The Human Rights Committee (HRC) – the AIJA body committed to supporting human rights and advocating the independence of lawyers and the rule of law – has been very busy of late.
Already in the past year, the Voice of the Profession at AIJA’s 2016 Annual Congress in Munich – organised in cooperation with the Deutscher Anwaltverein (DAV) and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) – talked about the role of lawyers in relation to refugees in Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
The HRC continued its efforts to raise awareness about the situation of refugees in Europe by organising a session titled “The Mediterranean Sea: a big refugee graveyard – is Italy the only one trying to stop this?” for AIJA’s 2016 November Half Year Conference in Verona. “Thanks to the valuable insights provided by Italian human rights experts”, explains Gülsüm Aslan, Co-chair Human Rights Committee, “the session highlighted the perspective of Italy as one of the immediate destinations of most Mediterranean refugees, the rights of refugees at sea and their rights once they set foot in Europe.”
The latest session organised by the HRC for this year’s May Half Year Conference held in Riga was titled “Fake news: an insidious threat to human rights?” to discuss the problem of fake news in connection with the right to information and the freedom of speech.
In addition to awareness-raising, the HRC also puts its money where its mouth is. Thanks to donations made to AIJA´s ‘SOS Avocats’ fund, AIJA donated EUR 10,000 to ASF in February of this year in support of ASF’s work to defend endangered lawyers and human rights.
“The right of every individual to a fair trial and effective access to legal representation is central to the HRC programme”, explains Aslan. “For this purpose, the HRC cooperates with both AIJA members and other organisations in supporting initiatives and activities related to these topics with funds that are made available through AIJA’s ‘SOS Avocats’ programme.”
One of these organisations, of which AIJA is a proud member, is the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) that plays an important role in supporting post-conflict countries. Since 2015, AIJA has collaborated with ILAC in providing targeted English courses to Syrian lawyers and judges who were forced to flee to Turkey due to the conflict. The English courses are supported by AIJA’s ‘SOS Avocats’ fund.
In March 2017, the HRC had the honour of being able to participate in the “ILAC Syria Program Meeting” in Istanbul to discuss the development of a road map and strategy for the implementation of ILAC’s Syria program for the 2017-2020 period.
Currently, the HRC is preparing for the Annual Congress in Tokyo, which will include a session on human rights in the automation age. There will be plenty of fun events too, says Aslan: “the HRC will organise the traditional Human Rights Run through Tokyo and is working on realising a flashmob – also a tradition - in Tokyo!”