We wish to begin by thanking the Special Rapporteur for her comprehensive and well considered report. We fully subscribe to her statement that ‘without independence of the judiciary there is no separation of powers and without separation of powers there is no rule of law or democracy’. Ms Knaul has very ably built upon the work of her predecessor.
In a number of New Zealand’s interventions under the universal periodic review, we have recommended that States should extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur and should implement readily available tools such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and Role of Lawyers.
We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the issue of combating impunity and the practical suggestions she has made towards a strategy on this matter. Those who have breached human rights and been allowed to act with impunity undermine confidence in policing systems and the judiciary.
The Special Rapporteur refers throughout her report to situations of threats and intimidation of lawyers and judges. This can take the form of physical harm, extreme harassment and loss of possessions and income. However, it can be the case that harassment begins in a low key way such as telephone calls several times a day from an authority who is trying to influence the outcome of a court decision. This pressure mounts up over time especially when there is fear of escalation. Also, we are especially concerned about decisions to prosecute the family members of human rights defenders or political opponents for what are often fictitious reasons. For these reasons, we support continuous monitoring in this area and ongoing human rights training for lawyers and judges.
We were pleased to co-sponsor Hungary’s resolution at the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council on ‘Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and asessors and the independence of lawyers’. We especially welcomed the initiative for collaboration between the Special Rapporteur and the United Nations Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group. The rule of law is often the last line of defence against corruption and the erosion of democracy. Therefore we fully support the efforts of the Group to ensure that the United Nations takes a coordinated and strategic approach to this area.
Our question to the Special Rapporteur is if she could please expand further on her recommendation regarding training and capacity building for criminal justice personnel and their role in combating impunity.