BHRC Advocacy & Activities

Each year, the Executive Committee decides on its strategic priorities for the upcoming year in line with its objectives and current work.

BHRC Activities & Advocacy in 2022-2023

Our current geographic priorities include:

  • China, Hong Kong and Central Asia
  • South Asia
  • The Middle East and North Africa

Our current thematic priorities include:

  • The right to peaceful protest
  • Freedom of expression
  • The right to a fair trial (through the work of our Trial Observation unit)
  • Judicial independence and integrity
  • Supporting and protecting practising lawyers, judges and human rights defenders.

BHRC continues to work on other areas and countries in which it has been operating, and new areas in response to developing crises.

Some of our work in 2022-23 has included:
Image Credit: Arrest Chopra / Shutterstock

Diminishing Democracy: Spotlighting rule of law and human rights concerns in South Asia

Between September 2021 – July 2022, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales launched its ‘Diminishing Democracy’ panel event series, spotlighting serious human rights and rule of law concerns in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The events welcomed leading speakers, academics, legal practitioners and civil society leaders to examine tensions and challenges for human rights defenders in those states and in South Asia more broadly. The findings and recommendations that emerged from each of the five panel events are being synthesised into a report which will be published by BHRC in early 2024.

Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions Trial Observations

Further to a highly welcomed decision by the US to approve BHRC as one of only two non-US NGOs with International Observer status, BHRC has for many years kept a watching brief on the use of the detention facility at the United States Naval Base, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and procedural developments in the Military Commissions established under the Military Commissions Act 2009. BHRC has expressed its concerns on the continued use of the detention facility together with broader issues arising out of the ‘War on Terror’, including extraordinary rendition and torture.

Jacob Bindman and Amanda Weston QC (both barristers at Garden Court Chambers in London and Members of the BHRC Executive Committee in 2020-21) visited the Base between 9 – 22 February 2020 in order to observe the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (Ammar Al Baluchi), Walid Bin Attash and Mustafa Al Hawsawi. Jodie Blackstock, BHRC Treasurer and Member of the Executive Committee, conducted a further trial observation in February 2023, authoring a second BHRC Guantanamo Military Commissions Trial Observation Report on 01 June 2023.

On 18th August 2023 the Military Commission in the case of United States of America v Al-Nashiri gave a ruling on a request for the suppression (or exclusion) of statements made by Mr Al-Nashiri to US Government officials in January 2007 after he was officially returned to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility following four years in black sites where he was subjected to the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques programme. In a scathing and significant judgment, the Military Judge concluded that those statement ought to be suppressed as they were derived from the previous torture and psychological abuse which Mr Al-Nashiri was subjected to. The US Government has appealed to the Court of Military Commission Review.

Following BHRC’s second Guantanamo Military Commissions Trial Observation Report released in June 2023, BHRC has on 26th September 2023 submitted an amicus brief to the Court, written by barristers Stephen Cragg KC (Chair of BHRC) and Jodie Blackstock (BHRC Executive Committee), highlighting that international law requires the exclusion of evidence obtained as a result of torture and highlights caselaw and UN conventions, general comments and guidance on the rights of detainees in the context of interrogation following torture.

Keynote & Special Reception with Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

In November 2022, BHRC was delighted to host Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, for a special ‘In Conversation With’ panel event at Garden Court Chambers, which also featured Mona Seif, human rights activist and sister of Alaa El Fattah; Barbora Bukovská, senior director for law and policy, Article 19; and Sierra Schraff Thomas, strategy and governance advisor, Peace Brigades International UK Section. Click here to watch the keynote and panel event on BHRC’s YouTube channel.

The Edge of Law with ABA Rule of Law Initiative

In September 2022, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative were proud to release their joint report, The Edge of Law: A regional approach to confronting key legal challenges at an on-line event on 28 September 2022, co-chaired by Stephen Cragg KC, BHRC Chair. The Report synthesised the findings of a path breaking virtual dialogue series hosted between November 2021-March 2022, during which BHRC and ABA ROLI created a regional platform where practitioners, academics, civil society actors and policymakers could openly discuss some of the most acute challenges to the rule of law in Asia, contributing to and building regional consensus on the human rights realities in Hong Kong, China, India, and other Central and Southeast Asian countries. The Edge of Law series has enabled us to maintain our engagement within the region, working in solidarity with our regional and international counterparts in finding solutions to significant human rights challenges.