Dear ILAC friends,
It is with mixed emotions we look back at 2015. It has truly been a difficult year during which ILAC has seen some significant changes.Some have been positive, some necessary and anticipated, others tragic.
The sudden death of our colleague Håkan Henning at the beginning of the year shocked and saddened us all and we still miss him very much. His wife and son are in our thoughts – especially at this time of the year.
March 1 was also the day Christian Åhlund retired as ILAC’s Executive Director after 13 years. It is impossible in just a few lines to express how much Christian has meant to the establishment and development of ILAC as a consortium and as an organisation which was able to rely so much upon his commitment, his passion and his many contacts.
Thank you very much, Christian, for all your hard and productive work for ILAC – and we are now looking forward to welcome you back in another role.
In Helsinki, the Annual General Meeting elected Elizabeth Howe as the new Chair of ILAC who, together with Juan Bennazar, Kimitoshi Yabuki, Raji Sourani, Rolf Ring and Agneta Johansson became ILAC’s newly formed Executive Committee. Although we haven’t worked together very long, it has been a real pleasure to work with a committee representing different parts of the world. Under the guidance of the new Executive Committee, ILAC has also expanded our activities to Asia, Latin America and Palestine during the course of the year.
Further, after several visits to Palestine and numerous meetings with local stakeholders and international partners, we have submitted an application for a 3-year programme to Sida to “Support to the Rule of Law in Palestine”, and we are expecting a response at the beginning of 2016.
In October we invited all our Asian members to a meeting in Hong Kong to discuss needs and possibilities for ILAC and its members to become more active in the Asia region and are following up on certain leads.
The MENA program is now half way through. Funded by Swedish Sida and implemented by five of our member organisations, it is a milestone in ILAC´s work and strengthens the role of ILAC as a coordinating and monitoring organisation. The joint work and synergies within this multi-dimensional programme are also generating other ideas and potential. There are several examples where our different programme components have developed new projects.
For example as a spin-off from the judicial training of judges and prosecutors in Tunisia, we received requests for improvements to the court administration. In January this year ILAC conducted an assessment trip to Tunisia together with our member the National Center for State Courts and with support from our member the International Association of Court Administrators. Based on the assessment’s findings a program to improve the administration of Tunisian courts has been designed and an application submitted to the US State Department. With the National Center for State Courts, we anticipate starting the new program in early 2016. We are also discussing more concrete support and cooperation with the Tunisian Bar Association.
ILACs program “Strengthen the Rule of Law in Syria”, continues. During the year we have opened 11 document centres within Syria, seven in Aleppo, one in Idlib and Homs respectively, and two in Daraa in the south. These centres have been able to assist people with the documentation of births, marriages, divorce etc. and so far this year they have issued around 20, 000 documents. We are pleased to note that this project also has lifted the spirits of our partners in the Free Independent Judicial Council and of the associations of lawyers that we are also working with.
Three of the Syrian judges were invited by the Human Rights Committee of our member the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) to participate in their half year conference in Istanbul. The judges shared their experiences in a panel discussing “How to preserve Rule of Law in a conflict” in a very powerful way.
ILACs Syria program manager, Mazin Al-Balkhi, has been located in Sweden since June and we are therefore glad to have been able to contract Mr. Orwa Awad, a lawyer from Damascus to handle the Syria project from Gaziantep in Turkey.
This year the Stockholm Human Rights Award was presented to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. He was given the award in recognition of his work in the pursuit of advancing international justice and for strengthening respect for human rights. The award was presented to Prince Zeid by the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav before 1000 people at a highly memorable ceremony in Berwaldhallen in Stockholm.
Another laureate we would like to congratulate are the members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet on their receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015. For ILAC, the role played in the Quartet by the Tunisian Bar Association (ONAT, Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie) has been particularly gratifying and we had an opportunity to meet and congratulate the President of the Bar, Mr. Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh, in person, just a couple of weeks ago.
As mentioned above, ILAC has been undergoing major changes in 2015. A new Executive Director was followed by several new ILAC staff members. We have mentioned our new lawyer in Gazintep but we also have a new Senior Legal Advisor in Tunis, Mr. Selim Ben Abdesselem.
In the Head Office in Stockholm, two new colleagues: Mr. Mikael Ekman, Legal Specialist and Ms. Hanna Johnsson, ILAC Programme Director have joined us. Mikael will work with several of our programmes and has a current focus on Syria and Palestine. Hanna’s main focus will be to oversee the MENA program and she is also helping out in designing and reporting of other programmes. With Hanna taking over the MENA programme, Rhodri Williams role’s has been changed to ILAC’s new Senior Legal Expert. Per Lagerstrom’s role has also been expanded to Head of Operations.
Looking ahead, 2016 also promises to include many inspiring events and activities, one being the ILAC Annual General Meeting in Stockholm 19-21 May in our new offices.
We are very much looking forward to working with you in the new year and wish everyone a restful holiday season!
Chair of ILAC
Executive Director of ILAC