Author: World Jurist Admin

Opening Session Washington: “Human Rights and Justice”

On November 12, the WJA celebrated the fourth Opening Session of the World Law Congress Colombia 2021 from the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

“We are far from a reality where human rights are protected in real time, and there is a long way ahead to guarantee effective mechanisms”.  This is how the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, assessed the current situation in the debate “Human Rights and Justice: Fundamental Pillars for the Strengthening of Democratic Systems“. Almagro recognized that “political systems have to be structured in the best way to make justice work in societies, and this is the independence of power”.  He also pointed out that “the main problem of democracy is impunity, a red line that separates it from dictatorship.

Tamara Sujú, WJA Representative before the International Criminal Court and director of the CASLA Institute, chaired the panel and highlighted its importance, assuring that “respect for human rights and justice tells us when democracy degenerates into dictatorial government”, and she bet on universal justice to denounce the crimes of Latin American dictatorships.

In this direction, the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, highlighted how tyrannies are detrimental to justice in the Latin American region and assured that “in this area everyone talks about human rights, but for many it is an electoral ploy”. He added, furthermore, that “we must be careful to avoid people who do not really believe in human rights from reaching power, since not everyone can defend human rights”.

Regarding the situation in Latin America, Dita Charanzová, Vice President of the European Parliament, highlighted the fundamental role played by international institutions against countries that violate human rights and highlighted the action of the European Parliament, which, she said, has openly supported investigations into crimes against humanity. In this sense, she requested “that the international community continue to speak out in order to continue rejecting dictatorships and, thus, achieve the absolute reestablishment of human rights in those Latin American countries subject to these regimes”.

Meanwhile, Karen Longaric, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, emphasized that “only when the rule of law is solid, the justice system is independent” and noted that “even when governments emerge from elections or votes, they can have dictatorial and totalitarian characteristics”. Regarding justice, she stressed that it “does not exist in times of dictatorship, because the judicial body and the Public Prosecutor’s Office are obsequious with dictators” and she questioned the role of international human rights organizations since, she assured, “they have a role to play in protecting human rights, but some of them do not work or do so poorly because they have a biased view towards judging or appreciating human rights violations”.

Javier Cremades, president of the World Jurist Association, concluded the panel alleging that “there is no assured peace if there is no submission to the law” and stated that “human rights are there so each person can live their life with dignity and see all their objective value recognized”.

This Opening Session was the fourth meeting preceding the World Law Congress to be held in Colombia in 2021. The President of the host country, Iván Duque, also participated in this session, and through the projection of an institutional video he committed himself to “continue promoting the strength of the rule of law as fertile ground to allow growth and well-being, development and freedom for citizens” and assured that “we will continue working to build a better future for all, based on the strength and guarantees of the rule of law”. 

LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS NO ESTÁN EN CUARENTENA

Javier Cremades, Abogado y Presidente de la World Jurist Association y Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo

David Mills, Abogado y Catedrático de Derecho en Standford Law School

En París, el 10 de Diciembre de 1948, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas aprobó la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos. Uno de los derechos fundamentales establecidos y acordados por las naciones del mundo es aquel que defiende que toda persona tiene derecho “a la salud y el bienestar (artículo 25). Este derecho ha sido desarrollado en sucesivos pactos internacionales y es ahora un derecho fundamental, que le corresponde a cada persona sin discriminación por motivos de raza, edad, ideología o religión. La pandemia y su efecto desproporcionado en las personas pobres y las personas de color nos hace cuestionar si los estados firmantes están cumpliendo seriamente la promesa de la Declaración Universal. 

Las prisiones del mundo siguen siendo un importante foco de contagio. Permitir que las prisiones continúen albergando gente en pequeños espacios compartidos es el caldo de cultivo perfecto para la propagación de la COVID-19. Ya se puede ver su repercusión en tasas de infección significativas. Aunque no hay muchos datos oficiales, las estimaciones del Informe Middle East Monitor del 22 de junio es que hay 44.925 casos oficiales de coronavirus en las prisiones de los Emiratos Árabes Unidos y más de 300 fallecidos. Las estimaciones del New York Times indican que durante el periodo comprendido entre mediados de mayo y mediados de junio, los presidiarios de las cárceles de los Estados Unidos que se conoce que están infectados se han duplicado, y las muertes en las cárceles relacionadas con el coronavirus también han aumentado a 73. La prisión de San Quintín, en las afueras de San Francisco, California, ha informado de alarmantes aumentos de infecciones por virus y ahora de fallecimientos. Sigue existiendo un gran riesgo de que una sentencia de prisión hoy en día equivalga a una sentencia de muerte. ¿Cómo podemos justificar tal resultado?Especialmente cuando tantos prisioneros son encarcelados por delitos no violentos, incluso políticos, o encarcelados antes de ser condenados. ¿Qué ha pasadocon las promesas de la Declaración Universal? El problema ha sido reconocido y se han dado pequeños pasos, pero la realidad es que se ha negado la promesa de salud a los presidiarios del mundo y la consecuencia es a la vez aterradora y horrorosa.

Recientemente, el filósofo alemán Harmut Rosa advirtió acerca de nuestros mayores: “En una sociedad acelerada, no son respetados como ancianos y sabios, sino que son abandonados como si no pertenecieran al presente”. Esta llamada a la protección de los ancianos y los más débiles es real. Hemos oído en ocasiones que probablemente sea más adecuado permitir amenazas a la vida de los ancianos para que la destrucción de la economía disminuya. ¿Cómo se lleva a cabo ese cálculo? ¿Qué valor estamos dando a las vidas? Existen muchos testimonios que afirman que en bastantes países los sistemas de salud públicos no han proporcionado la asistencia médica necesaria a pacientes de la tercera edad o con patologías previas. Incluso si los equipos médicos tuvieran los medios, estos se habrían reservado para pacientes más jóvenes y sanos con más posibilidad de sobrevivir a la pandemia. Prácticas con connotaciones eugenésicas que difícilmente pueden conjugarse con el derecho a la vida inherente a la dignidad humana, amenazan el núcleo de valores de una sociedad civilizada y, aun así, tienen lugar estas conversaciones como si la ancianidad y los enfermos pudieran ser fácilmente desechados y abandonados. ¿Quiénes somos?

Otro derecho fundamental que está siendo limitado e incluso abandonado a la luz del actual estrés de la pandemia, es el derecho a la privacidad. El derecho a la privacidad ha sido un derecho básico, reconocido por los griegos, alentado por los filósofos de la Ilustración y claramente articulado por los juristas americanos Warren y Brandels en su famoso artículo “The Right to Privacy” publicado en 1890 y al cual se debe, en gran medida, la configuración constitucional de este derecho a la privacidad. La aparente voluntad de nuestros legisladores y líderes políticos de rastrear a ciudadanos infectados o que hayan estado expuestos al virus, y la consiguiente imposición de órdenes de confinamiento, aunque sea ciertamente defendible para el conjunto de la sociedad, únicamente debería ser permitida cuando existan las garantías apropiadas y se tuviera en consideración la necesidad de respetar y proteger la privacidad y otros derechos fundamentales. 

Traemos estas reflexiones a colación porque esta pandemia puede ser la tormenta perfecta para limitar los derechos fundamentales de cualquier ser humano más allá de lo estrictamente necesario para resolver esta terrible crisis. La COVID-19 no solo tiene que ver con la salud, toda vez que también amenaza a las instituciones democráticas y al propio estado de derecho. Sin derechos fundamentales, un sistema político difícilmente puede ser calificado como democrático. La dignidad inherente a toda vida humana nos obliga a estar vigilantes y a afirmar con rotundidad que los derechos humanos no están en cuarentena, sino al contrario, son la principal garantía de que el cambio de época a la que nos dirigimos sea más justa y equitativa que en el pasado.

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

Under the title “Covid-19: Boon or Detriment for Gender Equality?”, on October 14, the 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”.