Prof Yasushi Higashizawa: Lawyer in Japan. Professor of the Meijigakuin University (Tokyo). Former Co-Chair of the LAWASIA Human Rights Committee.
This session aimed to discuss on how bar associations/ law societies, either national or international, could work together to support cross-border victims of armed conflicts (ACs) and gross violation of human rights (GVHRs).
The panel consisted of and was moderated by following lawyers:
Mr. Motoji KOBAYASHI, President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations
Mr. Prashant KUMAR, President of the Bar Association of India
Ms. Lubna SHUJA, President of the Law Society of England & Wales
Mr. Sin Yew NEW, on behalf of the Bar Council of Malaysia
Mr. Steven THIRU, Vice President of LAWASIA
Mr. Yasushi Higashizawa, Former Co-Chair of LAWASIA HR Committee
Responding to recent events, the discussion was referred mainly to Ukraine=Russia War and violent oppression by the military in Myanmar.
Mr. Kobayashi reflected that Japanese bars were re-established under deep remorse to aggressive war by the former Japanese military and have made every effort to preserve the Constitution of Japan which denounced war and military powers. He also introduced recent efforts along with the G7 bars to condemn Russian invasion as serious violation of rule of law and to stand together with Ukraine lawyers.
Mr. Kumar observed a dramatic change of the world after 9/11 attacks in 2001. According to him, numerous people had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Myanmar even before Ukraine war. Even their own governments are reluctant to take actions, he urged that legal community could and should act together for victims of atrocities.
Ms. Shuja introduced a variety of activities of the LSEW to respond to ACs and GVHRs not only for lawyers of Ukraine, but also those of many regions in extremely difficult situations such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus or Iran. She valued solidarity among legal profession and made clear the LSEW’s message, ‘We stand with you.’
Mr. New introduced the formation and objectives of the BCM and its legal aid scheme for refugees and asylum seekers. He presented its long history to support asylum seekers from Myanmar during past military era, Rohingya crisis and current military regime, as well as development of strategic litigations by Malaysian lawyers.
Mr. Thiru introduced a variety of activities by LAWASIA to protect independence of the judiciary and lawyers in the Asia Pacific region. What was emphasized by him was LAWASIA’s long practices of Mission on the Ground, for which LAWASIA sent missions to Pakistan and the Maldives recently to restore such independence from the governments. As for Myanmar, LAWASIA had provided educations and trainings for Myanmar’s lawyers. Though it was interrupted by the 2021 coup, he assured that LAWASIA would continue to support them.
Interventions from the audience covered many related issues. Questions posed were rather practical; what criteria should be set to provide support among so many difficult situations in the world or how human rights lawyers could be financially viable to be engaged in such important duties. What was impressive is that the panel with bar leaders effectively triggered the audience lawyers to get involved in their destined duties for human rights.