Nation - ABA inspires lawyers to remain committed to protecting human rights and rule of law

In a speech last week to the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Conference in Italy, American Bar Association House of Delegates Chair William C. Hubbard inspired lawyers to re-commit themselves to the hard work of protecting human rights and strengthening the rule of law.

Hubbard said, "Lawyers and human rights advocates struggle with crises old and new ... against genocide and mass atrocities and their consequences. ... We struggle against terrorism while seeking to protect due process for the accused. ... We struggle to help the corporate sector make a positive impact on human rights and remedy conditions that compromise basic human dignity for workers. ... We struggle to secure the human rights of women and girls and combat all forms of violence against women. ... From wherever we come ... lawyers speak the same language. We defend liberty for all. We pursue equal justice for the mighty and the lowly. We share a mission and a common sense of purpose, and we have much work before us."

Hubbard represented the ABA at last week's meeting at the request of association President Carolyn B. Lamm. He presented his remarks to international lawyers and legal scholars convening in Rome to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

He stressed the essential connection between a country's rule of law and its citizens' daily quality of life.

"The ABA has long endorsed the founding documents of modern human rights law and supported the international community in its efforts to extend basic legal protections to all people. ... In fact, the ABA regards the promotion of universal human rights and the rule of law as part of its core mission as an organization," said Hubbard.

Hubbard outlined the ABA's role in establishing three key entities to track human rights and rule of law around the world. The ABA's Center for Human Rights serves as the catalyst for activating the full human rights potential of the association's various sections and committees. The center monitors allegations of governments' harassment of judges, lawyers and human rights advocates, and recommends responses on behalf of the association.

The ABA established its Rule of Law Initiative two decades ago, and in that time, has provided technical legal assistance -- in collaboration with host country partners -- to help draft laws, provide judicial training and establish legal services projects in more than 40 countries. Promoting access to justice and human rights is one of ABA ROLI's core focal areas, and includes increasing awareness of international human rights standards and humanitarian law, and training legal professionals to seek redress for human rights violations in domestic, regional and international courts.

The third ABA initiative, the World Justice Project, is now an independent organization that unites an international network of stakeholders who are globally advancing the rule of law as a foundation for thriving communities. Hubbard highlighted the recently developed WJP Rule of Law Index, which quantitatively assesses a country's adherence to the rule of law. The index is a unique tool for policymakers because it enables them to identify a nation's strengths and weaknesses with respect to rule of law issues, and track changes over time. In 2009, the first year of assessment, the index covered 35 countries across the globe. Coverage expanded to 70 countries in 2010 and data for 100 countries is expected to be compiled by 2011.

Published: Thu, Jun 24, 2010