|Law forum focus on globalisation
By Peter Townson
The relationship between national and international law in
the current climate of globalisation was the subject of the opening session of the ‘Qatar Law Forum’ yesterday,
with experts claiming that national judiciaries should examine foreign jurisprudence to assist in developing
their own legal systems.
Lord Woolf of Barnes opened the meeting, declaring the host nation Qatar to
be the perfect place to hold the event, as they “have a truly international vision.”
“Qatar has become
a regional centre of financial excellence,” claimed the co-convenor of the forum and president of the Qatar
Financial Centre civil and commercial court.
Sir William Blair, the other co-convenor of the event
explained that planning for the forum had begun in 2007 when “there was hope that the financial crunch would
not become a crisis.”
But now that the economic downturn has led to a global crisis and recession,
Blair said it was necessary to discuss how the legal profession can help to avoid any future problems and how
it has been affected by the global situation.
The president of the supreme judicial council in Qatar,
Honourable Chief Justice Judge Masood bin Mohamed al-Ameri chaired the opening session of the forum, which was
entitled ‘the challenge of globalisation’ and included a number of chief justices from various judiciaries
around the world.
Bahrain’s Chief Justice, Sheikh Khalifah bin Rashed al-Khalifah claimed that
globalisation has led to an “explosion of information” and argued that governments must “pave the way” for
globalisation and take as much from it as is possible – as long as the adopted values do not contradict local
values or laws.
This was the view of most of the other chief justices on the panel, who spoke about
how their own judiciaries have adopted international laws to help develop their own legal systems.
South African Chief Justice Pius Nkonzo Langa explained that his country has written into its
constitution that it must look to foreign jurisprudence for knowledge on subjects such as human rights: “The
legal system is meaningless unless you look at peers and what they are doing.”
Other Chief Justices
from Hong Kong, New Zealand, Uganda, Singapore and India also referred to how they have looked at other legal
systems to help develop their own judiciaries, with Chief Justice Dame Sian Ellis of New Zealand saying that
her country has always been “comfortable to look abroad,” and that one-third of their statutes have been
brought from other countries.
Hong Kong’s Chief Justice Andrew Li described the one country- two
systems legal system in Hong Kong which has allowed “cross-fertilisation” with other countries, and uses an
international court of five, which Lord Woolf himself currently sits on.
The Ugandan representative,
Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki told a similar tale, recounting the huge amount of experience and knowledge he has
gained by meeting other chief justices from all over the world.
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong talked
about how Singapore adopted various laws to assist the country’s development as a financial centre, amending
laws to meet the requests of the financial sector but ensuring that the cultural and moral values of the
country remained unchanged.
India’s Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan referred to a number of advances
that his country has experienced in terms of infrastructure and social development as a result of
globalisation, but said that there is a general feeling within India that the wealth and benefits generated are
not trickling down to the poorer members of society.
Following the discussion by the representatives
of the various national judiciaries, the forum was addressed by a number of experts in international law,
including the president of the International Court of Justice, Hisashi Owada; the president of the European
Court of Justice, Jean-Paul Costa and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-O’
O’Campo, who has recently been a prominent name in the international media following the
issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Bashir, claimed that “the law is working.”
He told the story of an Australian pilot who was flying a plane over Iraq during the recent Gulf conflict
in 2003. Poised to drop his bombs on the ground and potentially kill innocent civilians, the pilot thought to
himself that he may be committing a punishable crime and so decided no to.
This was an example of
how the rule of law can be sustained despite the international difficulties it faces, and there were a number
of questions raised about future employment of an international code of conduct.
But it was
immediately apparent that in a gathering of the top names in the legal profession form all over the world in
Qatar, all were not only aware of the difficulties posed by the current financial and political problems
affecting the world, but are also doing their best to work together and propose solutions.