Final Reports Published – on ‘Role of Bar Associations’ and ‘Boycotting Unfair Legal Proceedings’

The last in our series of ‘user-friendly’ reports have now been published and are available to download  here.

The penultimate paper in this series (prepared by Jonathan Porter, in association with the Lawyers, Conflict and Transition team) examines the role of Bar Associations in Conflict & Crisis. It is also available to read in Khmer, Spanish and Arabic.

Whilst acknowledging the diversity of bar associations and the contexts in which they operate, this paper seeks to identify fundamental international best practice. In particular it explores the criteria by which effectiveness can be measured in times of conflict.

The first section looks at the existing international framework and identifies where standards exist regarding the roles and responsibilities of bar associations and where further development is required.

The second section looks at common trends and points of difference among various bar associations to identify the national best practices and standards that make up an effective bar association.

The final section analyses the gaps in standards for jurisdictions that experience crisis or conflict. In particular it focuses upon the need for developing standards and norms for bar associations that function in emergency and high-risk environments.

The final paper in this series was prepared by Dr Emma Catterall in collaboration with the Lawyers, Conflict and Transition team. It explores the strategy of boycotting unfair legal proceedings. It is also available to read in Hebrew and Arabic.

Drawing on numerous illustrative examples, the aim of this paper is to discuss the value of boycott as a strategy of resistance. In particular, it explores the factors that are likely to influence lawyers’ decision to boycott or participate.

Having tracked the origins of the boycott term, the paper discusses the role of lawyers within unjust legal systems and questions whether lawyers should be expected to take on the burden of wider moral responsibilities in such circumstances. It proceeds to unpack the rationale for deciding to boycott or participate and the related challenges faced by lawyers. This includes reference to instructive debates on strategies of legal resistance by lawyers centred on the concepts of boycott and performance e.g. in what context was it appropriate for lawyers to withdraw their services from unjust or unfair legal proceedings or to use courts primarily as sites of symbolic resistance?

The paper concludes by reviewing the circumstances in which boycotts can assist in addressing injustice. Specifically, it calls attention to the potential to provoke mobilisation to act among government officials, international human rights organisations, the media, and wider public. Successful boycotts in history have indeed spurred broad social movements that created the momentum needed for change. While this would indicate that there is ‘strength in numbers,’ the cases analysed also illustrate that there can  be strength in an individual stance. It is clear that individual lawyers who speak out and express their discontent with unjust legal proceedings (whether through participation or withdrawal from the system) can make a difference. The paper therefore suggests that a primary goal for lawyers in unjust systems is turning an individual voice into a chorus.