A day trip to Brussels for day two of the 18th Congress of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
I was travelling with Sara Chandler of Caravana – an organisation working for human rights in Colombia – who was to give a paper on the current situation there. It’s dire. Lawyers are imprisoned, death threats are issued particularly to those working in the area of human rights, such as land rights, when people are shifted out of their homes for the purposes of big business. And lawyers are killed. Caravana organises trips of lawyers to Colombia which brings international scrutiny to the situation and provides some small protection for the lawyers there.
It was a bright sunny day in Brussels, and we walked through the park to the Vrije University where the conference was being held. It was an inspiring event – lawyers from all over the world, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Haiti, Japan, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Cameroon, Australia, the USA, Canada, Turkey, Portugal, France – you name it. There were head-sets and interpreters of French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Dutch, with other languages as necessary. On the day we were there sessions were held on the Independence of the Judiciary and the protection of lawyers,
the crisis of international law, and trade union rights as well as the rights of migrants and the right to protest.
Other days would cover the new international economic order, the Human Right to a clean environment, promoting people’s rights and the struggle for gender equality. There was also a commission on Iraq covering sanctions, invasion, torture, and the violation of international law. Another workshop would be held on Palestinian Human Rights and another on the activities of transnational companies.
There was also time, in our short day, for meeting other delegates and sharing experiences, making contacts and catching up with old friends. The Progress Lawyers Network, the firm in Brussels with responsibility for most of the organisation, had done a tremendous job, the firm members and the many vounteers made for a smooth machine.
On top of that, lawyers from several countries signed up for the next Caravana to Colombia in August, which was a great response for Sara.
We went home tired but happy, inspired to fight another day.