases of domestic violence that has been registered during confinement,” but at the same time recognized that the Covid-19 “has made us more proactive in our actions to achieve gender equality”.

In response to this position, Felicia Knaul, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Americas at the University of Miami and Professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, highlighted the collateral damage that the pandemic has done to women’s health. “We have evidence that fewer investments are being made in mothers and children, because the aid is going to Covid-19”. She also expressed concern about the increase in late detection of breast cancer due to the inability of patients to attend health centers given the risk of contagion from Covid-19.

Christina Blacklaws, immediate past President of the Law Society of England and Wales and President of Lawtech UK, stated that Covid-19 “has been dramatic and traumatic for gender equality, as it has posed an additional barrier for women” and questioned how to use the situation to turn it into an opportunity. In response to this question, she proposed “opting for a more flexible and agile way of working in which physical presence is reduced, so that women have more possibilities of developing their professional careers with a more hybrid and diverse way of working”.

Claudia Escobar, legal specialist in the fight against corruption and international consultant in the justice sector, assured that “the Inter-American Court indicates that the right of access to justice cannot be suspended in States or situations of exception” and pointed out that “international organisms for the protection of human rights warn about the importance of justice systems not being paralyzed”.

María Eugenia Gay, President of the World Jurist Association Spain and Dean of the Barcelona Bar Association, acknowledged that women are suffering from increasing precariousness in different ways, for example, in the wage gap, an issue she has called incomprehensible. With respect to teleworking, Gay, said that for women it has been more difficult to differentiate between professional and personal life, generating greater physical and psychological fatigue that men have not suffered.

The President of the European Association of Women Lawyers and Member of the Committee on Women in Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain, Katharina Gabriele Miller, stressed that in Spain, more than 600,000 people work as domestic workers, 88% of whom are women. Furthermore, according to Tracy Robinson, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2014-2015), the United Nations Independent Inquiry Mission on Libya, highlighted the gender disparity in high-level decision-making positions, stating that “if we analyze who holds the highest positions in the world, men are the heads of government in 90% of all States.

Javier Cremades, president of the World Jurist Association, closed the debate and acknowledged how ” unbelievable there are still so many barriers to gender equality” and said that Covid-19 is just another one and, to solve it, “we have to work to identify these problems that are a challenge for the whole society”.

This Opening Session has been the third session prior to the World Law Congress to be celebrated in Colombia in 2021. The President of the host country, Iván Duque, has also participated in it and, through an institutional video, assured that “we receive this congress as a recognition to the efforts of the Colombian society to defend the Rule of Law as a guarantor of freedom, order, peace and harmony”.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Jurist for History

The author met the American judge and awarded her with the World Peace & Liberty Award, given by the World Jurist Association.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg´s death (1933-2020) has caused a huge emotional and political impact in the United States. This event also represents an earthquake in the American electoral campaign, but her figure and her legacy are global and will endure for generations.

The chief aim of her professional career was the struggle for the equality of women and men before the law. That was the reason why the World Jurist Association decided to give her the World Peace & Liberty Award. On that occasion, the judge spoke again about another of the pending issues of the judicial system: the judicial independence. An independence that she had advocated in public and had personally exercised throughout her entire career, before, during and after her entry into the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by Bill Clinton and confirmed by the United States Senate in 1993. This culminated a career marked by the momentum and determination, leading her from intellectual ostracism to the highest court in the world. Ginsburg and all the people whom she represented were beginning to win the battle for equal rights.

I meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Madrid at a lunch organized by our mutual friend Richard Gardner, Professor of Law at Columbia and U.S. Ambassador to Spain a few years after her nomination to the United States Supreme Court. Ruth was always involved in meeting different people, young people, of other faith and cultures, speakers of other languages, and that’s how it was until her last days. Afterwards, I visited her several times in Washington, where I got to know her family and finally had the opportunity to enjoy some unforgettable moments with Ginsburg on 6 and 7 February 2020. She was already a world icon, not only of Law but of Culture. Her physical weakness, combined with her intellectual power and purpose were cool, strongly inspiring for millions and millions of people. It was in Washington, just weeks before the global pandemic unleashed its full destructive power. I had by then finished reading her book, My Own Words, where her achievements and ways of thinking are recorded. It has to be translated and published into Spanish. The day before the award ceremony, at the dinner we held in her honor, instead of paying attention to the personalities, some with the rank of Head of State, she devoted her attention to answering questions and showing affection to several young women who participated. As the host of the event, I decided to sit her next to my 19-year-old daughter Arancha, with whom she had a long and friendly conversation, which both of them thanked me profusely. Protocol and paraphernalia bored her. We talked about her interest in meeting Pope Francisco. She was fascinated by him. We agreed to organize a meeting in Santa Marta, without protocol, the following autumn. The idea was arranging the appointment and invite relevant judges from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. She would invite Roberts, President of the Supreme Court and other Judges. Unfortunately, the Project could not be completed firstly because of the pandemic and then by her death.

That magical night at the Watergate Hotel, with an empathetic look and a smile full of affection, she told Arancha in a soft but wise voice: “You will be whatever you want to be, as long as you work to achieve your dream with perseverance and passion. Don’t let anyone stand in your way of becoming the woman you want to be”. She had fought the battle of her life for that to be possible.

The next day I had the honor of presenting her with the World Peace & Liberty Award, which had been previously granted to Sir Winston Churchill, Rene Cassin, Nelson Mandela and, just a year ago at the Royal Theatre in Madrid, to King Felipe VI. She showed herself serious when received the award, until I asked Judy Perry Martinez’s daughter, Arancha and Leah to accompany her on the stage and give her the statuette again. At that moment, her eyes brightened, bringing a warm smile to her face. What is considered by many to be the Nobel Prize in Law had never been awarded to a woman, and Ruth was clearly the right person to receive it. As soon as I was elected president, I proposed her nomination to the WJA Board, and this was unanimously accepted. We, jurists of the world, owed a debt of recognition to the women’s equality movement. During the debate that the three of us held after the award ceremony, including Judy Perry Martinez president of the American Bar Association, Ginsburg reminded us that the rule of law is defined, in essence, “as the rule of laws and not of men” and warned that ” the rule of law must always and under any circumstance control our destiny”.

The world has lost a great woman and an enormous judge. Life is ephemeral, but the ideals pursued with conviction, authenticity, moderation and courage remain. RBG has died. A woman full of talent and courage, an intense life into the care of her family and professional work, dedicated to her ideals, though I do not share them all, may she rest in peace. She has been a good example of coherence and leadership, an admirable crusader for equality, a jurist for the history.

Javier Cremades is a lawyer and the president of the World Jurist Association

Related links:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: una jurista para la Historia (El Mundo)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, una jurista para la historia (El Tiempo.com)

The WJA at the UN conference of the states parties to the un convention against corruption

The World Jurist Association made a presentation at the United Nations Vienna, during the plenary session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption on September 2-4, 2020. The conference was chaired by the Attorney General of the United Arab Emirates, Harib Saeed Al Amimi, and Gabriel Fernández Rojas, WJA Representative to the UN Vienna and Financial Coordinator of the World Law Congress, participated on behalf of the World Jurist Association.

During his speech, Mr. Fernández Rojas mentioned the commitment of WJA in the fight against corruption and assured that the rule of law is incompatible with corruption. He stressed that a rule of law capable of preventing corruption is needed, in order to guarantee human rights and freedom, as well as to promote cohesion between societies. Additionally, he pointed out that the balance of power must be optimized, ensuring the efficiency and neutrality of public administrations, as well as improving citizens’ trust in institutions. In conclusion, he recognized that in a global context, open to new challenges and opportunities, the fight against corruption is one of the most urgent ways to defend the rule of law and remarked that this will only be possible with a strong commitment from society.

On the occasion of this meeting, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) also met, and as NGO with special consultative status before this institution, the World Jurist Association participated in it.

In the framework of the different events in Vienna, the WJA future activities were promoted in one to one meetings, increasing its network within this key forum.

The most important meeting was limited to UN State Parties and accredited NGOs. During that event, participants shared the progress made by their country in the fight against corruption, in light of the upcoming General Assembly against Corruption (UNGAS) to be celebrated in June 2021. One of the issues that caught greatest attention was the initiative presented in 2019, coincidentally, by the Government of Colombia at the UN New York. Colombia proposed the creation of an international court specialized in fighting against corruption and transnational corruption, in order to overcome limitations such as those that became visible with the Odebrecht case, the existence of blatant money laundering issues from the highest governmental levels in some countries, and the impossibility of making justice owing lack of judicial independence.

Opening Session Chile “Transnational Crime and Corruption: Protecting Judicial Independence”

The President of the Supreme Court of Chile, Guillermo Silva Gundelach, participated in the Opening Session Chile of the World Law Congress Colombia 2021, titled ‘Transnational Crime and Corruption: Protecting Judicial Independence’. Silva Gundelach stressed the importance of discussing corruption and the protection of judicial crime, since “if we do not do so, we put our common future at risk”.

The meeting was chaired by Javier Cremades, president of the World Jurist Association and the World Law Foundation, who welcomed the speakers, stressing “how important the independence of judges is, as well as the fight against crime and corruption”. Organizer Diego García-Sayán, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2010-2014), introduced the topic and highlighted its importance since “the strengthening of organized crime networks has generated a new type of challenge and threat to the judicial independence of the powers”.

Leonor Etcheberry, Vice President of the Chilean Bar Association, has been in charge of moderating the debate in which Cheol-Kyu Hwang, President of the World Association of Prosecutors, has defended that “we are doing our best to apply the conventions against corruption” and has pointed out that international cooperation is fundamental, as well as ensuring that prosecutors’ offices work collaboratively beyond the traditional framework. During the discussion, the Attorney General of Spain, Dolores Delgado, bet on the functional and budgetary autonomy of the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office in order to confront corruption, which she considers “the dirty game of democracy” and highlighted the need to resort to cooperation as the tool to tackle impunity.

María Eugenia Gay, President of the WJA Spain and Dean of the Barcelona Bar Association, ratified the “firm commitment” of the group to make law and the laws the safeguard of citizens’ rights. As she highlighted, political parties and the different public powers must act with transparency and rigor in favor of society, so that the political formations are capable of redirecting the deviation of power and recovering the institutions they represent, the people, reinforcing the sovereignty of the states. The great challenges ahead demand the development of the structure in which dialogue is the maximum expression of democracy.

In this line, Héctor Humeres Noguer, President of the Chilean Bar Association, assured that “it is the responsibility of all the powers and ministries, in addition to the bar associations, to contribute to the prevention, eradication and information about the dangers of corruption and the forms in which it may appear”. For Humeres Noguer, “corruption can deteriorate the basis of a country causing severe damage to society, because the corruption that falls on the administration of justice affects the guarantee of human rights protection”.

Jorge Abbott Charme, National Prosecutor of Chile and President of the Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors, believes in the autonomy and independence of public prosecutors’ offices and promotes the use of international cooperation tools. During the debate, Luz Ibáñez, Judge of the International Criminal Court, recognized that “the problem of corruption and judicial independence does not respond to the individual conduct of judges, but rather it is a structural problem and therefore the response must be holistic and structural”.

In his intervention, José Igreja Matos, Vice President of the International Union of Judges, explained that it is always clear that the domestication of judges is a fundamental tool to promote impunity, and he highlighted the role of the multiple institutions that play a decisive role in the defense of the rule of law. “Difficult times demand a firm and courageous voice from international institutions”.

Roberta Solis, Judicial Integrity Team Leader from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, closed the debate, stressing that “support among judges is fundamental because it helps prevent judicial corruption.

This Opening Session was the second session prior to the World Congress of Law to be celebrated in Cartagena de Indias on November 17-18, 2021. The President of Colombia, Iván Duque, participated in this session via institutional video, in which he assured that his country “receives this congress as recognition to the efforts of the Colombian society to defend the rule of law as a guarantor of freedom, order, peace and harmony”.

Opening Session Barcelona: Will the Rule of Law Survive in Europe?

The World Law Congress started its 27th edition with an innovative format that includes the celebration of 14 online opening sessions, as prelude to the most important international legal event. These monthly opening sessions will take place from different cities around the world. The first one, «Will the Rule of Law Survive in Europe?», was organized by María Eugenia Gay, WJA President for Spain and Dean of the Barcelona Bar Association, institution that virtually hosted the event celebrated on July 7, 2020. The Panel followed the institutional ceremony (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJrToSZOrdo&t=136s) that inaugurated this On-Going Congress that will culminate with face-to-face panels in Cartagena de Indias, on November 17 and 18, 2021. 

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the World Law Foundation and former vice-president of the European Commission, chaired the debate. It focused on giving an answer to what can be done when national constitutions, European treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU are questioned. In this respect, Reding remarked that «even in a solid constitutional environment, the rule of law is not free from risk, (…) in Europe we have to stand up to protect our values». She also expressed concern about «the challenges to the rule of law in some European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, where they are dismantling fundamental aspects such as the independence of judges and the freedom of expression of the media».

Rainer Arnold, member of the Advisory Council of the World Law Foundation and professor at the University of Regensburg, stressed that «the rule of law is anthropocentric; it recognizes and emphasizes that the ultimate purpose of law and constitutional law is to protect individuals, taking into account that the constitution must be based on the recognition of human dignity as a supreme value and its twin principle, which is freedom». He added that «the rule of law is always linked to democracy as an essential element of people’s freedom, to jointly determine policy, decisions affecting our lives and destinies through daily participation in politics». 

François Biltgen, judge of the European Court of Justice and Luxembourgish former politician who served in different ministries, defined the European Union as «founded on the values of democracy, the rule of law, freedom, human dignity and respect for human rights, including those of minorities». He further recognized that, when conflicts occur, «the primacy is of the European Union, both in the application and in the interpretation of the law, which improves unity by giving more legal stability and strengthening the union of member states».

André Alen, President of the Constitutional Court of Belgium, said that the Court of Justice «is the guardian of the European treaties» and added that there is a significant interaction between courts; «European courts and national constitutional courts are not opponents, but should be considered as natural allies when it comes to protecting fundamental rights». Despite this, he stressed that the relationship between the Court of Justice and the constitutional courts is not free of friction and, although they are limited, priority should always be given to the one that protects rights the most». 

Polish Prime Minister (1992-1993) Hanna Suchocka, also Founding Trustee of the World Law Foundation, stressed the necessity to «deepen and discuss the relationship between EU legislation, national legislations and, especially, the relationship between two institutions such as the European Court of Justice and national courts». She said that «we need a more in-depth discussion of this issue because otherwise it could lead to a reduction in the standards of the European rule of law». 

The panel was closed by Marie-Aimée Peyron, dean of the Paris Bar Association (2017-2019), who criticized that «when a political power wants to attack democracy or the rule of law, above all, it first attacks lawyers, journalists or judges, among others, and we know, unfortunately, that this does not only happen outside Europe, but also in some European countries».

The President of Colombia, Iván Duque, opened the World Law Congress 2021

The President of Colombia, Iván Duque, chaired the online opening ceremony of the 27th edition of the World Law Congress, organized by the World Law Foundation and the World Jurist Association. He participated through an institutional video in which he acknowledged that “it is an honor for Colombians to host this congress in recognition for the efforts of the Colombian society to defend the Rule of Law as a guarantor of freedom, order, peace and harmony, precisely as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Colombian Constitution of 1991, and the bicentennial of the promulgation of the Constitution of Cucuta”.

Duque underlined the relevance of the World Law Congress and shoed the importance of “strengthening these valuable dialogues and reflections”, as well as applauding the “innovative” design of this on-going congress that will be carried out through fourteen Opening Sessions “aiming to promoting the strength of the Rule of Law, as fertile ground to allow growth and well-being, development and freedom for our citizens”.

Looking ahead to November 17 and 18, 2021, the date on which the congress will be held in Colombia, the president has sent “my most sincere welcome to our country, where we will continue working to build a better future for all, based on the strength and guarantees of the Rule of Law.

The Colombian Minister of Justice and Law, Margarita Cabello, also took part in the presentation of WLC 2021 and coincided with the President of her country in recognizing the enthusiasm of hosting the World Law Congress: “It is a tribute and recognition of the effort that Colombia and we Colombians are making in the struggle to strengthen the rule of law as a guarantee of freedom, peace, order and democracy”. His counterpart in Spain, the Minister of Justice Juan Carlos Campo, recognized that “we must endeavor to organize seminars as essential as this one, creating an extensive network of jurists who contribute to strengthening the separation of powers, judicial independence, the defense of human rights, pluralism, equality and freedom at all costs”.

In view of these words, Javier Cremades, President of the World Law Foundation and the World Jurist Association, reinforces that this congress, in its entirety, “wants to be recognition by the international legal community of the commitment of Colombian society to build and consolidate a society of opportunities, freer and fairer for all”.

The President of the WJA Spain and Dean of the Barcelona Bar Association, Mª Eugenia Gay, who hosted the opening ceremony, stressed that “the latest challenges that have arisen have shown the importance of countries working together, because there are problems that go beyond borders and need the commitment of governments and civil society”. As Manuel Aragón, academic director of the WLC and emeritus judge of the Spanish Constitutional Court, said, “We can only come out of this crisis if we, jurists, do not forget that the Rule of Law is a demand that we can never renounce to”.

Will the rule of law survive in Europe?

The 27th World Congress of Law has launched a new format in which 14 online sessions will be held as prelude to the most important international legal event. The first of these, under the name “Will the Rule of Law survive in Europe?” was moderated by Viviane Reding, Vice President of the World Law Foundation and former vice-president of the European Commission. Other speakers included Hanna Suchoka, Founding Trustee of the World Law Foundation and prime minister of Poland (1992-1993), François Biltgen, judge of the European Court of Justice and minister for various portfolios, Rainer Arnold, member of the Advisory Council of the World Law Foundation and professor at the University of Regensburg, Marie-Aimée Peyron, Dean of the Paris Bar Association (2017-2019) and Andre Alen, President of the Belgian Constitutional Court.