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Small Commonwealth jurisdictions promote the rule of law

9 October 2018

Mutual co-operation and respect for the rule of law received unanimous backing at the Meeting of Law Ministers and Attorneys General of Small Commonwealth Jurisdictions that has concluded in London.

The two-day gathering was held at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in Marlborough House. Twenty of its 31 small member states were represented.

Meeting under the theme ‘Increasing Resilience Through Law Reform’, delegates discussed innovative ways of pooling resources and increasing cooperation to develop the effectiveness and efficiency of their legal systems and promote the rule of law.

Delegates asked the Commonwealth to help them tackle corruption in small jurisdictions by investigating unexplained wealth and seizing the proceeds of crime through civil forfeiture. 

“It’s important to take that extra step to take the benefit away from criminals so they don't think they can serve their time in prison knowing their wealth is waiting for them when they get out,” said Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, Attorney General of Turks and Caicos Islands and chair of the meeting.

Other topics on the wide-ranging agenda included strengthening legislative drafting in small Commonwealth jurisdictions, tackling gun crime, the legal implications of sea level rise, the Commonwealth Blue Charter, and making legal preparations for climate change.  Small Islands states are most at risk from rising sea levels.

Delegates also praised the technical support they have received from the Commonwealth: “The Commonwealth Secretariat has helped some jurisdictions deal with significant back logs in the judicial systems - thousands of cases - up to 20,000 cases in one instance. The work of the Commonwealth Secretariat in providing judicial support and guidance over a period of time has reduced that backlog to hundreds of cases,” said Ms. Braithwaite-Knowles.

The meeting has been held since 1983 and provides a unique forum for small states. Katalaina Sapolu, the Commonwealth’s Director of Governance and Peace, highlighted the importance of the meeting: “This meeting is essential to foster collaboration and exchange of best practice among small states and to make their concerns heard at the broader Commonwealth level”.