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Fields of activity for lawyers in the sphere of international solidarity


Chapter by Bill Bowring to be published in German in the collection of articles “VDJ – Battle over the law Legal-political struggles in 50 years (from the foundation of VDJ in 1972)“, for the 50th Anniversary of VDJ – VDJ is the Haldane Society’s German sister organisation, Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen,

I have been asked to contribute to this anniversary collection because of my role as President of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) for many years now. I am a member of the Haldane Society Socialist Lawyers (Haldane) in England, which is, together with VDJ, a founder member in 1993 (with other national associations) of ELDH. I am Haldane’s International Secretary.

I start with an introduction to Haldane and VDJ. Second, I examine the common history of VDJ, Haldane, and ELDH in the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). Third, I describe my own introduction to International Law, International Human Rights Law, and the International Law of Armed Conflict on a Mission to Israel and Palestine in 1988. My fourth section describes the birth of ELDH, and its continuing relationship with IADL. Fifth, I turn to the way in which, with Thomas Schmidt as General Secretary, has gone from strength to strength since its birth in1993, and now has members in 22 European countries. Finally, and sixth, I present the conferences which are the high point of ELDH activity, and which take place in many countries and focus of the most important topics for European-wide solidarity.

Haldane and VDJ

Haldane,, has a relatively young (20 and 30 year olds) leadership, and some 600 members, mostly practising lawyers, in England. Haldane was founded in 1930. In 1980, to mark the Society’s 50th anniversary, Nick Blake (who later became a High Court Judge, and is now retired, as Sir Nicholas Blake) and Harry Rajak (Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Sussex) wrote “Wigs and Workers”, a history of the Society’s first 50 years.  The Society was named after Lord Haldane, in 1924 the first Labour Party Lord Chancellor (Minister of Justice), and it was the first organisation of lawyers committed to supporting the interests of the Labour Movement.

VDJ, founded in 1972, is much younger than Haldane. Professor Gerhard Stuby, General Secretary of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), of which more below, was the first Chair of VDJ. VDJ has always in fact proclaimed its independence from any political party or national government. Professor Stuby, born in 1934, was the author, with Professor Norman Paech, of the Handbook on International Law and Power Politics,one of the most important texts for international legal solidarity, which went into athird edition. When he died, on 24 August 2020, IADL published on its website an account of his life as an “extraordinary lawyer”.[1]

A common history: the IADL

VDJ and Haldane also share an international and internationalist history.

Haldane was a founder member of IADL, on 24 October 1946. IADL was launched by a gathering in Paris of “lawyers who had survived the war against fascism and had participated in the Nuremberg Trials”. Rene Cassin, a drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, became IADL’s first President.[2]

IADL was financed by subscriptions from the Association of Soviet Lawyers and the lawyers associations of the Central and Eastern European states, by the National Lawyers Guild USA, and by its members in the Global South, including the Associations of American Jurists (AAJ), the Democratic Lawyers of South Africa (NADEL). And their counterparts in India, Vietnam and Japan. Its Western counterpart, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), was in part financed by the CIA. The USSR and the Algerian liberation movement, the FLN, paid for the headquarters of the IADL, a building at 263 Avenue Albert in Brussels, with a salaried member of staff, and continued to pay until the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Haldane was, as I mentioned above, a founder member of IADL, and, as a new member of Haldane, I attended the 40th anniversary conference of IADL at UNESCO in Paris in December 1986. In that year all countries of the Soviet Block were represented by their official lawyers’ organisation, especially the USSR and the GDR. There were large delegations from India and from the Middle East. I witnessed a noisy clash between the Belgian delegation, which wanted to move away from Cold War rhetoric, and the Arab Lawyers Union, which insisted on the use of the word “imperialism”. 

My introduction to international legal solidarity: Israel and Palestine

My first international task for the IADL took place on 27 June to 3 July 1988, when, with the advocate François Bailly, President of the Belgian Democratic Lawyers (now members of ELDH), I undertook a mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[3] The First Intifada (Uprising) of the Palestinian People commenced later that year, on 7 December 1988.

A particular focus of our mission was the closure by Israel of the In’ash Al-Usra womens centre in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah. This charitable Society, with 152 employees, had helped 34,000 people; 1,300 families each week with money, 123 girls 4-16 years old who lived at the Society; 4,800 women and girls who made embroidery by hand;  and 150 children cared for in a day-care kindergarten.

The Society’s Centre was raided on 8 June 1988 during curfew hours by Israeli troops, shortly before our arrival in the West Bank. The founder and Director of the Society, Mrs Sameeha Khalil, aged 65, was questioned. On 20 June 1988, again during curfew, at 0100 in the morning, Mrs Khalil, was summoned to the Society’s building, where she was served with an order of closure of all parts of the building except the Day Care Centre and Home, until 16 June 1990. The doors of all the money raising parts of the building, workshops and training rooms, and the kindergarten kitchens were welded shut, as we saw with our own eyes. Mrs Khalil was charged with incitement and sedition. The evidence amounted to: an anti-semitic video tape allegedly found in the Society, of which all knowledge by Mrs Khalil or the Society was denied; a box of Palestinian flags dating from 20 years previously; and Mrs Khalil’s openly expressed support for the PLO.

There were two other particularly memorable moments in our visit.

While visiting the refugee camp in Rafah, at the border of the Gaza strip and Egypt, François Bailly, dressed as always in a three piece suit, with waxed moustaches, and me, were standing with a crowd of people on the ruins of a Palestinian home which had been illegally demolished by Israeli forces, as a reprisal for children throwing stones. Suddenly, the crowd vanished, and François and I saw an Israeli tank coming towards us. Without hesitation, François pulled out his Belgian passport, and shouted “In the name of the King of the Belgians, I command you to stop!”. The tank stopped.  The crew must have thought they were hallucinating.

Later, we were visiting Palestinian organisations in Nablus, in the north of the West Bank. We were walking in a crowded street at the top of a hill, surrounded by shoppers, when suddenly we were once more alone. Bullets were flying past us. At the bottom of the hill we saw Israeli soldiers shooting with live rounds towards us (probably not at us). Like everyone else, we dived into a doorway. Later that day, the road back to Jerusalem was blocked, and our driver had to cross farming fields, where at each gate a Palestinian child would tell us if it was safe to proceed.

Not only did our Mission contribute to knowledge of the circumstances leading up to the First Intifada, and build solidarity with organisations such as B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories[4], and Al-Haq, the independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, West Bank;  established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory[5]: it had a profound affect on me.

The birth of ELDH

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the USSR collapsed in 1991, both VDJ and Haldane became increasingly discontented with the policy and outlook of the IADL. They were joined by the French Democratic Lawyers, led by Professor Monique Chemillier-Gendreau. VDJ, which had as noted above, been founded as a German affiliate of IADL (Professor Gerhard Stuby being at the same time VDJ’s founding Chair, and also Secretary General of IADL) gradually grew away from IADL, though it never formally left.

As a result the ELDH was founded on 1 May 1993 in Paris. There were also other founding members, notably the Bulgarian, Italian, Romanian, Swiss and Turkish associations. The largest of the associations which founded ELDH in 1993 is the Progressive Lawyers Alliance, ÇHD, in Turkey, founded in 1974.

There was no complete break with the IADL. Intense discussion at the Annual  Meeting of the ELDH in Sofia, Bulgaria, led to the following insertion in the Statute of ELDH:

“2.2. The objectives of the Association shall be realized through:

c. The development of relations between European lawyers as well as between lawyers of other continents and their organizations, and the development of relations with the INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS and other national and international organizations which have as their goal the defense of human rights;”[6]

In fact, Haldane and several other ELDH members continue to be affiliates of the IADL, as well as ELDH. Delegations have attended the Congresses of IADL, held every four years.

The XIV Congress of IADL took place in Capetown, South Africa, in 1996, with Nelson Mandela in attendance. The Haldane delegation of 45 lawyers, organised by Keir Starmer, now Leader of the British Labour Party, was the largest single delegation to a large and representative congress. I wrote a full report for Socialist Lawyer, the Haldane magazine, and it is to be found on the IADL website.[7] The Congress worked in four Commissions. Commission Ill, on “International Interdependence” was chaired by Dr. Bilal Hasan Minto of Pakistan, and heard papers by Prof Nario Tanaka of Japan, by me (on “France, Polynesia, Nuclear Testing, the World Court: Law and the Public Conscience’), by Jitendra Sharma of India on the NPT, and by others. All the papers delivered at the Congress and more information are to be found in a volume edited by Lennox Hinds, Professor of Law at Rutgers University in the US, and second president of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.[8] 

The ELDH, from strength to strength

Meanwhile, ELDH, with Thomas Schmidt (VDJ) and me (Haldane), as members of its leadership, although we are now nearly 30 years older, has gone from strength to strength, with members in 22 European countries. ELDH has more or less active associations in Bulgaria, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Northern Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Spain (Basque Country and Catalonia), Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine. In a recent constitutional amendment, based on the principle of gender equality, ELDH now has co-Presidents (me and Barbara Spinelli, Italy) and co–General Secretaries, (Thomas Schmidt, Germany, and Ceren Uysal, Turkey). Through the initiative of Thomas Schmidt and Jan Buelens (Belgium), ELDH has created an online network European Lawyers for Workers (ELW).

I am particularly proud of the fact that ELDH now has active members in Russia, in the Centre for Social and Labour Rights, and Lawyers for Workers Rights[9], which works closely with the Russian independent trade unions, KTR (Confederation of Labour of Russia)[10]. Yury Varlamov, a Russian member of ELDH’s Executive Committee has been elected the Chair of the Teachers’ Union “Uchitel”.

The ELDH Executive Committee meets online monthly, and ELDH is actively engaged in solidarity work in Europe and beyond.

A particular focus of ELDH’s work in the past decade has been solidarity with our persecuted and imprisoned colleagues in Turkey, through our large member associations, ÇHD (Progressive Lawyers) and ÖHD (Lawyers for Freedom). ELDH members from several countries have taken part in trial observations and prison visits in Turkey, and have attended conferences and taken part in protests. Thomas Schmidt has led solidarity work with the self-determination struggles of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara. ELDH has increasingly participated in solidarity with Basques and Catalans, investigating the transfer of prisoners in the Basque Country, observing the trials of Catalan politicians, and taking part in solidarity meetings in London and Barcelona. A recent focus at the time of writing has been activity, at the invitation of Sinn Fein, in solidarity on a number of issues relating to Northern Ireland. An ELDH delegation took part in COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 and there is an important commitment to Climate Justice.

The range and depth of ELDH engagement in international solidarity can be shown in recent activity. Interventions in the past year have included the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, in many countries, focusing on 24 January 2022 on Colombia[11]; a conference on 28-29 October 2021 on Labour Rights and the Digital Transition, which  ELW helped organise[12]; the first International Fair Trial Day in 2021 and Ebru Timtik Award – she died in a hunger strike in protest against the absence of a fair trial in Turkey[13].

ELDH has published Statements on “Catalangate” on 25 April 2022[14]; on the Western Sahara Crisis, on 9 April 2022[15]; against the banning of the Turkish HDP, on 4 April 2022[16]; on the failure of the United Kingdom to investigate and prosecute murders in Northern Ireland, on 25 March 2022[17]; on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on 5 March 2022[18]; and many more, at a similar tempo.

ELDH conferences over the years

Until the Covid 19 Pandemic the ELDH Executive Committee, or EXCOMM, has met twice a year each time in a different European city, and attended by comrades and colleagues from all over Europe. These meetings have always included a dinner hosted by ELDH, and often a conference has taken place.

These conferences are the highpoint of ELDH activity.

ELDH’s General Secretary, Thomas Schmidt is a trade union lawyer, active with the German Union Ver Di, and has been instrumental in founding the European Lawyers for Workers (ELW). On 16-17 October 2009 ELDH together with the European Democratic Lawyers (AED/EDL) and the Progress Lawyers of Belgium, organised at the Maison du Barreau in Paris an International Conference “The Evolution of  Labour Law in Europe under the Pressure of the (Neo)Liberal Economy”. There was a splendid line-up of authoritative speakers from several European countries.

My own research interest, with many publications, concerns the history of the right of nations, then peoples, to self-determination. The struggle for self-determination started with Marx and Engels in the second half of the 19th century, fighting for the independence of Poland from the Russian Empire, and Ireland from the British Empire. Lenin, in the period leading up to WWI, theorised the right, and after the Russian Revolution, put it into practice with the break-up of the Russian Empire, independence for Finland, Poland and the three Baltic states. He enshrined it in the first constitution of the USSR, with a right of Union Republics to secede, and a federative structure. Lenin’s last struggle with Stalin concerned Lenin’s support for independence for Georgia, even under Menshevik government, opposed by Stalin, denounced by Lenin as a “Great Russian Chauvinist”. All reviled and denounced by the Russian imperialist Vladimir Putin, and exemplified in the colonial war in Chechnya from 1999, the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in the Donbas in 2014, and the murderous invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

For many years I have been active in solidarity against the continuing repression of Irish nationalism by Britain. Not so many years after Ireland’s bloody war of independence from Britain  in 1919 to 1921, there was a return to terrible violence from 1969, with the occupation of Northern Ireland by British troops, and the massacre of Irish civilians by British paratroopers in Bloody Sunday, on 30 January 1972.

With my colleague Professor Colm Campbell I played a key role in the foundation of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) at Ulster University, in 2003. After three years hard work TJI together with ELDH organised a splendid conference “Peoples in Motion: Self-Determination and Secession”. This took place on Saturday 5 June 2010 at Ulster University. The speakers included Urko Aiartza Azurtza (Basque Country);  Prof. Bill Bowring (London); Prof. Christine Bell (TJI, Ulster); Prof. Colm Campbell (TJI, Ulster); Dr Catriona Drew (SOAS, London); Dr Haluk Gerger (Turkey); Richard Harvey (Barrister, London); Prof. Hassan Jouni (Lebanon); Prof. Hèctor Lopez Bofill (Catalonia); Dr Fabio Marcelli (ISGI, Italy); Prof. Fionnuala Ni Aolain (TJI, Ulster); Dr Ephraim Nimni (QUB, Belfast, a Jewish Anti-Zionist and Pro-Palestinian); Prof. Norman Paech (Germany); and a speaker from Western Sahara. The programme and some of the papers can be found on the ELDH website, as well as a link to an article in the German newspaper Junge Welt.[19]

On the Sunday Professor Campbell organised a Political Tour for Speakers and Delegates. :  We were guided up the Falls Road, in a Nationalist district, where Irish Tricolour flags and Palestinian flags fly, and there are rebel murals, by the Republican ex-prisoner group “Coiste na nIarchimi”. Our guide had spent some years in prison for shooting British soldiers during the armed conflict from 1969 to 1998. There is still a high wall separating the nationalist and loyalist districts, but a gate between them is now open, and we were guided down the Loyalist Shankill Road, to see the Shankill Road murals, by a former prisoner of the Loyalist ex-prisoner group “EPIC”. We saw not only Union Jacks and Ulster terrorist flags, but many Israeli flags.

This exciting conference was an important contribution to the ongoing Peace Process in Northern Ireland. This was especially since in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 the UK Government for the first time explicitly recognised the “Right of the People of the Island of Ireland to Self-Determination”. This means that once there is a majority in Northern Ireland for unifications with the Republic, the UK government will not stand in the way.

Also in 2010, on 12-13 November 2010, ELDH was hosted by our members the Bulgarian Union of Lawyers, for an international conference in Sofia “After the Treaty of  Lisbon  – European Union Closer to the Citizens?”. We had the support of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria. Among the speakers were: Alexandar Arabadjev (Judge at the European Court of Justice, Luxemburg),  my colleague from Birkbeck, Prof. Michelle Everson (she is German, from the Wuppertal), Christo Christev (Bulgaria, Assistant),  and Prof. Andreas Fisahn, from Bielefeld, Germany.

On 21 May 2011, ELDH and our Greek colleagues “Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers” organised a conference at the Athens Bar Association Conference Hall, in Athens “The Legal Impact of the European  “Debt” Crisis. Prof. Dr. Andreas Fisahn again participated. Papers are to be found on the ELDH website.[20]

Also in 2011, we moved from Athens to Genoa in Italy, for “Ten Years of Attacks on  Fundamental  Rights – The Role of  Lawyers”. Speakers included Haidi Giuliani (mother of Carlo Giuliani, killed 10 years previously by the police at the Anti-G8-demonstration in Genoa). There was also a Round Table “The evolution of repression against social movements and the response of lawyers in different countries”, with speakers including Sönke Hilbrans, Berlin (Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein, RAV).

In February 2012 Haldane, with ELDH and Amnesty International, organised a large conference in London in the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, on “Defending Human Rights Defenders”.  The background was that post 9/11 and in an age where States continually seek to control their citizens and curtail any challenge to their authority, the challenges faced by those working on behalf of vulnerable people are escalating. The conference focused on protecting those activists who risk their lives for their commitment to social justice and who often face attacks from the very government who should be protecting them and further their objectives. Six delegations of human rights defenders from some of the most challenging civil societies around the world were invited: Colombia, Palestine, the Philippines, Swaziland, Turkey, and the Caucasus region.

Every year the VDJ awards the Hans Litten Prize, in memory of the heroic anti-Nazi lawyer, who cross-examined Hitler for three hours, and died in Dachau concentration camp in 1938. 15 September 2012, held in the Literaturhaus, Fankfurt (Main), was also the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the VDJ.

The prize was awarded to the fearless English solicitor and human rights activist Gareth Peirce, now 82 years of age and still going strong. She has worked on a number of high-profile cases involving allegations of human rights violations, especially in relation to the armed conflict in northern Ireland. Her work with Gerry Conlon and the “Guildford Four” – wrongly convicted of bombings carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army – was chronicled in the film “In the Name of the Father” (1993), in which she was portrayed by Emma Thompson.

In April 2013 I was invited to speak at a big, and unforgettable, conference in Bremen, organised by IALANA with ELDH and VDJ, with many other associations, on “Quo vadis NATO? – Challenges for democracy and law”. German speakers included Otto Jäckel and Prof. Dr. Andreas Fischer-Lescano, and also Dr. Hans-Christof Graf von Sponeck (Müllheim), Prof. Reinhard Merkel (Uni Hamburg), and Prof. Dr. Norman Paech (Universität Hamburg).

For many years I have been a lecturer in the Summer School on “EU and Democracy” organised by the Universities of Bologna, Belgrade, and Johns Hopkins University in the USA, at Herceg Novi in the Gulf of Kotor in Montenegro. My contacts helped to organise a conference in Belgrade at the ”Centre for Cultural Decontamination”, a centre of opposition to Milosevic, on 6 June 2014. The conference was entitled “Human Rights and Democracy in the context of EU Enlargement – Western Balkan Perspectives”, and was organised by ELDH and Lawyers for Democracy, with support from YUCOM, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. There were speakers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

The reader will have noticed that women’s rights had been somewhat neglected in the ELDH’s conferences, and on 28-29 November 2014 the Haldane Society and Haldane Feminist Lawyers, with ELDH, organised at South Bank University in London a large conference “Women Fighting Back: International and Legal Perspectives”. There were two magnificent keynote speakers, Prof. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa), UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (2009-2015), and Angela Davis (USA), Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments at the University of California. Founding member of Critical Resistance. International panel discussions focused on: “Migrant and Refugee Women”; “Violence against Women”; “Women in conflict and peace”; “The State and Women’s Bodies; and Women in work”.

In November 2016 ELDH supported a conference convened by IADL and by the Portuguese Association of Democratic Jurists (PADJ), at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations of the International Covenant on Social. Economic and Cultural Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “The International Covenants on Human Rights (ICESCR and ICCPR) adopted by the UN on 16 December 1966: historical significance; political and legal impact; and fortunes”.

The new circumstances in Turkey since the failed coup in 2016, and the State of Emergency declared by President Erdogan, were the background for a continuing series of conferences in solidarity with our Turkish colleagues. On 14-15 January 2017, together with my colleague Pascale Taelman, the President of EDL-AED, I opened the large conference, at which many Bar Associations of Turkey were represented, “The judicial system under the state of emergency in Turkey”.

Sessions focused on “The rights, duties and the repression faced by Bar Associations and their members under State of Emergency”, “Under the State of Emergency: The guarantees for the independence, impartiality of Judges”, “Being a lawyer under the State of Emergency”, “The legislative prerogative under the state of emergency and parliamentary immunity”, and “Practices of Anti-Terror, State of Emergency and State of Siege in Turkey and in the World”. The conference was supported by IADL, by MEDEL, NRV Neue Richtervereinigung (New Judges Organisation), IDHAE World Observatory for Defense Rights and Attacks Against Lawyers, Barcelona Bar Association, Padova Bar Association, and Palermo Bar Association; by the Adana, Adıyaman, Ağrı, Ankara, Antalya, Batman, Bingöl, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, Muş, Siirt, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Tunceli, Van, Bursa, Iğdır, Kars-Ardahan, and Mardin Bar Associations; and by Democratic Judges Associations, Syndicat of Judges, Lawyers and Human Rights Defenders Without Borders in Turkey, and the Association of Forensic Science Experts.

ELDH did not forget about workers’ rights. On 12-13 May 2017 the Italian trade union CGIL, together with ELDH and ELW organised a conference in Florence, Italy, on “Social Dumping” in Europe “Sozial-Dumping und aktuelle Herausforderungen für das Arbeitsrecht in Europa – Die Initiative zurückgewinnen!”

Meanwhile, we strengthened our activities in post-coup Turkey.

On 22-24 September 2017 we returned to Turkey to the first of a series of conferences by the second Turkish member of ELDH, ÖHD, Lawyers for Freedom, under the auspices of their International Human Rights Academy of the Aegean (IHRAA), at the beautiful Nesin Maths and Philosophy Village at Şirince, in the mountains near Izmir. The Autumn Workshop of 2017 is one of these activities of the IHRAA. “Academic Freedom” was chosen as the topic of this year. Turkish academics had been faced with all types of oppression during 2017. Most of the speakers of the workshop were among those who lost their positions in the universities and other institutions.

Brexit, the nationalist and xenophobic movement, supported by just over half of those who voted, to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, which it joined in 1972, has been a seismic shock to the whole continent. Haldane was proud to host with ELDH and the Institute of Employment Rights, on 11 November 2017, at the headquarters of Unite, the second largest trade union in the UK (with 1.4 million members), which also hosted the conference, an international conference “European Union, Brexit – the future of workers’ rights”.  

There were four sessions, with speakers from England, France, Germany, Italy, and a trade union lawyer from Russia on a recent victory in the Russian courts, in a case concerning discrimination against Aeroflot cabin crew. The sessions were:  1) “The Future of Trade Union Rights, social rights (collective labour law, for a social Europe instead of a “social pillar”); 2) How to create more security for workers  (concepts on national and European level for individual labour law for domestic and migrant workers); 3) How to defend the rights of refugees and migrants. The impact of Brexit and EU policy.; and 4) European Democracy and human rights – between (Br)Exit and the rule of exception (How to develop European Democracy, how to fight non-democratic developments in EU states).

Speakers from Germany included: Klaus Lörcher, Germany, former ETUC legal advisor, former Legal Secretary of the Civil Service Tribunal of the European Union: “The role of the European Social Charter for the protection of (migrant) workers‘ rights, in particular after Brexit”; Karl Kopp, Director of European Affairs, PRO ASYL, Frankfurt/Main: Perspectives for the defence of Human Rights for Refugees in Europe. “The impact of Brexit”; and Prof. Andreas Fisahn, Bielefeld: “The lack of democracy and the future of the union”. There were speakers for and against Brexit.

On 15-16 March 2018, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Turkey and Kurds, took place in Paris. This session of the PPT was proposed by the IADL, the ELDH, Mafdad, an organization based in Germany of Kurdish and German Lawyers, and the Kurdish Institute of Brussels. The judges included Prof Norman Paech. The Belgian advocate, Jan Fermon, a member of ELDH, served as Prosecutor. I was the first witness, on the question of self-determination for the Kurds. The Judgment was delivered at the European Parliament in Brussels on 24 May 2018, and is a very significant act of solidarity with the Kurds.

ELDH returned to Turkey on 7-9 September 2018 for the well attended conference at the Istanbul Bar Association “The normalization of the state of emergency and the situation of judiciary in Turkey”, organised by a number of Turkish Bar associations, and by the Association of Democratic Judiciary – Syndicat of Judges; European Democratic Lawyers – AED; ELDH; the Day for Endangered Lawyers Foundation; IADL; and Consiglio Nazionale Forense.

On 20 October 2018 this was followed by a conference, sponsored by ELDH, in Berlin: “25 Jahre PKK-Verbot – 25 Jahre Repression und Demokratieabbau im Dienste der deutschen Außenpolitik”.

The Second International Human Rights Academy of the Aegean (IHRAA), took place at the Nesin Maths Village, Şirince, Izmir, Turkey, on 2-4 November 2018, with the theme: “International Human Rights Regime in Crisis”. It was organised by the Platform of Lawyers for Freedom ÖHP; IADL; ELDH; and the Solidarity Academy of Izmir. I spoke, with speakers from Catalonia, England, India, and Japan.

The Second Conference of Mediterranean Lawyers took place in Naples on 19 May 2019, organised by the Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers, and supported by ELDH and IADL. The theme was “Self-determination, human rights and migration”. The Conference heard lawyers from Catalonia,  Greece, Iraq, Italy, the Kurdish People, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Western Sahara; Luca Casarini, Head of Mission ship “Mediterraneo”; Laura Marmorale, Counsellor for Migration, Naples Municipality; with a conclusion from the Italian lawyer Michela Arricale.

The Third International Human Rights Academy of the Aegean (IHRAA), took place at the Nesin Maths Village, Şirince, Izmir, Turkey, on 18-20 October 2019, with the theme “Law and Human Rights in Oppressive Regimes”. I spoke, together with human rights lawyers from several countries.

On 23 April 2020 Haldane presented, with the support of ELDH and IADL, an online, Zoom,  conference “Persecution of Lawyers in India: building a network of international solidarity”. The speakers were: Indira Jaising – Senior Counsel, Supreme Court of India. Lawyers‘ Collective; Mihir Desai – Senior Counsel and defence lawyer, High Court of Mumbai. Human Rights Law Network; Professor Jagmohan Singh – Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, Punjab. This brilliant conference was organised and chaired by Professor Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster, London.

Haldane, with the support of ELDH, organised an online conference with the title “Hostile Environments” on 24 October 2020. The well-attended conference brought together activists, academics and lawyers joining in the fight for migrant and climate justice, in solidarity against the racist and classist systems standing in their way. There were four panels: 1) “Yarl’s Wood: learning the lessons from a history of resistance”; 2) “Unlawful pushbacks in the Mediterranean and English Channel”; 3) Climate Justice and Migration”; and 4) Organising to win: what’s the role of legal sector workers?”.

On 5 April 2021 many lawyers’ organisations including ELDH supported the “International Memorial Event for Ebru Timtik: A life dedicated to the struggle”. On the Day of Lawyers (Turkey), the international legal community gathered together to commemorate Ebru Timtik who passed away after a 238-days hunger strike with the demand of a fair trial for all people who are suffering under the ongoing injustice in Turkey. “Ebru Timtik will never be forgotten and as lawyers, we will never stop fighting for the right to a fair trial.”

Worker rights were again the focus of the conference held in Brussels and online on 28-29 October 2021 “Labour rights & the digital transition”, organized by the ETUI in cooperation with the European Lawyers for Workers Network (ELW Network), and ELDH. The conference was opened by Thomas Schmidt, and the sessions were: 1) “Bringing the Algorithms to Court”, moderated by Ruediger Helm (Lawyer, ELW); “The Yodel case and its implications for platform workers’ rights”, Lord John Hendy QC (Barrister, UK); “Defending collective rights of platform workers in courts”, Carlo De Marchis (Lawyer, Italy); “The contribution of the GDPR to protect platform workers’ rights”, Anton Ekker (Lawyer, The Netherlands); “Socializing digital work via the courts?” Antonio Aloisi (Assistant Professor, IE Law School); 2) “Collective Rights in the Digital Economy”, moderated by Aline Hoffmann (Head of Unit, Europeanisation of Industrial relations, ETUI); “Protecting platform workers’ rights in the digital economy”, Silvia Simoncini (National secretary NidiL CGIL); “Raising activism among platform workers”, Martin Willems (United Freelancers, acv-csc); “Collective bargaining to address negative impact of labour market monopsony”, Séverine Picard (Progressive Policies); “Unions’ strategy to contrast the market power of digital platform”, Annika Flaten (Director Commerce, UNI Europa)


In conclusion, I always insist that lawyers are not and cannot be a revolutionary vanguard, and law for the most part is not emancipatory. But the lawyers of VDJ, in its 50 years of existence, and Haldane, for nearly 90 years, and ELDH since 1993, with our many colleagues in 22 countries, have had the privilege of putting their skills at the service of the labour movement, and of democratic and human rights struggles internationally. We may well have made some difference.



[3] See Bill Bowring “Zionist Repression in the Occupied Territories” The Marxist Monthly v.1, n.7 (1988) p.18-26; and our report at;hrdhrd01380160, behind a pay-wall


















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Кампанія Солідарності з Україною

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