The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative are proud to release this new joint report, The Edge of Law: A regional approach to confronting key legal challenges. The Report synthesises 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.
A message from Stephen Cragg KC
As Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (BHRC), I am proud to present this report further to the conclusion of The Edge of Law: A regional approach to confronting key legal challenges, a major advocacy project on which we are proud to have partnered with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).
The Edge of Law was a path-breaking series of virtual dialogues hosted by BHRC and ABA ROLI between November 2021 and March 2022, addressing specific dimensions of forced labour/modern slavery, sanctions, data security/ digital privacy, and judicial independence in Asia, with discussions designed to speak to the overarching question: What is the role of the legal profession in protecting human rights and the Rule of Law?
Chaired alternately by a senior representative of BHRC and ABA ROLI, each of the virtual dialogues were designed to conclude with solid, actionable steps that participants and other stakeholders can import into regional law practice and policymaking. For each event, we invited speakers from and based in Asia, Australia, the UK, Canada, and the US. All speakers were experts in their fields and addressed human rights concerns in Asia, with a focus on international law and the rule of law. Our discussions were highly interactive in nature and exceptionally well-attended by members of the legal profession, regional Bar Associations and Law Societies, the judiciary, civil society and NGO representatives, human rights defenders, writers, and academics.
From within the region, I am proud to share that we welcomed participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam. From the wider international community, participants logged in from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Fiji, Germany, Jordan, Lebanon, Malawi, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Spain, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Zambia.
This key report, which synthesises the observations, challenges and opportunities that emerged from our Edge of Law discussions, generates a decisive blueprint for practitioner-led action and empowerment in the region. The recommendations that are annexed to this report are a distillation of the rich analysis of our rapporteurs and report authors, woven throughout the sections of this work.
Through these events, BHRC and ABA ROLI sought to create 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.
These are all countries where BHRC has heavily focused its global advocacy in recent years. We have developed strong expertise and exceptional relationships on the ground amidst the escalating persecution of human rights practitioners and defenders, and in light of an increasingly febrile climate affecting human rights and rule of law issues in the region. BHRC’s work in East and Central Asia in recent years, for example, has focused on allegations of atrocity crimes in Xinjiang and on the swift and severe clampdown on political and democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as on Chinese human rights lawyers who continue to face a bleak crackdown. Throughout the region, countries are suffering from acute human rights crises and substantial rule of law concerns. Many of these have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with increasing incidences of arbitrary detention of political prisoners without due process, clampdowns on civil society, attacks on the right to peaceful assembly, the freedom of expression and information, and the insidious rise of digital authoritarianism.
In all our work, BHRC aims to use our significant legal expertise to build capacity for legal practitioners and human rights defenders on the ground. Our goals are to provide them with the necessary training and support, to monitor human rights violations, conduct trial observations and international fact-finding investigations and research, promote the rule of law and human rights through public events, and assist individuals and groups to hold states accountable for abusive practices. 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.
Stephen Cragg KC
Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales