Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe: a discussion on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, 2011

7 October 2011

On Friday 7 October the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) hosted a side event at the Human Rights’ Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a review process of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The event focused on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Venezuela, Syria and Zimbabwe, three countries that were reviewed during the current Twelfth Session of the Human Rights Council’s UPR (3-14 October 2011) and where the IBAHRI has conducted fact-finding missions in 2011.


Panellists spoke of their personal experiences within their respective countries, as well as the main challenges facing lawyers and the judiciary, followed by a discussion on the common issues the independence of the judiciary, the legal profession and the rule of law in Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. This was followed by a moderated discussion among the panellists and questions from the audience.

The panel comprised experts from each state:

  • Sternford Moyo, Zimbabwe, Former President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe; IBAHRI Co-Chair;
  • Rafael Chavero, Venezuela, Professor of Administrative and Constitutional Law, Universidad Central De Venezuela;
  • Haitham Al Maleh, Syria, lawyer and human rights activist;
  • Phillip Tahmindjis, IBAHRI Co-Director, chaired the discussion.


In 2011 the IBAHRI produced detailed reports following fact-finding missions on the rule of law in Venezuela, Syria and Zimbabwe. All reports found significant cause for concern over the extent of political interference in the judiciary, the rule of law and the ability for human rights lawyers to practice freely, within vastly different contexts.