Professor McEvoy Discusses Lawyers, Causes and Political Violence at University of Oxford

Professor Kieran McEvoy recently presented a paper at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, entitled ‘Lawyers, Causes and Political Violence: Re-examining Legal Professionalism in Conflicted and Transitional Societies’.

A podcast of the presentation is now available.

Based upon fieldwork in a range of jurisdictions (including Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel\Palestine, Cambodia, Chile and Tunisia), the paper explores the particular challenges for lawyers in managing relations with politically motivated clients charged with terrorism, treason, sedition and related offences.

Lawyers in some cases will share the political objectives of their clients – in other cases they may not.

Regardless, lawyers are inevitably faced with very direct ethical challenges in their interaction with such clients (e.g. the information which clients wish to pass on to family or indeed colleagues on the outside).

In addition, often the broader political and military movements to which their clients belong will have a direct influence in terms of legal strategies deployed (including whether or not to recognise the court), lines of argumentation and the ways in which legality is ‘performed’ in what are inevitably highly politicised legal settings.

This paper explores the ways in which lawyers navigate these complex issues: the versions of professionalism (including notions of neutrality) which are constructed by lawyers in such settings; the relationship between such lawyers and their professional associations and the ways in which such challenges are (or are not) addressed in backward looking transitional justice mechanisms exploring the role that lawyers play during periods of conflict or authoritarianism.

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