The lecture follows a visit to Zimbabwe in October 2009 of a delegation containing representatives from the Bar Council and the Bar Human Rights Committee. The purpose of the delegation’s visit, which included the 2009 Chairman of the Bar Desmond Browne QC, was to report on the impact which the formation of the Unity Government between ZANU-PF and the MDC had exerted upon respect for the rule of law and access to justice in Zimbabwe. The visit included meetings with Zimbabwean lawyers, and with the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. The Bar Council and the Bar Human Rights Committee continue to maintain contact with lawyers in Zimbabwe to offer practical assistance wherever possible.

The 2009 lecture follows previous addresses given by prominent lawyers of international standing such as Judge Phillipe Kirsch, President of the International Criminal Court, who gave the 2007 lecture, and Judge Johann Kriegler, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who gave the 2008 lecture. The 2010 lecture will be delivered by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The lectures highlight rule of law issues arising in different parts of the world. They are intended to inspire discussion and encourage barristers to consider pro bono work in issues covered by the lectures.

Judge Gubbay said:

“The rule of law forms an essential foundation in any democratic system of governance. It is a concept of universal validity and application. It embraces those institutions and principles of justice which are considered minimal to the assurance of human rights, and the dignity of man. The formation of the power-sharing government was welcomed by most right-thinking Zimbabweans. It has resulted in an end to rampant inflation and in a fair measure of economic stability. Though now threatened by policy differences, the slow pace of reforms, and feuding over top executive positions, it never the less, represents a glimmer of hope of a transition to democracy, and with it international recognition and financial, it is critical that the unity holds together.”