The following declaration was issued by the IADL’s 18th Congress, held in Brussels, Belgium from 15-19 April 2014.
APRIL 19, 2014
1. The 18th Congress of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) held in Brussels 15-19 April 2014, on the theme “Lawyering for Peoples’ Rights”, has been a dynamic opportunity for over 500 lawyers, jurists, students, legal workers and activists for fundamental rights from 58 countries around the world to come together in mutual commitment and collective work towards achieving the aims of the United Nations Charter.
2. Together we rededicate our skills and energies to work for the human right to peace; for a world in which all people may live without fear and want in a healthy environment; where wars, conflicts, repression, poverty and hunger are eradicated, allowing people to live with full human dignity. We reaffirm that human rights are universal, indivisible and supreme and we reiterate our demand for a new democratic international economic order in the interests of all, not the privileged few.
3. In this world of mounting economic inequality, a mere handful of people controls more wealth than half the global population. Much of that wealth comes from destroying natural resources in ways that promote catastrophic climate change. In this unsustainable and unjust economic order, workers and their families around the globe face loss of jobs, life-threatening conditions of work, forced migration and a multitude of other privations fostered by the neoliberal agenda.
4. Humankind needs a viable alternative vision. As democratic lawyers, we stand for the right to self-determination of peoples in accordance with fundamental principles of international law, and we stand against the injustices of oppression, environmental devastation, aggression and foreign occupation.
5. Fukushima has shown that the menace of nuclear disaster remains undiminished. More than 60 million children, women and men suffer under precarious and forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. Human rights defenders are murdered with impunity by government agents and corporate goon squads.
6. IADL has been championing peoples’ rights for nearly 70 years. Since our last Congress (Hanoi 2009), challenges have intensified. At the same time, there have been important victories for peoples’ determination to fight injustice. Economic injustice inspired millions to participate in the “Occupy” movement that spread from Madrid and rocked New York’s Wall Street. Istanbul’s Gezi Park demonstrated the power of the people to resist brutal paramilitary police protecting corporate greed. Freedoms of expression and association and the right of the people to learn the truth about climate change have been vindicated in the courtroom and in the streets by courageous environmental rights defenders from Greenpeace’s “Arctic 30” campaigners to farmers in the Niger Delta.
7. IADL again reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, independence and statehood. We call for an immediate end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we condemn the impunity Israeli forces enjoy for their ongoing violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and an end to impunity for their torture.
8. IADL pledges its full support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel until it complies fully with international law by (1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the barrier Wall; (2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their land as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 194.
9. We deplore the conduct of the Israeli regime, which contributed to preventing IADL Bureau member and internationally renowned human rights lawyer, Raji Sourani from attending our Congress. Appropriately, his keynote address to our opening Plenary Session was read by fellow Bureau member and anti-apartheid activist, Max Boqwana of South Africa.
10. IADL further emphasises its continuing support for the Cuban Five, wrongly convicted and savagely sentenced by a Miami Court in 2001 for attempting to prevent acts of terrorism against their homeland. IADL helped sponsor the March 2014 International Commission of Inquiry into the case in London which found numerous procedural irregularities in the treatment of the Five and called for their unconditional pardon.
11. IADL further reaffirms its unwavering support for the right of the peoples of Western Sahara and Puerto Rico to self-determination.
12. The ten Commissions of the Brussels Congress enabled lawyers with different areas of expertise to exchange experiences, discuss strategies and formulate programmes to combat human rights violations and address urgent problems confronting humanity worldwide, as well as in their respective regions and countries. Some of the key findings and proposals from the ten Commissions are set out below.
1. Peace and the Crisis in International Law
(a) All people have the right to live in peace, as proclaimed in the UN Charter, enshrined in Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, and by courts and constitutions in many other countries, including Costa Rica. Only through the work of the people and Peoples’ Lawyers can peace prevail.
(b) The Right to Peace is not just the absence of war. It implicates freedom from want, freedom from oppression, and freedom from the threat of aggression. It touches every aspect of our lives and is violated by armed conflicts as in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, DRC, and countless other parts of the world. IADL works to eradicate the criminal trade in armaments, including small arms.
(c) The Right to Peace is violated where, instead of spending $600 million to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals, the world spent $3 billion on armies and armaments in 2009 alone. It is violated when the world produces enough food for all but millions are malnourished and die of starvation while, in some countries, a chicken can cost the same as an AK-47.
(d) International Human Rights law is not a matter only between States; it must serve the interests of all peace-loving peoples.
(e) Domestic consolidation of international law requires stronger international instruments and bodies to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, e.g. by:
i. Convening a conference to create a Zone of Peace in the Pacific North-West;
ii. Demanding compensation for civilian victims in Afghanistan and Iraq;
iii. Demanding transparency from the governments about the consequences of conflicts;
iv. Creating a counter-summit for the next NATO summit in Cardiff, Wales;
v. Recalling and reaffirming the illegality of nuclear weapons.
(f) IADL denounces the blockades against Cuba, Iran, Syria and Gaza as serious violations of international law;
(g) IADL full supports the National Democratic Front in pursuing genuine peace and self-determination for the Philippines.
2. Democratic Peoples’ Justice, Independence of the Judiciary and Protection of Lawyers
(a) IADL condemns victimisation of human rights defenders everywhere; in particular in Colombia, Turkey, Peru, Philippines and the Basque Country. We call on Peoples’ Lawyers everywhere to provide support and solidarity for human rights lawyers and we pledge:
i. To fight to end impunity for human rights violations;
ii. To participate in and support the Caravana Internacional de Juristas (Colombian Caravana) in its international delegation to Colombia in August 2014;
iii. To call for an end to political persecution of lawyers and human rights defenders in Peru and enforcement of respect for fundamental human rights under the constitution and laws of Peru and its international undertakings.
(b) IADL condemns denial of access to justice in all forms, including increased government attacks on legal aid systems and attempts to privatise the right to legal aid. We further reaffirm that:
i. The right to legal defence is a fundamental right and must be afforded the utmost protection; every defendant has the right to a lawyer of his/her choice and the right to a confidential meeting from the very first moment of arrest/detention;
ii. Providing legal assistance to detainees may never be used as a basis for presumption of guilt and no lawyer should ever be identified with the causes of his/her clients;
iii. We condemn all trumped-up charges and harassment cases against human rights defenders;
iv. There can be no justice in “secret courts” and we oppose special courts against political dissidents;
v. IADL should gather information on attacks on lawyers and law workers and disseminate an annual report on this fundamental threat to the rule of law.
vi. IADL should establish a historical recovery project to record and report on the historical experiences of Peoples’ Lawyering, noting significant successes while recording government repression and its martyrs.
vii. IADL should facilitate an international inter-disciplinary conference to explore the use of Local Peoples’ Tribunals.
3. Labour and Trade Union Rights in the Neo-Liberal Storm
(a) IADL deplores the global trend towards precarious work. Precarious workers live in a world of empty promises and permanent waiting lists, where “interim daily contracts” can last 10 years, depriving workers of all meaningful protection;
(b) Precarious work is a rat race to the bottom with total job insecurity in a profit-obsessed world focused on further depressing already low wages and working conditions;
(c) Precariousness has a devastating influence on the health, security and quality of life of individual workers and on the society they comprise;
(d) Peoples’ Lawyers fight for the rights of workers to freedom of association and expression, to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively. IADL condemns blacklisting and attacks on workers’ right to strike;
(e) IADL condemns especially the failure of Colombia to protect trades unionists. 2875 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in recent years, including 26 trade union leaders killed in 2013 alone. Peoples’ Lawyers defending Colombian workers have been murdered and face daily threats to their lives and livelihoods;
(f) Precariousness kills: in Qatar two workers are killed every day in work accidents or work-related stress, working for subcontractors of transnationals;
(g) Peoples’ Lawyers fight for:
i. Equal pay for equal work;
ii. Employee rights from the first day of employment;
iii. True freedom of association and collective bargaining rights;
iv. Holding transnationals to account for workers’ rights throughout the global supply chain;
v. Increased recognition of international labour rights instruments in domestic tribunals;
vi. Increased recourse to international committees and courts under International Labour Rights Conventions, often too little known and used by trade unions and their lawyers;
vii. Criminalisation of gross violations of workers’ rights, especially with complicity of State and transnationals as in Qatar and Colombia;
viii. Naming and shaming corporate violators;
ix. Negotiating legally enforceable protections for workers in contracts and protocols;
4. Rights of Migrants and the Struggle against Racism
(a) IADL condemns state and regional policies that, between 2000 and 2013, have turned the Mediterranean into a Sea of Death for over 23,000 people seeking to escape persecution and privation;
(b) Peoples’ Lawyers are bringing cases in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium to counter “Fortress Europe” policies and seek accountability for agencies like Frontex. Similar actions to protect migrants’ rights are being taken in the US and Canada;
(c) IADL supports the right of asylum for all women victims of violence, including FGM, and condemns any weakening of this right, as in Belgium. Migrants’ reception services are needed, e.g. to teach language skills and to assist victims of domestic violence;
(d) IADL demands the right of children to be heard in asylum cases, under Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(e) IADL applauds the European Court of Justice ruling in the Ruiz Zambrano case, where undocumented parents of Belgian children won the right to remain in the country;
(f) All governments have the obligation to punish hate speech.
(g) IADL condemns all racism and racist propaganda, including in Japan which has treated people of Korean descent as foreigners even with their long records of residence after four generations.
5. Right to Resist, to Protest and to Organize
(a) IADL lawyers from many different countries, including Philippines, Basque Country, Peru, India, Colombia, Belgium, USA, presented clear testimony that governments are very active worldwide in repressing political and social movements and their lawyers.
(b) IADL reaffirms support for the right to self-determination and against tyranny, for the respect of fundamental rights of expression and association and the fight for a healthy environment.
(c) As Peoples’ Lawyers, we:
i. Reaffirm the need for citizen oversight of justice and the police and we condemn police violence and lawsuits launched against its victims by the police to cover up their actions;
ii. Demand an end to impunity for all military and police officials;
iii. Depolore the increased development of “Big Brother” state surveillance models, such as the National Security Agency of the United States;
iv. Reaffirm the right to privacy, freedom of expression and the right of resistance, particularly in the digital space. We salute whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden for their legitimate use of their right to resistance;
v. Condemn increased extra-judicial criminal sanctions, on-the-spot fines and criminalisation of rights of association and assembly, especially of youth, for simply gathering together;
vi. Propose to create an emergency response commission within IADL for exceptional situations and ad hoc campaigns;
vii. Reaffirm the right to self-determination of peoples and the right to rebel against tyranny; in particular we affirm the peoples’ right of armed struggle in the Philippines;
viii. Stress that criminalization of political activists is particularly unacceptable when they represent social movements;
ix. Demand that the Philippine government end cases against activists, in particular Benito and Wilma Tiamzon Austria;
x. Demand that the PKK be removed from the list of terrorist organizations in the European Union, to promote a peaceful solution to the Turkish conflict and put an end to the criminalization of the PKK and the Kurdish diaspora throughout Europe;
xi. Insist that Abdullah Ocalan’s lawyers be allowed to consult with him in detention;
xii. Demand an end to U.S. military presence in the Asian-Pacific region;
xiii. Denounce Israeli threats against the right to self-determination of the people of Syria;
xiv. Support the right of the Lebanese people to resist Israeli aggression and oppression;
6. Crisis, Debt and the New Democratic International Economic Order
(a) IADL condemns the use of debt as a weapon of international financial institutions to maintain and enforce existing economic inequalities in and between developing and developed countries. The Greek experience reveals the international financial world using all means, including falsified figures and overestimated national growth rate, to blow up the country’s ‘debt capacity.’ Debts are a survival strategy of the existing economic and political order;
(b) This economic order was not established within the framework of the United Nations, but at Bretton Woods. The rights proclaimed by the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 Covenants do not include real economic rights and economic power. Without economic power there is no real political power;
(c) Loans are often imposed on countries regardless of consequences. In Togo, for example, a debt relief of even 85% is meaningless for the development of the country and its inhabitants. In Ecuador the accumulated debt violates fundamental principles of domestic law, human rights and environmental law, as well as international norms and agreements;
(d) Governments must be required proactively to inform their people about military expenditures and to justify them;
(e) The debt crisis entails loss of sovereignty for nearly all countries.
IADL lawyers shall act to:
(f) Raise popular awareness of the real character of public debts, e.g., by promoting the possibility for countries to audit the public debt. Study the examples of countries as Iceland, Argentina and Ecuador;
(g) Promote transparency and public accountability by governments of their national budgets, especially at the level of military spending;
(h) Formulate an action plan to replace current International Financial Institutions and vertical financial and economic structures, such as the NAFTA and the European Union by other forms of international cooperation under the authority of the UN.
7. Impunity and International Criminal Justice
(a) “Responsibility to Protect” creates double standards in using military force to protect civilians. It often violates basic premises of the UN Charter. Double standards of selective investigations and prosecutions also occur before the International Criminal Court. It remains to be seen whether and when the ICC will punish the crime of aggression;
(b) When the ICC or national systems cannot or will not investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, we urge States to do so under Universal Jurisdiction,
(c) The Cambodia Tribunal reveals that, although the concept behind creating hybrid courts may be good, they can also be abused as a tool by governments to achieve political goals;
(d) There must be no immunity for international organizations from human rights claims such as that brought against the United Nations itself on behalf of the cholera victims in Haiti;
(e) Zero tolerance for the crimes perpetrated by extractive industries, collaborating with paramilitary units against environmental and indigenous rights activists in the Philippines. There is an urgent need for an international tribunal in this region. IADL must support initiatives to end impunity by fighting for equality and fairness, developing strategic litigation to hold transnational companies liable for their human rights violations;
(f) Peoples’ Lawyering must be creative, launching simultaneous proceedings in different countries. Bringing cases in a third country may improve disclosure, much harder to obtain in civil law systems than at common law. Peoples’ Lawyers should exchange strategies and experiences to protect peoples’ rights against transnational corporations;
(g) IADL applauds the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. As a binding contract between apparel brands and retailers and the international and Bangladeshi labour unions, it provides one way to close a deadly gap in the enforceability of workers’ rights. We support legally binding frameworks to hold all companies accountable at the international level.
(h) The Government of the Philippines must account for its crimes against humanity, committed against the people of the Philippines.
(i) IADL calls for an investigation into the mass murders and other serious war crimes committed in Indonesia between 1968 and 1975, and the involvement of the West and Japan;
(j) IADL denounces the so-called Special Tribunal for Lebanon as illegitimate and having no basis in international law.
8. Lawyering to Defend and Promote Peoples’ Rights
(a) Peoples’ Lawyers are not “neutral”; we recognize that the law itself is not a neutral force in society. The law reflects the prevailing class interests in a particular society. We are thus not merely guided by a sense of charity but by clear political and ideological convictions to combat injustice in all forms and to help effect change in society.
(b) IADL challenges the status quo: in the fields to defend peasants struggling for their rights on the land they till; in the factory and office for workers fighting for fair conditions and pay; in courtrooms for indigenous peoples asserting their rights to ancestral domains; in the city’s concrete jungles where activists fight for freedom of expression; and for immigrants resisting discrimination in alien lands. We defend human rights defenders who are vilified, demonized, discriminated against, tagged as “terrorists”, and subject to vicious attacks and even assassination.
(c) IADL members, as Peoples’ Lawyers, must:
i. Intervene to defend fundamental rights of the people, particularly in conflict zones or countries, and to promote peace processes among various warring groups or countries;
ii. Condemn all grave violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, and promote protection of human rights defenders, etc., in the Brazil, the Philippines, etc;
iii. Demand protection and defense of endangered lawyers and other human rights defenders – trade unionists, environmental rights defenders, journalists, NGO workers, campaigners for rights of indigenous peoples etc;
iv. Use our lawyers’ organizations to lobby governments against all support to repressive regimes (eg. by selling arms);
v. Establish an urgent action committee to act against so-called anti-terror laws and other new repressive laws in the US and other countries;
vi. Expose attempts by governments and transnationals to prevent the exercise of human rights, e.g. by filing civil SLAPP suits or trumped-up criminal charges against lawyers;
vii. Promote understanding of environmental protection as a tool to protect and promote human rights of all people. Environmental rights are human rights, especially affecting the poor and those in vulnerable or devastated areas;
viii. Form a permanent international group of trial observers, that will rush to countries, study cases, make their presence felt, not only internationally but also on regional levels.
9. Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment
(a) Research by Global Witness demonstrates that two environmental rights defenders are murdered every week by governments and corporate goon squads. Indigenous communities from the Arctic Circle to the Amazon Basin face genocidal destruction of their habitat, their cultures and their very lives in the name of profit. Peoples’ Lawyers must work creatively to protect environmental defenders and endangered communities.
(b) “Lawyering for Peoples’ Rights” includes embracing the ‘power of the prosecutor’ as demonstrated by Torino prosecutor, Raffaele Guariniello, who successfully prosecuted Eternit, the transnational asbestos company.
(c) IADL must harness the power of social media and the courage of whistleblowers. Where courts refuse to order transnational corporations to comply with the precautionary principle, civil society organizations can tweet calls for employees to share information and help force polluters to pay. Greenpeace and others can also assist Peoples’ Lawyers with due diligence on evidence provided by whistleblowers.
(d) IADL condemns the lies and propaganda of Big Carbon producers, especially Chevron in Ecuador, Shell in the Niger Delta, Shell and Gazprom in the Arctic, BP in the Gulf of Mexico. We congratulate those Peoples’ Lawyers who have already challenged these transnationals in Nigeria, the Netherlands, Russia and elsewhere, and we stress the need for more Peoples’ Lawyers to help save our environment.
(e) IADL calls for an International Ombudsman to protect the rights of our children and of generations to come and we demand codification of the right to a clean and healthy environment in every jurisdiction. Environmental rights are, in the strictest sense, the right to life. In the words of Kumi Naidoo, “there are no rights on a dead planet.”
(f) IADL members should contribute amicus briefs to support each other’s human rights work around the world.
(g) Public charters of corporations damaging environmental rights should be revoked because they are acting against the interests of the people who originally authorized them.
(h) The judiciary has a duty to ensure respect by corporations for the right to a healthy environment. In India such ‘legislation from the bench’ eventually resulted in the Green Tribunal Act to create an environmental court. Judges everywhere must require transnationals to do human rights due diligence, to assess risks to the environment and to mitigate all such risks.
(i) Peoples’ Lawyers play a key role in enforcing the precautionary principle, making polluters pay and “out-lawyering” corporate SLAPP suits.
(j) IADL condemns the criminal negligence of the Government of the Philippines in its inadequate response to the environmental disaster inflicted on the people of the Philippines by Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda)
10. The Struggle for Gender Equality and Against Discrimination
(a) IADL denounces the fact that violence against women continues worldwide, taking forms ranging from sexual slavery in times of armed conflict, physical violence, sexual and psychological abuse, to economic and social discrimination. This violence all springs from patriarchal concepts.
(b) As Peoples’ Lawyers, IADL opposes all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation;
(c) IADL urges its member associations to denounce the perilous situation of migrant women, indigenous women, women of color and women victims of slavery and sex work; and we demand that:
i. States must comply with their due diligence obligations of prevention, protection, persecution and compensation under international conventions;
ii. Preventive policies must be implemented to counter prejudices and stereotypes from an early age;
iii. States must compensate women victims of armed conflicts;
iv. Release of all women lawyers who are political prisoners;
v. The right of every woman to an identity and nationality;
vi. An end to all genocidal use of reproductive technologies;
vii. Free access to justice for all women victims of violence;
viii. Equal pay and financial autonomy for all women;
ix. Free access to reproductive health care.
13. In IADL, we derive our mandate from peoples’ struggles for justice; not from governments, not from “the law”, and certainly not from any corporate agenda. We work together to end injustices committed against the people by oppressive economic and social systems. Commitment to social change is an essential component of Peoples’ Lawyering. We work for causes that fundamentally affect social movements and society itself.
14. Our battle is not confined to the courtroom. We employ creative actions, mobilizing and utilizing the peoples’ strength, unity and militancy to bring vital issues to public awareness and thereby organizing to help our clients and their supporters.
15. IADL members dedicate their individual and collective skills and energies to serving and empowering the people and to solving the acute problems that confront our world and its peoples today.
16. The notion that human rights are indivisible is not an abstract principle. Those who do not have enough to eat cannot exercise their political rights in a meaningful way. One cannot enjoy legal equality without the means to litigate one’s case.
17. As Peoples’ lawyers, we are part of the struggle to transform society. We choose to serve the people and we are determined to inspire others to do the same. We echo the sentiments of our late colleague, Judge Romeo Capulong that being a peoples’ lawyer offers one “a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement.” No lawyer – and no human being – could ask for more from life.