Dr. Arun Kashyap: Remarks at the Workshop on Human Rights in the Administration of Justice for Resident MagistratesJul 25, 2015
• Chairman, His Hon. Mr. Dale Palmer, Senior Resident Magistrate
• Senator, The Hon. Senator Mark Golding, Minister of Justice,
• The Hon. Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla, Chief Justice
• The Hon. Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice
• Mr. George Belnavis, Director of the Justice Training School
• Hon. Justices and Resident Magistrates
• Court officials
• My colleagues from the United Nations, and
• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; A very good morning to all of you.
I am delighted to be here with you today at the first training workshop on Human Rights in the Administration of Justice, for Resident Magistrates as a part of their Continuing Judicial Education. I also appreciate the support to this important training provided by the Justice Training Institute, Court Management Services and the National Family Planning Board.
Human rights constitute the core of United Nations’ mission. The UN Secretary-General had launched the Human Rights up Front (HRuF) initiative in late 2013 to ensure that the UN system takes early and effective action, as mandated by the Charter and UN resolutions, to prevent or respond to large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. And, it seeks to achieve this by realizing a cultural change within the UN system, so that human rights and the protection of civilians are seen as a system-wide core responsibility. It encourages staff to take a principled stance and to act with moral courage to prevent serious and large-scale violations, and pledges Headquarters support for those who do so. Accordingly, UNDP, UNFPA, UNAIDS, and UN Women are collaborating to support this vital initiative. We are also pleased that our ILO colleagues – ILO is a Non Resident Agency -with expertise in the area agreed to join this important training.
However, the overall credit of having this training programme goes to Hon. Mrs. Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, who with her characteristic visionary outlook continues to emphasize the importance to the observance of human rights for all Jamaicans and the need to set standards at all stages/and at all levels in the administration and delivery of justice.
I would also take this opportunity to commend The Government of Jamaica in its continuous efforts to improve the enforcement of respect for human rights and dignity for all Jamaicans and ensuring that human rights are integrated in all development priorities – also in line with UN’s Human Rights-based approach to development. You may already know that GoJ is ready to create a National Human Rights Institution which is expected to be launched on 10 December 2015 – on the Human Rights Day. Minister Golding’s leadership in this transformational initiative is to be acclaimed because his championship has led to this worthy institutional development.
A nation’s Judiciary is a salient constituent of the modern democratic state - that through its independence and neutrality performs an integral role in protecting the rights of the citizens. The Justice system has an obligation to guarantee and enforce the constitutional rights of all citizens. A comparative advantage of the UN system is in supporting democratic governance in its constituent countries and strengthening national efforts to improve the administration of justice including by sharing global good practices and through capacity development at human, institutional and system-wide levels. Accordingly, a strong, effective and an efficient judiciary in turn facilitates UN’s work at the country levels and improving the quality of life of all inhabitants.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in cooperation with the International Bar Association Jamaica has prepared a comprehensive manual on Human Rights (as a part of its Professional Training Series) in the Administration of Justice for Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers. The Manual while introducing International Human Rights Law and the Role of the Legal Professions (independence and impartiality of Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers), also underscores major Universal and Regional Human Rights Instruments and the Mechanisms for their Implementation to the Rights of Child, Women’s Rights and the Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination and Fair Trial in the administration of Justice. The well-thought out Agenda of this weekend’s workshop is consequently very relevant to strengthening administration of Justice in Jamaica.
Jamaica is a State party to almost all international and regional human rights treaties. Having signed the Conventions, the country has taken on the obligation to reflect provisions of these Conventions in Domestic Law and fulfill their respective agreed upon commitments. The Judiciary therefore has to be well-informed about these Conventions and their implications for domestic application to ensure safeguarding the systemic professionalism and integrity.
The right to liberty of every individual is a fundamental human right. It is at the core of human rights treaties and includes not only to the human rights of persons deprived of their liberty, but also to slavery, forced labour, trafficking in persons, and enforced and involuntary disappearance. Accordingly, oversight of the rights of prisoners in State custody is a primary obligation of the Judiciary. This responsibility would ascertain the accomplishment of minimum standards of treatment for the general prison population, including the specific needs and rights of the most vulnerable groups. In fact, the litmus test to measure the effectiveness of any protective system has to be how well it protects the rights of the most vulnerable.
The various international Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on Human Rights, and even the principles, minimum rules and guidelines underlying non- binding instruments have important sets of standards. These standards guarantee the protection of human rights of every individual including those accused of committing a crime or having been found guilty of a crime. I am hopeful that the workshop will successfully provide the members of the judiciary increased information and greater awareness of the needs and rights of vulnerable individuals including those who have been incarcerated.
Similarly, it is indispensable to ensure the enforcement of international labour standards for all, together with those who are living with HIV and populations that are highly vulnerable to contracting HIV. Unfortunately there are still widespread violations of fundamental rights in the workplace in Jamaica resulting from HIV-related stigma and discrimination. The need to address such issues through the development and implementation of enabling legal and policy frameworks that safeguard dignity, job security and livelihoods for all is being tackled. Jamaica’s National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS (based on the ILO’s Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work) has been approved as a White Paper by both Houses of Parliament. And, this would provide a framework for action to effectively treat workers who are living with HIV whose success will be determined by its effective enforcement. It would be essential to ensure that no individual is subjected to loss of employment, demotion, etc. because of HIV status and that all cases reach the appropriate court. It also puts the legal profession at the forefront to protect the rights of persons living with HIV and addressing stigma and discrimination against PLHIV when such cases come before the courts. I am delighted that we have our ILO colleagues to contribute to this section of the Agenda by knowledge sharing including best practices from other parts of the world.
In closing, let me share some thoughts on the agenda item relating to implementation of the Disability Act (2014). This Act is in congruence with Jamaica’s efforts to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (which entered into force in 2006).
The Disability Act coherently articulates Jamaica’s recognition and acceptance of the principle that a person with disabilities has the same fundamental rights as others i.e. enjoying individual dignity and autonomy, including the freedom of choice, the right to inclusion in society and effective participation, access to the same range and standard of affordable health services together with sexual and reproductive health services and population-based health programmes. It is heartening to see the media coverage of the Act that vividly highlights the rights of persons with disabilities, protects them against discrimination and underscore the invaluable contributions to the nation’s priorities by this community of Jamaicans.
The enforcement of the Act by the courts will determine its mainstreaming and success. It puts the judiciary at the forefront of defending the rights of fellow citizens- those whose demands get overlooked or ignored by society, and who suffer from unmet needs of equal rights. I am confident that the judges as agents of change in the implementation of the Disability Act would strengthen the ability of Jamaica to write a new chapter in the life of its citizens with disabilities. This is also a priority issue for the UN System and we will continue to cooperate with Jamaica and Jamaicans to address the unmet needs.
We are also gratified that this event to strengthen Judicial Education for Resident Magistrates brought several resident and Non-resident UN Agencies together to contribute to this priority request of the Government of Jamaica. I am equally pleased to inform you that such an effort will from now onwards be a norm rather than an exception as we contribute towards Jamaica achieving its Vision 2030. The Government of Jamaica has requested the United Nations to work to “Deliver as One.” Drawing on the guidance provided by the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (The General Assembly adopted on 21 December 2012 a landmark resolution on QCPR of UN operational activities for development) work and Standard Operating Procedures we have initiated the important process.
The United Nations is committed to support your efforts to strengthen the Administration of Justice in Jamaica and therefore the Rule of Law, to protect human rights and fundamental freedom and contribute to make Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”