10 JUNE 2009

The 17th Congress of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) held in Hanoi on the theme: “Law and Lawyers in the Context of Globalisation: for Peace, Development and the Independence of the Judiciary,” has been a vibrant forum for lawyers and jurists from around the world to come together in mutual understanding and collective work towards full implementation of the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Together we reaffirm our commitment to work for a world with peace; without wars, conflicts, repression, poverty and hunger; and with full respect for justice, equality and human dignity. We reiterate our support for the creation of a just international economic order based on the interest of the whole people and not of the few.

We meet at a time of international financial crisis which illustrates the unsustainable and unjust character of the present world economic order. Millions of workers and their families across the globe face loss of jobs and incomes, leading to poverty, hunger, forced migration and other social evils. We pledge to work in solidarity and cooperation for the full realisation of peoples’ legitimate aspirations to full social, economic and cultural rights, including the human right to a clean and healthy environment.

We greet with hope the emergence of nations which are developing powerful independent economies and we are strengthened by the growing spirit of independence among peoples and countries that are seeking their own path towards independent economic and political development.

As democratic lawyers, we stand together with fighters against injustice and oppression; we defend the right to struggle for self-determination and against exploitation, aggression and foreign occupation in accordance with fundamental principles of international law.

Our Congress in Hanoi has highlighted the following priorities:

1. World peace and security

If humankind is to survive, the law of war must be superseded once and for all by the law of peace. A war of aggression is a crime; not the means by which to resolve an international dispute. Our Congress reaffirms the importance of the rule of law in the international relations. We insist on the principle of equity in the use of natural resources as well as in the enjoyment of societal products and values. Our Congress calls for the formulation of a Code of Peace: to promote an end to armed conflicts; to institute mechanisms to regulate the peace; to improve procedures for the peaceful resolution of disputes; to increase the role of negotiations in preventing and settling international conflicts; and to establish a flexible and efficient system of crisis management and settlement.

Our Congress renewed its support for the Global Article 9 Campaign led by Japanese lawyers and we urge all lawyers and jurists to work for the implementation in every country of the Japanese Constitution’s “No War” clause.

2. Anti-Terrorism Legislation

IADL lawyers from many countries noted that the so-called “War on Terror” has seriously eroded fundamental democratic freedoms: encouraging and permitting torture and extra-judicial executions; allowing extensive detention without charge or trial; criminalising substantial minority population groups; and imposing civil disabilities on members of entirely peaceful and law-abiding organisations. In the name of combating terrorism, repressive laws have been passed in many jurisdictions which chill the rights to free speech and assembly.

IADL member associations have been in the forefront of legal battles to overturn such legislation. We have helped to win several important cases, but much work remains to be done to protect minority communities and others from the counter-productive effects of the repressive legislation and reactionary rhetoric of the past eight years.

3. Accountability for International Crimes

We emphatically oppose impunity for international crimes and we stress the increasing importance of holding war criminals to public account. Ad hoc tribunals such as those for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia have proved not to be as independent and impartial as international justice requires. The experience of the International Criminal Court shows a bias against investigating crimes against peace when committed by powerful states in the Northern Hemisphere and an excessive focus on the African continent. Meanwhile, the Statute of Rome has failed to create jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

IADL firmly supports the principle of universal jurisdictions for violations of international humanitarian law and condemns unlawful pressures which have been brought to bear by the United States and Israel on states whose courts have received complaints of war crimes committed by their citizens. Universal jurisdiction requires that all international crimes be investigated independently and impartially, without fear of repression.

Meeting together in Vietnam, all of our delegates have expressed their profound concern for the victims of Agent Orange chemical warfare and we reiterate the demand from the judgement of the IADL’s recent International Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Victims of Agent Orange for full compensation and reparations to be paid by the government of the United States and the corporations which manufactured this criminal weapon of death and environmental destruction.

4. Globalisation, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

As already noted, our Congress has taken place during an economic crisis which has resulted from unregulated greed and irresponsible financial mismanagement by wealthy and developed states. This crisis has a disproportionate and life-threatening impact on people in developing countries as well as on the poor and marginalised in the industrialised world. Many developing countries are burdened with crippling debt, frequently as a result of unreasonable conditions imposed upon them by international financial institutions.

The rights of workers, already under attack by corporate hostility towards trade unions, are increasingly compromised by labour deregulation and policies of importing cheap migrant labour, leading to gross exploitation of workers and undermining their family life and social structures. Such policies also have the most negative effects on the goals of multiculturalism and lead to increased racism and hostility between ethnic and social groups.

Women are victims of double exploitation and the vitally important demand for gender empowerment is increasingly under threat. The inhuman treatment of children as cheap labour is an international scandal and we re-affirm IADL’s determination to strengthen the fight against the exploitation of women and children and for the rights of workers to organise through trade unions.

Our Congress pledges its continuing support for the struggle for human dignity, health and well-being and against poverty, hunger and homelessness; to help cope with natural disasters and to prevent epidemics and diseases that disproportionately afflict peoples in poor and developing countries.

5. Development and Environmental Rights

Our Congress declares its support for the human right to a clean and healthy environment and calls for this right to be incorporated into international, regional and national laws and agreements. We pledge to work together to build closer ties in the struggle to halt climate change and to work locally and internationally to support Kyoto 2. As lawyers, we recognize a particular responsibility to find new, effective and speedy legal ways of securing reparations for damage caused to human beings and the environment by State, corporate or individual actors.

We also express our support for the important work of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009 and we call for increased priority to be given to the expertise and advice of NGOs and other representatives of civil society in formulating and implementing international policy on this issue which crucially affects all life on this planet.

6. Independence of the Judiciary

The Congress has noted that the independence of lawyers and the judiciary is under increasing threat in many parts of the world. Lawyers and human rights workers are being threatened, imprisoned, beaten and even murdered by death squads merely for defending the rights of the people. IADL will create a centre for the protection of lawyers and judges to strengthen its work in publishing reports and in organising solidarity and observer missions.

Congress has called upon lawyers and jurists around the world to ensure the independence of the judiciary; to implement progressive principles of judicial procedure; and to provide and strengthen access to justice, particularly for disadvantaged groups such as the poor, ethnic minorities in remote areas, children, women and people with disabilities.

In Hanoi, the City of Peace, we rededicate ourselves to the unremitting struggle for all of these aims, under IADL’s motto “Law in the Service of Peace.”


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