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2.5Bn People To Benefit from Commonwealth’s Access to Justice Package

by Daniel Sabiiti
2:15 pm

Commonwealth (CW) law ministers with community’s Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC (4th lef seated)

Commonwealth (CW) Justice ministers have agreed on a package of new measures and pledges to improve people-centred access to justice that will benefit millions of Commonwealth citizens.

The package was shaped, with input from diverse stakeholders, including people with disabilities, civil society representatives and leading innovators in the legal sector. during four days of deliberations among CW ministers who met in Zanzibar, Tanzania at the 2024 Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) held from March 4-8.

In this new package, ministers (including Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja) resolved to ramp up efforts to remove barriers to access to justice and address the legal needs of all citizens.

Key provisions include improved access to justice for people with disabilities, a model law on virtual assets, a new action plan to protect women from online violence and a proposal to eliminate gender-discriminatory legislation.

Ministers also welcomed an array of new Commonwealth legal resources, including a mediation guide, a small claims court app for dispute resolution and a database for cooperation on criminal matters.

Additionally, they adopted the Commonwealth guidelines on the treatment of electronic evidence in criminal proceedings, designed to offer member countries a framework to craft national legislation.

To support the implementation, ministers requested the Commonwealth Law Ministers Action Group to report progress at the next meeting.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, said the measures were “absolutely critical” because two-thirds of the world’s population lack meaningful access to justice.

“Our discussions have been purposeful, our decisions have been meaningful, and our powerful new consensus allows us to take the next giant steps forward towards equal access to justice, in modernized legal systems, across our wonderful Commonwealth,” Scotland said.

Scotland stated that they left Zanzibar with a powerful mandate which will allow the CW to take the next decisive steps to ensure justice for all is the lived experience of every one of the 2.5 billion people living in the Commonwealth.

Officiating the closing ceremony President of Zanzibar, Hussein Mwinyi, said that he was pleased the meeting recorded a number of achievements, which challenge the community to undertake reforms in an effort to ensure that justice is accessible to all.

“I am aware of efforts that the Commonwealth countries have taken to shape its agenda on the rule of law and access to justice. It is high time that you made the same efforts on access to justice through digitization,”

In the meantime, the outcomes from the meeting will shape the agenda for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Samoa later this year.  Afterwards, the CW plans to hold its next CHOGM meeting will be hosted by the Government of Fiji in February 2026.

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