A significant stride towards improved access to justice for millions of Commonwealth citizens was achieved as law ministers concluded their meeting in Zanzibar yesterday.

The comprehensive package of new measures and commitments emerged after four days of deliberations, incorporating insights from various stakeholders, including individuals with disabilities, civil society representatives, and legal sector innovators.

The package encompasses a range of initiatives aimed at dismantling barriers to justice and catering to the legal needs of all citizens. Key highlights include enhanced access to justice for people with disabilities, the development of a model law on virtual assets, the formulation of a new action plan to combat online violence against women, and proposals to eliminate gender-discriminatory legislation.

Ministers also applauded the introduction of several new Commonwealth legal resources, such as a mediation guide, a small claims court app facilitating dispute resolution, and a database fostering cooperation on criminal matters. Additionally, they endorsed the Commonwealth guidelines on handling electronic evidence in criminal proceedings, providing member countries with a framework for enacting national legislation.

To ensure effective implementation, ministers tasked the Commonwealth Law Ministers Action Group with monitoring progress and reporting back at the next meeting.

Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, hailed the measures as “absolutely critical,” emphasizing the imperative to address the significant portion of the global population lacking meaningful access to justice. She underscored the meeting’s purposeful discussions and meaningful decisions, asserting that the newfound consensus empowers the Commonwealth to advance towards equitable access to justice across its diverse member nations.

In their joint statement, ministers lauded the Commonwealth Secretariat’s initiatives in leveraging technology to enhance access to legal information and streamline justice delivery. They also acknowledged the Secretariat’s contributions in the energy and extractives sectors, particularly in developing legislation to address climate change and promote a just transition.

The meeting, hosted by the United Republic of Tanzania from 4 to 8 March 2024 and chaired by Hon Ambassador Dr Pindi H. Chana, Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, garnered praise for its substantive outcomes. During the closing ceremony, H.E. Hussein Mwinyi, President of Zanzibar, highlighted the achievements as catalysts for necessary reforms to ensure universal access to justice, emphasizing the importance of digitization in this endeavor.

The outcomes of the meeting will inform the agenda for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Samoa later this year, with the next law ministers’ gathering scheduled to be hosted by the Government of Fiji in February 2026.

Kimera Abdul is a Senior Journalist with Plus News Uganda. He identifies as an adaptable and enthusiastic individual who works to inspire generations. He posses a Diploma and Broadcast journalism and has...

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