Global meeting of jurists aims for better protection of the rights of refugees and migrants

Forty distinguished judges and lawyers from around the world have reaffirmed the essential role of judges and lawyers in securing the rule of law and human rights in relation to large movements of refugees and migrants, at the 7th annual ICJ Geneva Forum, 17-18 November 2016.

The 2016 Forum concluded with substantial agreement and reaffirmation of the essential role that judges and lawyers must be enabled to play, and must fulfil in practice, if the rights of refugees and migrants and the rule of law are to be secured, including in the context of large movements.

Participants exchanged challenges and solutions, and deliberated on a wide range of issues, including:

  • on methods for best assessing evidence and credibility;
  • on means for overcoming the legal, policy, and practical challenges when judges and lawyers face large numbers of claims and cases;
  • on reforms to better enable immigration judges to meet basic standards of independence and impartiality;
  • on the need for judiciaries and legal professions to ensure practitioners receive appropriate training and better access to information about international standards and reliable information about country situations;
  • on the importance of effective access to competent legal advice and representation, including free of charge when necessary, for refugees and migrants to be able to exercise their rights and for judges to be able to decide cases in an efficient and just manner;
  • on ways of supporting judges who courageously exercise their independence to uphold the rule of law and human rights, including in the face of interference or reprisal from the executive or legislative branches of government, or intense media criticism or majoritarian pressure;
  • on ensuring that refugees and migrants who are victims of crime or victims of human rights violations are able to have effective access to justice and effective remedy, without discrimination arising from their status;
  • on the importance of ensuring that legal processes are sensitive to the particular situation of women and children migrants, and migrants in detention.

Based on the discussions,the ICJ will develop and disseminate a set of Principles and recommendations on the role of judges and lawyers in situations of large-scale movement of refugees and migrants. The Principles will complement ICJ’s 2011 Practitioners’ Guide No 6 on Migration and International Human Rights Law.

More information about the Geneva Forum is available here.

For further details, please contact Matt Pollard, senior legal adviser, matt.pollard(a)

The 2016 Geneva Forum has been made possible with the support of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

The ICJ is also grateful for the assistance of the Le Centre d’Accueil – Genève Internationale (CAGI) and Swiss Confederation.

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