This is the 60th edition of Socialist Lawyer. The Haldane Society remains as active as ever. On 30th November 2011, Haldane members expressed their solidarity with public sector workers striking in defence of their jobs, pensions and pay by marching alongside them. The ideologically driven Con-Dem coalition cuts agenda continues apace.
Readers of this magazine will be all too familiar with the current Government’s drive to cut the legal aid budget and the threats this poses to access to justice particularly for the most vulnerable members of society. As Lord Prescott complains of the lack of media coverage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, Connor Johnston of Young Legal Aid Lawyers casts a focused eye on the passage of the legal aid Bill through Parliament in the pages of this edition.
It was 12 months ago that The Haldane Society and Young Legal Aid Lawyers jointly organised ‘The Case for Legal Aid – an inquiry into public funding and access to justice’ which was held in Parliament in February 2011. Following on from this event a year down the line, The Haldane Society in partnership with Amnesty International and European Lawyers for Democracy & Human Rights (ELDH) have set their sights on organising an equally ambitious and no less important international conference on Defending Human Rights Defenders. The conference will take place at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre on 24th February 2012.
The aim of the conference is to draw together lawyers, trade unionists, journalists and activists from some of the world’s most challenging civil societies. In recent years Haldane members have been active participants in delegations to Turkey, Colombia, Palestine, and the Philippines among other locations. It is a great privilege to be able to draw together delegates from all these countries as well as Swaziland and the Caucasus region to share in their knowledge and experiences as well as an exchange of solidarity and expertise.
Given the upcoming conference, this edition of Socialist Lawyer is full of accounts of those working in defence of human rights. Marina Sergides looks back at the conclusions of the delegation to East Jerusalem in December 2010 where delegates encountered those standing up for their housing rights in Sheikh Jarrah. The delegation went on to deliver briefing sessions in Brussels and in Parliament in London on 18th October 2011. The review section covers the story of Brazilian human rights activist Marcelo Freixo whose actions have helped inspire a feature film directed by José Padilha. There is also a report on those fighting for land rights in Chiapas, Mexico which is accompanied by an interview with Abigail Escalante, an intrepid Mexican human rights lawyer.
Brian Currin is perhaps better known in Spain than on these shores for his instrumental role within the international team of facilitators who have sought a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict in the Basque country. He brought his experience as a South African lawyer who had been involved in the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in his home country to his work as a facilitator for peace. He gives his account in this edition of the reasons behind the announcement of Eta’s ceasefire in October 2011.
It is a great pleasure to be able to print a piece of work by the artist Ruth Ewan in Socialist Lawyer. Ruth’s work places the accounts of activists, socialists, protesters and the socially marginalised in the public sphere. She has exhibited widely from the ICA in London to the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville. One of Ruth’s recent pieces of artwork involved commissioning over 100 buskers, placed at different areas around London, to sing The Ballad of Accounting. The song was written in 1964 by the folk singer Ewan MacColl who held communist beliefs.
Also featured in the magazine is some artwork from the days of Salvador Allende’s government of Popular Unity in Chile before it was toppled by the military coup led by General Pinochet in 1973. The artwork displays some of the spirit of Allende’s government. It is also a reminder of the price that has been paid by many across the globe who strive to defend justice, equality and human rights.
Tim Potter, Editor of Socialist Lawyer Magazine.