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IBA 2016 Daily News: In Global Justice We Trust; Tackling Workplace Discrimination and more from the Annual Conference in Washington, DC


“The IBA has a key role to play to preserve the ideal of justice, as a leader in the global effort to uphold the rule of law”.

This was one of the points emphasized at the on-going 2016 International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C, USAduring its keynote session yesterday where it addressed the topic: “Serving Justice Increasingly Requires a Global Outlook”.

Here are some of the highlights from yesterday’s sessions:

In Global Justice We Trust

According to US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, International cooperation is key to fighting harm and oppression, and combining the challenges arising from global threats.

Speaking at yesterday morning’s keynote session she said, “As lawyers, we have a responsibility to ensure this is not limited to one nation and its borders.”

“In light of recent events, we are all connected,” Lynch said. “The IBA has fought tirelessly so that all people around the world can enjoy the freedom, the dignity, the opportunity and the justice that is their birthright. This indeed requires international cooperation and coordination.”

While describing the DoJ’s work in fighting terrorism, one of the most important threats the world faces at this time, she explained how DoJ has in recent years partnered with global police cooperation body Interpol, European equivalent Europol, and a number of other international organizations to detect, investigate and suppress terrorist activities. She also alluded to the fact that DoJ, in ensuring a more effective combat of terrorism, is exchanging staff with some of these organizations, and sharing information on approximately 4,000 suspected individuals.

“We have had some successful achievements, but we need cooperation,” Lynch stressed. “It’s not only in the interest of the US to see those individuals brought to justice, but of all us around the world.”

ICC: The Balanced View

Tuesday’s panel entitled “Seventy Years after the Judgment at Nuremberg – has the US failed to support International Justice at the ICC”, was conducted in the form of a mock trial prosecution of the US’ decision not to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The trial involved speakers presenting their cases on the subject in the presence of three witnesses with experience of serving in the ICC and in the US military respectively. The IBA Daily covered the panel in yesterday’s edition, [and] specifically critical comments around the ICC’s evidence gathering policy.
However, the situation is perhaps more nuanced than the reporting from the session suggests however.
Thankfully the IBA has recently launched a new report Evidence Matters in ICC Trials that examines the law and practice of some core evidence matters in ICC trials. The report looks at the ICC in the context of other international criminal tribunals, and builds on previous reports to identify existing issues and future considerations for fair trials before the ICC.
The report also examines how evidence matters are affected by other dynamics at the court, including the overall project of making the ICC’s proceedings more efficient, and the roles played by judges and states parties.

In conclusion, Aurelie Roche-Mair, Director, ICC & ICL Programme at the IBA said “The ICC is an institution in its adolescence and the IBA ICC and ICL Programme is examining its maturing procedures through the lens of due process to ensure that trials remain fair before this permanent court established to address international crimes worldwide.”

Protecting Our Right to the Environment

The issue of protecting our right to the environment is more pressing now than ever as around a third of all corporate human rights cases involve some kind of environmental harm. There are both public and private actors – mining, oil and gas drilling, climate finance projects, renewable energy and land grabs – all posing a threat to the rights to life, water, property, standard of living, and self-determination of people across the world.

Today, around 90 countries have a constitutional right to the environment – but it may be that the right to participation is a more effective means of protection. As elucidated by Ramiro Fernandez of Avina, to ensure the most effective protection of those rights in the development of projects, the local community must be involved at the earliest stage possible – that way conflicts could be severely reduced. As an illustration, he spoke of how the indigenous Mapuche community in Argentina has made strides in affecting environmental reforms in the Patagonia region of the country.

According to him, “These people got organized, and sent their children to study law, and have gained a right to previous consultation for underground resources projects,” he said. “They understand that they have a right to life, and that what happens to their land happens to them.”
He added that citizens in Patagonia have more commonly had to use political tools such as demonstrations and roadblocks, as opposed to legal tools: “The legal tools aren’t there yet, but are developing.”

He concluded by saying that the most effective way of protecting human rights to the environment during project development is to have the local community involved from the beginning.

Tackling Workplace Discrimination

Mental health disabilities are the final frontier in creating robust protection against workplace discrimination, according to lawyers in yesterday’s session “Accommodating mental health disabilities in the workplace”.

Definitions of disability vary across jurisdictions. For instance in the US, in terms of defining a disability, any condition that has an impact on a major life activity means that you may be defined as disabled. The US has the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act which requires employers to do something affirmative to help workers perform the essential functions of any job.
“Disability is somewhat of a unique ground,” said Ronnie Neville, partner at Mason Hayes & Curran. Affirmative action, positive action and reasonable accommodation in the workplace have all made strides in recent years. But while most employers have made changes to accommodate workers with physical disabilities, for mental health, progress is still lagging.

“It’s been described as taboo,” Neville said speaking of mental health. Regardless of any legal provisions, that stigma often leads to workers with disabilities feeling unable to raise the issue with their boss. “I don’t think workers are confident enough to put their hand up and identify with a mental health disability,” he added.

Sources: Law Pavillion

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