How international law can solve problems at home
23 May 2006
Like others in his generation, Michael Kirby grew up with the assumption that international law was separate - "it was the business of princes, not the business of lawyers" - and that it had nothing to do with him. A meeting in Bangalore in 1988 changed all that.
Justice Kirby, Australian High Court Judge, was attending a meeting of commonwealth judges to discuss human rights law and other legal issues.
"The proposition was advanced: when we encounter an uncertainty in our own country's constitution, we can use international human rights law to inform how we solve the problem at hand," he said, speaking at the 2006 Peace Foundation Forum hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University last night.
Addressing staff, students and the public, Justice Kirby discussed how, in Australia and other democracies, final courts are now looking to international human rights law in order to strengthen protection of basic civil rights.
International law has been used to influence indigenous native land rights legislation, to strengthen the rights of people with disabilities, as well as challenging courts to rethink taken-for-granted laws, explained Justice Kirby.
"We should not turn our backs on the fundamental principles of human rights," he said.