President's Message

Lending Justice a Hand

Hope Across the Globe Is Rooted in the Rule of Law

Posted Nov 1, 2004 5:30 PM CDT
By Robert J. Grey Jr.

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The key to the long-term prosperity of this country, and to the hope of coming genera­tions, is the application of the greatest instrument of social progress—the rule of law.

The limited space on this page prohibits me from tell­ing you all the many ways the ABA advances the rule of law internationally, but allow me to share two examples.

This summer, at the request of the State Depart­ment, the ABA sent almost two-dozen ob­serv­ers to document the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan and the resulting refugee crisis in neigh­boring Chad. As­sem­bled under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable, the information they gathered provided the basis for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s conclusion that the people of Darfur have been the victims of genocide for which the government of Sudan is responsible. Their work has shaped the international com­munity’s response and demonstrated how lawyers, applying their knowledge and skill to providing witness to injustice, can be the difference between hope and despair.

Meanwhile, after a year of interchange with the U.S. government on the implementation of military tribunals and the handling of detainees in the war on terrorism, the ABA was invited by the Defense Department to send an observer to monitor due process protections in the Guantanamo Bay proceedings. The ABA continues to have deep concerns about serious flaws in some aspects of the process. Many of our suggestions have been incorporated; some haven’t, but the dialogue continues.

Glo­balization is making the lives of all Americans interdependent with and inseparable from the rest of the world. Com­­munications, commerce, violence and disease care little for political boundaries or social divides. So too, then, should our concern for the rule of law.

The rule of law encapsulates many things. It guarantees the freedom to innovate, accessibility of the courts, respect for the will of the people coupled with protection for the individual, independence of judges and due process. The rule of law is the triumph of law over despots, transpar­ency over corruption, democracy over oppression.

Fundamentally, respect for the rule of law worldwide matters to both our economic and security interests. One-third of the U.S. gross domestic product is generated overseas, and stable environments in foreign countries facilitate the steady flow of natural resources as well as provide key markets for our products. It is also clear that the absence of legitimate law provides fertile ground for those who seek to destroy a civil society. His­tory has shown us time and again that environments torn by conflict, human rights abuses, corruption and desperate poverty are incubators for terrorism and violence.

With so much at stake and so much potential within us, it is critically important for the U.S. legal profession in general, and the American Bar Associ­ation in particular, to assist the cause of justice—not just within our 50 states but throughout the 191 nation states of our shared planet.

To this challenge we are rising.

CHANGING THE WORLD

Today, American lawyers—men and women with unending talent and determination—are spread across the globe teaching, advocating, building, agitating. Wheth­er it is human rights, judicial reform, anti-corruption efforts or other com­ponents of the rule of law, Ameri­can lawyers are making signif­icant contributions.

ABA pro­­grams such as the Africa Law Initiative, Asia Law Initiative, Cen­tral European and Eurasian Law Initiative, and Latin America Law Initiative are leveraging our profession’s immense energy and dedication to help developing nations build the institutions and practices needed to guarantee the rule of law. I urge every member to visit www.abanet.org to learn about these world-changing programs.

So I dedicate this page to all the lawyers who are helping us give meaning to our rhetoric, substance to our aspirations and deed to our ideals. They do this with grace and skill, often with great personal sacrifice and considerable risk. We all salute those among us working to bring the promise of justice to the challenges we face.

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