UN rights chief urges South Asian judges to facilitate access to justice

17 November 2009The United Nations human rights chief has called on judges across South Asia to ensure that everyone has access to justice, as part of efforts to combat the scourges of inequality and discrimination. While inequality and discrimination remain an enormous challenge across the world, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay singled out what she described as “the burden of multiple discrimination” that affects women, the poor, caste groups and indigenous peoples, among many others. “This web of inequality and discrimination produces swathes of social exclusion and disadvantage in our societies,” she said in a video message to the opening on Monday of a meeting of regional judges and experts from the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) and the UN Human Rights Council.The two-day event, hosted by the Maldives, looks at the interpretation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination by courts in the region and the role of judges in ensuring access to justice for all. “The judiciary can and must play a critical role in fighting the scourges of inequality and discrimination,” Ms. Pillay stressed, noting in particular that they can do this by facilitating access to justice. “Regardless of the substance of a complaint, some individuals’ claims will never be heard because of barriers to justice that discriminate against them,” she said. “This is an area in which judges may have even more power to counter discrimination and exclusion.” She added that OHCHR hoped to strengthen its cooperation with judiciaries in South Asia and support them through the dissemination of good practices and comparative jurisprudence, and to facilitate the sharing of experience and insights among peers. read more

Federal Court of Appeal to rule on letting Trans Mountain pipeline challenges

OTTAWA — The Federal Court of Appeal is to reveal today whether a new set of legal challenges to the Trans Mountain pipeline project can proceed.The federal government has twice approved a plan to twin an existing pipeline from Alberta’s oilpatch to the B.C. coast.Last year the Federal Court of Appeal tore up the original approval, citing both an insufficient environment review and inadequate consultations with Indigenous communities.The Liberals say they fixed both problems and approved the expansion a second time in June.Environment groups still say there are not adequate protections for endangered marine species that will be affected by tanker traffic picking up oil from a terminal in suburban Vancouver.Several First Nations say the federal government came into the most recent discussions having predetermined the outcome.Related Stories:Canadian court allows new challenges to Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansionB.C. says it won’t use court ruling as tactic in battle against Trans Mountain pipeline expansionThe court will decide on whether it will take up any of 12 requests to appeal the June approval. The ruling is to be issued in writing at 2 p.m. ET.The federal government bought the existing pipeline and the unfinished expansion work for $4.5 billion last year, promising to get it over the political opposition that had scared Kinder Morgan Canada off proceeding.The move disappointed environmentalists, who say the global climate can’t handle more emissions from Alberta’s oilsands and the eventual burning of the petroleum they produce. The Liberals say they’ll use any profits from the project to fund Canada’s transition to a cleaner-energy economy. read more