Faculty announces International Human Rights Award

02 Jul


A NEW award to honour men and women overseas who champion human rights in the most challenging of circumstances is being launched by the Faculty of Advocates.

The winner of the Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award will be invited to Edinburgh for a week to share experience and expertise with members of Faculty and others who work to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights.

Latest figures suggest that around the world, more than 300 human rights defenders are murdered each year, and a survey found that fundamental human rights have diminished in two-thirds of 130 countries surveyed.

Shelagh McCall, QC, Convenor of the Faculty’s Human Rights and Rule of Law Committee, said: “When Scottish lawyers take up the challenge of defending human rights, we are fortunate that we do so in a mature and well-developed legal system that respects the rule of law. In many other countries, human rights lawyers are victims of violence, intimidation, harassment, smear campaigns and surveillance. 

“Despite that, human rights lawyers and defenders achieve remarkable outcomes. They play a key role in upholding the rule of law by representing local communities and victims of alleged mass human rights violations in areas of armed conflict, social unrest, persecution of minorities or environmental conflicts.

“!t is important to recognise these achievements and the bonds of solidarity and respect that exist between lawyers globally who work upholding human rights and the rule of law.”

Applications for the award will be scrutinised by a selection committee chaired by Lord Bonomy, the former Scottish judge who spent five years in The Hague as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The judging panel will also include Professor Alan Miller, Special Envoy of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in Geneva.

The award will have strict criteria to ensure that it goes only to someone from an organisation which is apolitical and who conducts only peaceful activities to promote human rights and the rule of law.

 It is intended that the inaugural winner will travel to Edinburgh in November to receive the award.

“This is a particularly opportune year to launch the award, being the 20th anniversary of the UN’s 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,” added Ms McCall.

“As the Declaration makes clear, the defence of human rights transcends borders and requires us all to work collectively with others around the world. We very much look forward to meeting our first winner and raising the profile of human rights in their country, offering advocacy training tailored to assist in their work, and enabling them to make contacts to help and support them in their work.”

Lord Bonomy said the ethos of the Faculty was to promote and uphold human rights and the rule of law.

“The Faculty has a proud history of supporting international human rights initiatives and this award, to be given every two years, is another example of that support,” he added.

Professor Miller said: “Lawyers and human rights defenders, their colleagues and families often face attacks on a daily basis. It is a lonely and dangerous place to be. The Scottish Bar International Human Rights Award shines a light of solidarity into that darkness. International support helps keep lawyers safe so that they can get on with their job and ensure access to justice for the people they represent.”

Full details and to apply https://www.humanrights.scot/awards/scottish-bar-international-human-rights-award-2018/