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Human rights, technology on conference agenda


Cite as: (2002) 76(11) LIJ, p.26

Terrorism, human rights, and the impact of modern technology will be among the topics taking centre stage at the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference to be held in Melbourne next April.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, one of the key speakers at the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference, will focus on the legal implications of terrorism and human rights abuses.

Ms Robinson will join High Court Justice Michael Kirby to discuss human rights and the rule of law at the conference to be held 13-17 April next year at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

The former Irish President has been the High Commissioner for five years, during which time she has travelled to Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia, and Cambodia. In 1998, she was the first High Commissioner to visit China, where she signed an agreement designed to improve human rights in that country.

Ms Robinson will be one of several Commonwealth speakers to consider the issues now exercising the minds of governments, military, security and other experts in many countries, most importantly Australia, in the wake of the Bali bombings.

Discussion will centre on the response of governments to the emerging threats, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and will examine the legislative responses in domestic and international law to aspects of terrorism.

The issue of human rights will be discussed in a range of sessions, including one titled “Enhancing democracy – human rights protection and the common good”. Another session will look at the future of human rights and ask whether there is one.

Other keynote speeches will be delivered by Judge Albie Sachs of the South African Constitutional Court, prominent Malaysian human rights and defence lawyer Karpal Singh, and the Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice in the United Kingdom Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.

Conference sessions will look at commercial legal issues emanating from the advent of the Internet and global communications networks.

While considering the issues confronted by lawyers practising in a virtual world and the impact of technology on their work, the jurisdictional issues arising from international e-commerce and publications via the Internet will also be discussed.

Similarly, commercial and business legal issues will be to the fore in a session, led by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, which will look at the challenges faced by legal counsel for transnational companies as a result of the diverse regulatory requirements, legal systems and business cultures in many countries.

The session will consider how legal risks can be effectively assessed and managed across national borders as business and commerce become increasingly globalised.

Other conference agenda topics include corporate governance after Enron, law and journalism and the viability of forming a Commonwealth Law Journalists Association, and issues confronted by legal practitioners in a virtual world, including the impact of technology and ways for the legal profession to cope with the technological revolution.

Organising committee chairman Mark Woods said there was an enormous amount of interest shown by lawyers and others, from Australia and other countries, in attending the conference and also offering themselves as speakers.

He said sponsorship contributions had exceeded budget and provided solid funding to allow assistance packages to be offered to delegates travelling from developing countries in the Commonwealth.

The organising committee expects attendance at the conference to total more than 2000 delegates from many of the 54 Commonwealth countries.

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