Thursday, September 15, 2011

Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Three Branches of Government


As agreed by Law Ministers and endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Abuja, Nigeria, 2003

(Selected text)

I) The Three Branches of Government

Each Commonwealth country’s Parliaments, Executives and Judiciaries are the guarantors in their respective spheres of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and the entrenchment of good governance based on the highest standards of honesty, probity and accountability.

II) Parliament and the Judiciary

(a) Relations between parliament and the judiciary should be governed by respect for parliament’s primary responsibility for law making on the one hand and for the judiciary’s responsibility for the interpretation and application of the law on the other hand.

(b) Judiciaries and parliaments should fulfill their respective but critical roles in the promotion of the rule of law in a complementary and constructive manner.

III) Independence of Parliamentarians

(a) Parliamentarians must be able to carry out their legislative and constitutional functions in accordance with the Constitution, free from unlawful interference.

(b) Criminal and defamation laws should not be used to restrict legitimate criticism of Parliament; the offence of contempt of parliament should be narrowly drawn and reporting of the proceedings of parliament should not be unduly restricted by narrow application of the defence of qualified privilege.

IV) Independence of the Judiciary

An independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.The function of the judiciary is to interpret and apply national constitutions and legislation, consistent with international human rights conventions and international law, to the extent permitted by the domestic law of each Commonwealth country.

To secure these aims:

(a) Judicial appointments should be made on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process.The process should ensure:

equality of opportunity for all who are eligible for judicial office;

appointment on merit; and

that appropriate consideration is given to the need for the progressive attainment of gender equity and the removal of other historic factors of discrimination;

(b) Arrangements for appropriate security of tenure and protection of levels of remuneration must be in place;

(c) Adequate resources should be provided for the judicial system to operate effectively without any undue constraints which may hamper the independence sought;

(d) Interaction, if any, between the executive and the judiciary should not compromise judicial independence.

Judges should be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or misbehaviour that clearly renders them unfit to discharge their duties.

Full document text here.

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