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Prior to the review of the Greenlandic justice system published on November 30, the previous review was carried out in 2004. The result of that report was the creation of a new legal code.
Much has changed since then, but one fact that has not, according to Advokatrådet, the Danish solicitors’ and barrister’s association, which complied the latest review, is that Danish judicial principles cannot be transferred to Greenland wholesale.
On March 22, the review, as well as a second report published last year, this one looking into human rights in Greenland, will be taken up by the Danish national assembly’s Greenland committee, as well as members of the justice committees of both the Danish and the Greenlandic assemblies.
While the justice system is one of the administrative areas yet to be devolved to Nuuk, courts there have, since the 1950s, used lay judges (regular citizens with specialised training) at the lowest level. This is in keeping with a desire to ensure that rulings are made locally by individuals with an understanding of Greenlandic culture, and that Greenland’s particular linguistic and cultural traditions are respected.
This, by and large, has worked, according to the review. And there is no reason why it cannot continue to do so, provided it keeps up with the times.
The review did provide several recommendations in all areas of the justice system (judges, public defenders, the police, the correctional system and how laws are enforced). Most worrisome was that some of the local judges may not have adequate training, and that they may work too slowly.
These are things, Greenlandic lawmakers point out, that Copenhagen is ultimately responsible for addressing as part of its obligation to ensure that the justice system in Greenland meets the standard set by the Danish justice system.
The principle, in this case, must then be different but equal.