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“Development needs access to justice” – UN Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary

NEW YORK (23 October 2014) – People’s demands for development are not limited to purely economic claims, but include claims of justice, non-discrimination and opportunities, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, today told the UN General Assembly.

“It is now clear that, despite a number of successful achievements, the development framework established by the UN Millennium Development Goals, based on the notion of economic growth, was too limited conceptually to fully account for the human experience of development,” the expert said during the presentation of her latest report.*

Ms. Knaul called for a human-rights based approach to development and urged States represented at the UN General Assembly to insert explicit references to human rights standards, and in particular to standards related to access to justice and the independence of the justice system, in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and Targets.

“I strongly believe that the promotion of justice and the consolidation of the rule of law provide the necessary tools for the fostering of more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development,” the expert stated, while stressing that the independence of the justice system has a central role to play as it is the institutional guardian of the enforcement of the rule of law.

“When the administration of justice fails, impunity takes over and undermines democracy, the rule of law, people’s trust in State institutions, as well as opportunities for development,” the UN Special Rapporteur said.

“Weak judicial systems that fail to guarantee access to justice for all lead to situations in which the most marginalized groups of the population are excluded from the judicial system, compounding the discrimination and vulnerability they are facing,” she added.

Ms. Knaul pointed out that it is not enough that the issues relating to access to justice and the administration of justice feature high on the development agenda: “They should also be explicitly included in the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“Failing to acknowledge the role of the justice system will surely jeopardize the success of the Post-2015 development agenda”, concluded the human rights expert.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report to the UN General Assembly: (A/69/294): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/newyork/Pages/HRreportstothe69thsessionGA.aspx

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in 2009. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

Check the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/IndependenceJudiciary.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact:
In New York:
André-Michel Essoungou, (+1 917 367 9995 / Cell: +1 917 940 0685 / essoungou@un.org)
Nenad Vasic (+1 212 963 5998 / Cell: +1 917 941 7558 / vasic@un.org)
In Geneva:
Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 91 86 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to Stefano Sensi (ssensi@ohchr.org) or srindependencejl@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en