To mark the official launch of Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) in London, LAW held three days of events from 10-12 March 2015 in prominent locations around London including prestigious Doughty Street Chambers, Hausfeld & Co, Bindmans LLP and SOAS, University of London.
The launch commenced with two events on universal jurisdiction at Doughty Street Chambers. A closed expert roundtable on ‘Special Mission Immunity’ and a panel discussion on ‘No Safe Haven.’ Eminent panelists included Professor John Dugard, Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Daniel Machover and Carla Ferstman. The event was very well attended and panelists discussed the future of universal jurisdiction and the need for a strategic litigation fund.
The second day commenced with the first meeting of LAW’s women lawyers network at Hausfield’s law firm. The event brought together more than twenty women lawyers and researcher to discuss sexual violence in conflict, specifically the case of Somalia. Harriet Wistrich, founder of Justice for Women, and 2014 Liberty human rights lawyer of the year, led a lively discussion with LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey on addressing low levels of prosecution globally. Discussions resulted in concrete recommendations including the establishment of mentoring partnerships between women lawyers working in conflict and non-conflict contexts. An action plan will now be prepared and a second meeting held within the next six months.
On Wednesday evening, 11 March, LAW was officially launched in London through a night of ‘creative lawyering.’ Eminent panelists and a distinguished audience, including Lord Malloch-Brown and Professor Bill Schabas attended the event at Bindmans law firm. Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC (Hon), one of LAW’s Board Members spoke about creative lawyering as an ‘obligation of all lawyers’ and discussed his victorious Pinochet case. Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), discussed the ‘key ingredients’ including role of media and role of interveners. Richard Hermer spoke about lessons learned from his case work including the recent victory against Royal Dutch Shell in favour of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta, and the Mau Mau torture case against the UK government.
LAW Executive Director Antonia Mulvey concluded the night on a positive note regarding the creative legal interventions used by LAW in conflict contexts including the landmark and historical drafting of the first Sexual Offences Bill in Somalia. The night ended with the launch of LAW’s documentary on sexual violence in Somalia which features interviews from high level experts, including the Special Representative to Secretary General for sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura; the International Head of Protection for UNHCR, Volker Turk; the Under Secretary General of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin and the President of the ICTR, Judge Van Joensen as well as a courageous survivor of gang rape in Somalia.
These five events have formally introduced LAW as a major player in the international human rights legal landscape. LAW hopes to continue its work on addressing sexual violence and forcible displacement in conflict-affected states with increased support of the international community and civil society. LAW’s work on behalf of vulnerable women and children is crucial and its impact will continue to grow.