In case you missed it: The Presidents of the IBA and ICC Court discussed ways to prevent ‘rule of lawlessness’

Friday 19 May 2023

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The presidents of the International Bar Association (IBA) and the ICC International Court of Arbitration, Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama and Claudia Salomon, respectively, recently held  an informal discussion around  what each of their organisations can do to protect and advance the rule of law. During the exchange, the IBA President urged lawyers to take action to prevent a ‘transition from a rule of law to a rule of lawlessness’.

The discussion was held on 9 May 2023 at the IE Law School, Madrid, Spain, in front of an in-person and online audience and centred on the core elements of the rule of law, how the two organisations promote and protect it and the risks and challenges involved in this endeavour. The session included questions from the audience.

Watch a recording of the session here: www.ibanet.org/advancing-rule-law-fireside-chat-IBA-ICC

Opening the event, Marie José Garot, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for European Studies at IE Law School, said: ‘The rule of law is the keystone of our society [...] it is vital for the maintenance of peace, security and obviously business too. It ensures that everyone is equal before the law, that legal certainty is guaranteed, and it also ensures the protection of human rights and promotion of sustainable development. Arbitration is a key instrument for resolving disputes in a very fair and efficient manner. At IE Law School, we are firmly convinced that the rule of law should be in the DNA of every lawyer. In this time of uncertainty, strengthening the rule of law is more important than ever.’

Introducing the two Presidents to the audience, Jordi Sellarés-Serra, Secretary General at ICC Spain, spoke of their stellar educational backgrounds and of the wealth of knowledge and experience attained in their respective fields of law and arbitration. After a few warming anecdotes, he said it was a privilege to have the Presidents dedicate their time to this event and that he was very much looking forward to learning more about the importance of the rule of law from their informal conversation and hoped that the audience was too.

Before moderating the discussion between the IBA and ICC Court Presidents, Alfonso Iglesia, Partner at Cuatrecasas, commented on the importance of the rule of law, stating: ‘The rule of law is an aspiration that should always be pursued and that is never completely achieved. The definition [of the rule of law] developed by the OECD states that the rule of law means that no-one, including government, is above the law. The rule of law has been considered one of the key dimensions that determines the quality and good governance of countries.’

Below are some extracts of the conversation between President Arpón de Mendívil and President Salomon.

On the elements of the rule of law

President Arpón de Mendívil: ‘It is only when you have rule of law that democracy may operate, and it is only if you have rule of law that human rights may be protected. Without an independent media, without the right to gather and protest, without freedom of expression, without independence of the judiciary, without independence of the legal profession […] think how each of your lives would be without all those elements. When we are talking about rule of law, we are talking about how to build a good society. Let's not lose track of the fact that the rule of law is impacting our everyday lives.’

On access to justice, the rule of law and challenges

President Salomon: ‘When we think about access to justice, I think about that ability to obtain a remedy, or have an avenue to recourse. Arbitration provides that avenue to recourse that a party may not otherwise have in courts. The ICC's core mission is to promote peace and prosperity [...] when the population has a more attractive alternative to violence to resolve their disputes, you in essence have peace and prosperity.’

President Arpón de Mendívil: ‘Unfortunately the rule of law is being gradually eroded [...] there are illegal and unconstitutional changes in governments that are now proliferating. I don't need to remind you of the illegal war in Ukraine which is the utmost challenge to the rule of law. Another important risk to the rule of law regards justice [...] there is a gap between those who have access to justice and those who don't, and there is a problem regarding the resources that are allocated to justice. For every dollar invested in justice, there is a six dollar return benefit in terms of reduced risk of violence. Institutions like the IBA and the ICC have a very significant duty in terms of bringing awareness to the importance of the rule of law. We don't want to transition from a rule of law to a rule of lawlessness. We really need to take action.’

President Salomon: ‘When you have jurisdictions where lawyers are unable to carry out legitimate duties or professional work because of fear of arrest or intimidation, they cannot properly uphold the rule of law. When there are lawyers and judges protesting, there is the moment when a society is really on the brink. When there is war, even if the courts are operating, then that obviously creates a challenge to the rule of law. We always say justice delayed, is justice denied.’

On promoting the rule of law and justice globally

President Arpón de Mendívil: ‘The defence of the rule of law is at the core of the IBA [...] the promotion of the rule of law permeates the activities of the entire association. The IBA has a significant number of committees dealing with areas of substantive law, and all of these contribute to the improvement of rules and the improvement of practise. The IBA Arbitration Committee has issued a number of guidelines which clearly contribute to a better administration of justice. We [also] do a lot in terms of webinars and specific conferences looking at the rule of law from different angles. The IBA has a Rule of Law Forum and is working with different universities, business and law schools to prepare a toolkit addressing the importance of the rule of law.’

President Salomon: ‘At the core of what the ICC Court does, is provide access to justice. It is our purpose. In the 100 years of our existence, we have been unwavering in that purpose and commitment to provide a global, independent, neutral institution, not tied to any geography, not subject to shifting political winds, where parties have an avenue for recourse. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, what's important from our perspective is that we have not just parties filing claims against Russian parties, but Russian parties filing claims. That for us is the true definition of being that independent and neutral forum.’

At the conclusion of the dialogue, Patricia Saiz, Professor of International Arbitration at Esade Law School, stated: ‘Our discussion has summed up the significance the rule of law has for our society today, and for the proper functioning of a democratic state. We must do everything we can to protect and promote the rule of law. Together we have the power to shape a world where the rule of law is upheld and justice prevails.’

Closing the session, Soledad Atienza Becerril, Dean of IE Law School and Co-President of the Law Schools Global League, remarked: ‘We believe that the law cannot be taught or practised in isolation from other disciplines. We are committed to promoting the rule of law at IE University, and we research, educate and train to advance the rule of law. Education and research are the basis, but we cannot do it on our own. Let's keep working together for the advancement of the rule of law.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related items:
    Look after the Rule of Law, and it will look after you – a set of short (approximately one minute long) videos on the IBA website that illustrate how our everyday lives are affected when the different elements that make up the rule of law are flouted.
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rule of law globally, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. 

  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  4. The ICC International Court of Arbitration is the world’s leading arbitral institution. Since 1923, we have been helping to resolve disputes in international commercial and investment disputes. We perform an essential role by providing businesses, governments and individuals with a variety of customisable services for every stage of their dispute. Our purpose is to ensure proper application of the ICC Arbitration Rules, as well as assist parties and arbitrators in overcoming procedural obstacles.

  5. IE Law School has established itself as a model for excellence in global legal education. With a wide range of academic programs, research endeavors and unique initiatives, we train professionals to take the lead in pursuing Justice and the Rule of Law across international jurisdictions for the betterment of societies across the globe. Our innovative approaches to teaching and learning, coupled with a focus on the humanities, help students build multidisciplinary competences that transcend traditional frontiers.

  6. Find the IBA and IBAHRI on social media here:

    IBA (@IBAnews)


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