Human Rights Institute Annual Review 2019

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2019 began with the appointment of the new director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. The year began with the IBAHRI’s own strategic review for the next few years. The major priority of the Institute is to guard the vital independence of judges and lawyers. Without ethical judges and lawyers to guard a person’s rights, without fear or favour, the law has no real meaning as a force for good in society. With the rise of populism around the world, judges and lawyers are facing unique risks. Authoritarian leaders often seek to capture the court system, to bend it to the will of government. We are seeing this happen around the world, even in so-called ‘liberal’ democracies. Lawyers also face particular threats when they represent those who are critical of government, such as dissenters or journalists.

One of the key pieces of work in 2019 was the production of a Lawyers at Risk Toolkit, which outlines the legal instruments that should protect lawyers’ independence and demonstrates how lawyers can access international support. As part of its work in the Americas, the IBAHRI concluded and published a trial observation report concerning the allegations of corruption in office against Judge María Lourdes Afiuni in Venezuela. The IBAHRI also published its trial observation report following the sentencing of the four men accused of killing Myanmese lawyer U Ko Ni, following the IBAHRI’s work in Myanmar.

In Turkey, the IBAHRI began a trial observation for the 16 individuals, including President of the Open Society Osman Kavala, arrested following the Gezi Park Protests. During the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 35th Universal Periodic Review session, the IBAHRI penned a joint submission on the lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkey, and the persecution of members of the legal profession. Additionally in the Middle East and North Africa region, the IBAHRI continued its partnership with the International Legal Assistance Consortium on a project to strengthen the capacity of Syrian lawyers to engage with accountability mechanisms, and to provide training for Tunisian judges, lawyers and human rights activists on the judicial enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights.

Throughout the Latin American region, the IBAHRI continued its tailored training programmes for legal and medical professionals on torture prevention and the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol. The IBAHRI also expanded this programme into Ukraine. In July the IBAHRI released a study ¿¿Dónde Están? Estándares internacionales para la búsqueda de personas desaparecidas forzadamente (Where are they? International standards for the search for forcibly disappeared persons). The study highlights gaps in international law as well as states’ failings in the search for victims of enforced disappearances.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the IBAHRI continued its successful training and mentorship programmes to help inspire a new generation of young legal students in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The IBAHRI also brought a delegation of five lawyers from Kazakhstan to the United Nations, during the review of Kazakhstan under the Universal Periodic Review system, to engage them in United Nations human rights mechanisms. In June, alongside the ICJ, the IBAHRI submitted a joint report on Tajikistan’s implementation of the ICCPR before the 126th session of the UN Human Rights Committee, and facilitated the attendance of ten Tajik lawyers at the session.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the IBAHRI established a training and mentorship programme for legal students in Zambia.

In 2019, the IBAHRI focused on the following thematic areas: media freedom, abolition of the death penalty, juvenile justice, torture prevention, enforced disappearances, right to freedom of assembly, independence of the legal profession, equality and non-discrimination and poverty and human rights.

To receive a hard copy of the Annual Review 2019, please contact hri@int-bar.org

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