ILAC were invited by the human rights committee of AIJA, the International Association of Young Lawyers, to participate in a panel discussion at the AIJA half year conference in Istanbul on 18-21 November.
The topic for the discussion was “How to preserve the rule of law during a conflict? Experience from Syria” and joining ILAC legal expert Mikael Ekman on stage were a panel of three distinguished Syrian judges from the Free and Independent Judicial Council, contribute to the ILAC Syria programme.
The presentations focused on a number of different aspects of the situation in Syria. Firstly, there was a discussion on access to justice and basic state functions in areas outside regime control. The ILAC Syria programme was presented and its work together with the FIJC to reestablish civil documentation services wherever these have collapsed. The discussion then moved on to the roots of the conflict and the situation for legal professionals and human rights activists in Syria at large.
The judges shared with the audience their own experience of being ordered by the executive to apply terrorism legislation and death penalty to ordinary protesters at the start of the demonstrations in Syria and how their refusal to do so forced them and many of their colleagues into exile. As a case study, one distinguished judge made a presentation on the legislative framework for the anti terror laws in Syria and their consequences for human rights.
The panel discussion and presentations were held entirely in English without the use of translators. This was made possible thanks to the AIJA contribution to the ILAC Syria programme to arrange English courses for judges and lawyers in the Syrian diaspora in Turkey. This programme has been instrumental in ILAC’s efforts to build the capacity and independence of Syrian legal civil society in Turkey and Syria. Two of the judges on the panel have participated in these courses without which their voices might not have been heard.