Justice

(British Section of the International Commission of Jurists)

Justice has its origins in an ad hoc all party grouping of lawyers which emerged in Britain in late 1956 in response to two events overseas with fundamental implications for the rule of law. These were the political trials which followed the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Uprising, and the arrest and trial of 156 people in South Africa on charges of treason.

The evident need to continue the work begun by these campaigns led to the formation of a permanent organisation, also called Justice, which constituted itself as the British Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in June 1957. Committed 'to uphold and strengthen the principles of the Rule of Law', Justice has from its foundation defined itself as an expert, independent body, rather than a pressure group, working in the areas of law reform, monitoring of legislation and individual casework. Of particular note in the 1960s and 1970s were its investigations into the Ombudsman system, criminal appeals, the laws of evidence and previous convictions. More recently, a major review of administrative law was undertaken in conjunction with All Souls College, Oxford, which reported in 1988. Justice submitted expert evidence to the 1993 Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, which resulted in the creation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 1997, and since that date its casework has decreased. Following the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law through the Human Rights Act of 2000, Justice reviewed its work and decided to focus on four main themes. These are human rights, criminal justice, the European arrest warrant, and the legal system and access to justice.

Four decades of activity, from the mid 1950s to the early 1990s are covered by the first deposit of records. The archive comprises: correspondence files, relating mainly to the establishment and early history of Justice; minutes of the Council and Executive Committee; numerous files of correspondence, minutes, reports, memoranda and other papers generated by Standing Committees on Administrative Law, Civil Justice, Colonial (later Commonwealth) Affairs and Criminal Justice, as well as various ad hoc and joint committees; files relating to Annual Members' Conferences and joint meetings with other European Sections of the ICJ; reports produced by the ICJ, as well as papers relating to international conferences on the rule of law; a series of files arranged by country which focus both on Justice's work to uphold the rule of law in the British colonies and dependent territories and its partnership with numerous overseas members, branches and national sections of the ICJ. A second uncatalogued deposit is also held and future deposits are expected. [U DJU]