The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) successfully held its Fourth Congress last 29-30 May 2010 in The Netherlands amidst the further deepening commitment of its members to contribute to the struggle of the people for the respect of human rights and the establishment of a just and humane world. More than 35 delegates and observers comprising lawyers, judges and law students from 7 countries attended the Congress, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Philippines, and Turkey .
The two-day Congress started with a Forum on the theme “PEOPLE’S LAWYERS: DEFENDING ASYLUM SEEKERS, REFUGEES, DISPLACED PERSONS, MIGRANTS AND POLITICAL ACTIVISTS wherein resource speakers tackled the issues of displacement of Kurdish and Adhivasi peoples, the challenge to uphold and protect the legal and human rights of migrants, repressive laws against refugees and the case of Prof. Jose Maria Sison and the legal struggle against the so-called terrorist listing.
The speakers gave life to the struggles of the lawyers and judges and the obstacles they have to face to uphold the interest of displaced persons, asylum seekers, refugees, and political activists even at the cost of arrest, torture, imprisonment and death.
Country reports were presented and campaigns and concerns regarding legal issues and the question of law were taken up during the second day of the Congress. Although there was diversity in the specific cases in the reports, one common thread of the reports is the increasing violent attacks on the people’s lawyers and judges, and political activists especially those coming from people’s organizations. Amidst such condition of violent attacks and the complete disregard of the state and state machineries of their own laws and judicial system, the people’s lawyers persist in their duty to defend the people.
Thus, one important decision of the IAPL was to undertake more fact-finding missions on the situation of human rights in different countries. So far, the IAPL has sent fact-finding missions twice to India and once to Brazil.
Several resolutions on different issues affecting member countries of IAPL were passed by the Congress.
Organizational matters such as how to consolidate and further increase the membership of IAPL and how to develop better coordination especially for campaigns and immediate response to burning issues were also taken up. A general review of the IAPL’s existence for the past 10 years was also undertaken.
The Congress considered the application for membership of lawyers from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia and Switzerland and submitted it to the new Board.
The Congress culminated with the election of the International Association of People’s Lawyers Board and its officers. Unanimously reelected as officers of the Board were: President, Edre Olalia (National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers – Philippines), Vice President, Julio Moreira (Brazilian Association of People’s Lawyers – Brazil), Secretary General, Raf Jespers (Progress Lawyers Network – Belgium), Treasurer, Dundar Gurses (Schoolplein Advocaten – The Netherlands) and Auditor, Hakan Karakus (Acilim Bureau – Turkey). Rateb Faquiri ( Fayaz Foundation for Human Rights in Afghanistan) were also elected to the Board.
The Congress of the International Association of People’s Lawyers ended with a solidarity dinner and warm and militant camaraderie among the delegates.