By Faisal al-Sahouti Chairman
Four hundred international leaders in law – including ministers of justice, chief justices, judges, political and diplomatic leaders, and a host of distinguished lawyers – will convene today and tomorrow to discuss the most important issues relating to the rule of law.
They have carved out time from pressing schedules to participate in the third Qatar Law Forum (QLF), hosted by Qatar’s International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre.
The rule of law is no dusty academic subject. It is highly relevant to the readers of this newspaper. It is a vital, abounding topic, ever-evolving, upon which each one of us depends for our just place in a healthy society. Prominent aspects of the rule of law include human rights, equality before the law, the right to a fair hearing and an independent judiciary, along with dozens of other consequential and related matters. Thus, it impacts all our lives in many ways; it can, unfortunately, be corrupted, perverted or overturned; and so it cannot be taken for granted, either, but must be defended and preserved by all who wish to live peacefully.
It is because of the vital importance of the rule of law that the UN has included it in its Millennium Goals. This is not an effort to make identical laws around the world, but rather to support and encourage countries in finding ways to implement similarly high legal and judicial standards according to a general principle that the rule of law should govern public and social life for the benefit of all.
The first and second Qatar Law Forums convened in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Now, in 2017, Qatar is again proud to convene so many distinguished and influential participants to share knowledge and experience towards positive change. They will investigate and discuss questions going to the heart of five globally important subjects: combating corruption, displaced persons, modern-day slavery, access to justice, and financial inclusion.
The rule of law plays a strong role in combating corruption. Underdeveloped governance frameworks and lax judicial systems create opportunities for unethical conduct and bribes. How, practically, can the world raise standards in public and corporate life so as to address and reduce corruption?
Displaced persons, forced to move from their homes due to war, civil conflict, natural disasters, famine, political strife or human rights abuses, are often vulnerable, poor, discriminated against, and exploited. Their plight poses an ongoing challenge to the rule of law. What can be done where there is, for example, loss of legal identity through displacement?
Doha is home to Bin Jelmood House, which seeks to play a role in the global abolition of human exploitation. Modern slavery is more likely to occur where the rule of law is weaker and corruption is rife – yet it exists too in the most developed countries. Are we prosecuting those responsible for people-trafficking and child slavery effectively, and are we treating the victims appropriately? When do conditions of residence and employment start to approach conditions of slavery?
Finally, embracing much of the above, the sister topics of inclusive societies and access to justice for all are fundamental principles of the rule of law which lie at the heart of UN Development Goal 16. Lack of access to justice for any reason, including prohibitive costs, prolongs conflicts and prevents protection and redress. So how do we help judicial institutions from different countries to work together to achieve improvements?
Under the wise auspices of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s commitment to uphold the standards by which such issues can be addressed goes beyond the convening of the QLF, important as that is. Qatar is also home to the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Centre (ROLACC) under the direction of Attorney General HE Dr Ali bin Fetais al-Marri, who has achieved tremendous work over many years in this field as a member of both the International Association of Prosecutors and, since 2010, the Executive Committee of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities, recognised by the French Republic for his endeavours with the Legion d’Honneur.
The five topics outlined above are woven inextricably into each of our lives. The convening of the QLF is much to Qatar’s credit, as is the fact that a new generation of young Qatari lawyers will be numbered among the participants who leave with new insight and inspiration to help uphold the rule of law worldwide – not for the few, nor for the many, but for all.
In advance of the third Qatar Law Forum, I would like to wish all the participants who have travelled here from abroad, as well as all those taking time out of their busy schedules in Qatar, a successful, enjoyable and influential event.
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