United Nations Organisation (UNO) explicitly states that access to justice is an important feature of the rule of law. The 2012 Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law emphasises upon the “ right of equal access to justice for all including members of vulnerable groups, and the importance of awareness-raising concerning legal rights”.
The Declaration also calls upon states to commit to taking all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services that promote access to justice for all, including legal aid. In October 2016, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson underscored since the rule of law had its prominent place in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community must ensure that Member States were supported in their plans and aspirations.
Non-Aligned Movement has stressed the need to elaborate the rule of law concept through for inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process and reaffirmed that respect for the rule of law is essential to maintain international peace and security as well as achieving socioeconomic development and reiterated that it is indispensable to maintain the balance in developing the national and international dimensions of the rule of law.
The Non-Aligned Movement firmly believes that access to justice is an essential element of democracy and rule of law, and in this regard NAM Member States have adopted national practices to ensure access to justice as a critical driver of rule of law. In India, access to justice is a fundamental right guaranteed by the country’s Constitution.
Access to justice is an inbuilt content of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees equality before law and equal protection of laws. India’s Constitution ensures that everyone had the right to have any dispute decided in a fair public hearing before an independent court or tribunal or any other independent and impartial forum. At the Sixth Committee Debate in the 71st session of the UN General Assembly held on October 6 2016, the Indian representative associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement highlighted the importance of access to justice in rule of law, and stated that law must stand the test of fundamental human values, and all enactments should be open to review in order to adapt to new developments. Otherwise, the principle could become “an instrument of oppression” and give legitimacy to laws that violated basic human rights.
In the above mentioned debate, many NAM Member States highlighted how their constitutional practices were framed and adopted to ensure access to justice for all. Kenya, associating itself with the Non-Aligned Movement stated that a transparent legal system characterised by clear set of laws that were freely and easily accessible to all, strong enforcement structures and an independent judiciary to protect citizens against the arbitrary use of power by the State, individuals or any other organization were integral to ensure access to justice for all.
The Kenyan representative also highlighted that capacity building was key to promoting the rule of law and strengthening the national capacities of Member States, including through greater technical assistance, and emphasized that it was necessary to account for the customs and national political, socioeconomic realities and laws of each State. Regarding the practices in the Kenyan Constitution, the representative mentioned how Kenya was continuing to implement, institutionalize and entrench the provisions of the 2010 Constitution and was on track to fulfil its obligations espoused in Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The importance of capacity building to ensure a transparent justice system was also highlighted by the representative of Ghana, who associated herself with the Non-Aligned Movement. She stated that access to legal representation and legal aid were also provided for under the Constitution, and highlighted the Justice for All Programme as an example of legal aid assistance, which afforded prisoners on remand access to legal representation.
Thus, the Non-Aligned Movement firmly believes that ensuring access to justice is a fundamental principle for achieving the rule of law. NAM Member States have strived to develop legal and institutional frameworks which reflect the basic tenets of the rule of law.