The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of COVID-19 an international health emergency. All countries have also taken action against the emergence and spread of the pandemic and the subsequent health emergency. Most countries have declared states of emergency and adopted restrictive measures for human movement, such as closing air, land and sea borders, as well as in some cases, compulsory social isolation.
On 6 January 2020, Harvey Weinstein walked into a New York courtroom to face five charges of rape and sexual assault. Three years since the #MeToo movement began, more and more people are speaking out about harassment and abuse. The legal profession is at the forefront of this evolving movement, inherently tasked with determining the scope of the law as it relates to bullying and sexual harassment.
Yet the legal profession itself is not immune from these concerns. In May 2019, the International Bar Association (IBA) published its landmark report "Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession". The largest survey of its kind conducted by the legal profession, the report details the responses of almost 7,000 respondents from 135 countries.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is bringing to the forefront the weaknesses of criminal justice systems across the globe to ensure access to justice. Many states have resorted to closing courthouses and delaying proceedings as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus. A key common feature of these measures is to keep defendants away from courthouses and even away from their lawyers. However, a defendant's right to be tried in person in an open court is a fundamental component of the right to a fair trial enshrined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is an international court headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago. The CCJ has both a Community treaty jurisdiction (much like the European Court of Justice does for Europe), and a final appellate jurisdiction to which four Caribbean states currently subscribe. Its complement extends to 80 staff members, including seven judges. In response to COVID-19, the court adopted special measures to protect the health and safety of staff and judges, while continuing to guarantee access for court users.
The justice sectors in Council of Europe member states have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Special arrangements have been introduced in most systems in order to respect the need for social distancing, while at the same time delivering a minimum level of service in cases where postponement would have particularly harmful implications. This is the case notably as regards proceedings involving children, custody, domestic violence and detention. This responsiveness is to be welcomed.