PANCAP Director’s reflection on the Caribbean Judges’ Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law
The UNDP Caribbean Judges’ Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law created awareness of the need for members of the judiciary to look at cases and persons accessing justice through different lenses to ensure equal access by all persons.
The Forum, which targeted judges, was convened on 5 – 6 November in Port-of-Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with the following objectives:
- To discuss the latest international and regional guidance on HIV, human rights and the law.
- To discuss the latest scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence pertaining to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
- To discuss judicial and legislative responses to HIV and related law at national, regional and international level.
- To review the social and structural factors that increase the vulnerability of People Living with HIV and key populations, including evidence on HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
- To share experiences and challenges in the protection of rights in the context of HIV.
There was a strong recognition among the judges that such fora provide an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between science and global developments in HIV and the application of laws. There was also increased awareness of the critical need for public health evidence, thus requiring public health practitioners to be proactive in sharing available data with the judiciary to enable them to increase access to justice to the most vulnerable.
The forum highlighted the need for emotionally intelligent judicial officers who can recognise the vulnerability of those seeking justice. It was agreed that the judiciary should be cognizant that people seeking justice are influenced by the behaviour of the judicial officers, clerks of the courts, bailiffs and other persons with whom they come into contact. It was underscored that people seeking justice should not be subjected to differentiated justice but should be recognized as persons with rights.
I was encouraged by the receptiveness of the judges to take into consideration the new developments in HIV when discussing legal case studies during the forum.
Several recommendations and commitments emanated from the forum, including:
- Magistrates should be invited to future fora given that the magistrate court is the first court of contact for people accessing justice.
- Convene a joint forum of judicial officers and senior police officers to create awareness among the police of the challenges people seeking justice encounter at the level of law enforcement officers.
- Continue and expand sensitivity training of police recruits and police officers by civil society organisations.
- PANCAP will encourage National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers to liaise with the judiciary to provide up to date data as well as information on the global developments.
- PANCAP will share the contact list of NAP Managers and other national partners with the judiciary to enable judicial officers to obtain public health evidence.
- PANCAP will create a dedicated page on its website for the Judiciary and will include the judiciary in its Listserv.
- PANCAP will collaborate with UNDP and UNAIDS to synthesise information which will be placed on the Judiciary page.
I congratulate UNDP for convening this important forum and for a very thoughtful agenda that stimulated spirited discussion and increased the judges’ awareness of the needs of vulnerable people who access justice and the need for data and information on global developments to inform decisions.