ASIA: An Asian consultation on delays in adjudication will begin tomorrow

(Hong Kong, September 16, 2007)

Twenty one participants from nine Asian countries will meet in Hong Kong from 17th to 21st September to discuss the problems of delays in adjudication and the implications of such delays on the administration of justice and the protection and promotion of human rights. “This is the very first international conference on the issue of delays in adjudication in the Asian region. In many countries a case may drag on for five to fifteen years. In many countries the general population has either lost faith or is very skeptical about the efficacy of the administration of justice”, said Basil Fernando, the Executive Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission.

This conference is organised by the Asian Human Rights Commission. Over a long period of time the AHRC has observed that delays in adjudication in several countries of Asia has been one of the major causes for the loss of faith in judicial systems and the resulting failures in the systems of policing, prosecution and the judiciary. Many an attempt to deal with grave abuses of human rights ends in futility as the very process of adjudication is so protracted that the parties involved are exposed to more hazards than advantages when they attempt to seek justice. At this meeting the participants who are experienced lawyers and judges from several countries will attempt to discuss this issue in depth and to reflect on ways to address this problem, said Fernando.

The conference will discuss various views on the causes of delays in the administration of justice. This includes the limitations based on resources such as insufficient number of court houses, judges, prosecutors and police investigators, poor technical facilities, lack of modern facilities, poor management and inadequate allocation of funds for administration of justice. It will also discuss structural and systemic causes such as manipulation by powerful sectors, manipulation by private interests — Lawyers — Police officers, corruption, bureaucratic bungling and manipulation of judiciary by state or from within the judiciary itself. Further the political causes for delay such as fear to promote equality before law- Use of justice system to buttress existing system of inequality, fear that speeding of justice may disturb political balances- such as ethnic and religious power equations and disturbance of social class balances on which political party affiliations may be based. Finally the societal causes such as keeping low expectations in the population, preventing greater social mobility, protecting abuses by executive and obstructing modernization, and protecting “culture”.

Participants will also try to address the consequences of delays to litigants such as long years of hardship, threats to witnesses, heavy expenses, obstruction to normal course of life- restriction on travel, suspicion by employers, social prejudices, consequences on marriage and families, loss of faith in the system of justice and incentives to look for other means of settlement of disputes- resort to the assistance criminals- to corruption. With regard to judges; extreme frustration due to inability to deliver justice in time, powerlessness in the face of forces that benefit from corruption and those who manipulate the system, demoralization and loss of self esteem, loss of social prestige, esteem and moral authority, temptation to benefit from delay and to resort to corruption. With regard to lawyers; disturbing the relationship with clients-Lawyers are forced to give all sort of excuses to explain delay to clients, tendency to take advantage of delay for benefit of clients whose claims are week or merely to benefit themselves, various from of unfair practices and manipulations from within the profession itself, inability to maintain high professional standards, bad social image as unscrupulous manipulators of peoples miseries. As regards law enforcement agencies; resort to extra-judicial punishment, resort to corruption, resort to manipulation of the system by falsification of charges in order to give false impression of having solved crimes or for punishment of opponents, difficulties in maintaining discipline within policing and other law enforcement departments, loss of command capacity and responsibility of high ranking officers, openness to manipulation by political and other powerful elements. With regard to prosecutors; loss of witnesses due to threats, favors and due to sheer tiredness, low rate of success in prosecutions, difficulties in providing witness protection over long periods of time, constant change of hands of cases and thus loss of initial interest in the case or loss of knowledge, powerlessness before manipulations in favor of criminals and the loss of prestige of the prosecutor¡¦s office

The participants will also critically address various solutions proposed by government and jurists and will try to formulate their own views on how this problem should be addressed.

Conference papers and minutes of deliberations and statements will be made available as soon as possible for wider discussion on the issue.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PL-036-2007
Countries : Asia, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand,