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Guernica 37 IJC Participates in English Law Week in Mexico and English Law Day in Colombia

During 2 – 6 September 2019, Toby Cadman, Co-founder of The Guernica Group and Head of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, participated in English Law Week in Mexico (2-3 September 2019) and English Law Day in Colombia (5-6 September 2019).

The event, organised by the Bar Council of England and Wales and the Law Society of England and Wales, brought together lawyers (barristers and solicitors) from England and Wales, Mexico and Colombia to discuss a range of topics including Arbitration, Insurance Law, Energy, Fintech, Human Rights, Anti-Corruption and Women in Law.

The delegation was led by Richard Atkins QC (Chairman of the Bar) and David Greene (Vice-President of Law Society) and included an array of experts from diverse fields of domestic and international law.

In Mexico City, Toby participated in the panel on Human Rights. The panel was chaired by David Greene and included Saimo Chahal QC (Hon) from Bindmans LLP, Ricardo Sepulveda, Director of Compilation and Systemization of Jurisprudence from the Mexican Supreme Court and Camila Zapata Besso, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers.

Toby spoke specifically on the issue of using alternative mechanisms to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, focusing on national, regional and international human rights mechanisms. Toby specifically referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the UN Special Procedures and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

The panel prompted a vigorous debate on the effectiveness on such mechanisms and that human rights lawyers must be inventive to ensure there is real accountability for human rights violations. Toby responded that there are numerous tools available to combat impunity and human rights lawyers must be vigilant in monitoring and innovative in ensuring accountability.

At the end of the two-day session, a reception was held at the British Ambassador’s Residence. The British Ambassador, Ms. Corin Robertson, spoke of the importance of the relationship between Mexico and the United Kingdom and #EnglishLawWeekinMexico represented an opportunity for Mexican and British legal professionals to discuss current trends.

In Bogotá, Toby chaired the panel on Anti-Corruption – A Public Law Perspective. The panel included Maria Cristina Rangel Serpa, Procuraduría General de la Nación, República de Colombia, Claudia Dangond, Barrister, DG&A, Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), Partner, Bindmans LLP and Philip Rule, Barrister, No5 Chambers.

The focus of the panel was the importance, and therefore need, for an independent judiciary, and also, stressing the importance of ‘Judicial Review’ and ‘Public Inquiries’ as tools by which to minimise corruption and the abuse of State power, and seek to ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld.

Opening the session, Toby spoke that the international community, in particular the Government of the United Kingdom and the European Union, have placed a great deal of emphasis on the obligation of state institutions to address political corruption and that this must be considered a priority of all State institutions to establish public confidence in its political, law enforcement and judicial institutions. He noted that the national criminal and disciplinary legislation sets out a framework that is broadly compatible with the relevant international standards and obligations to combat organized crime and political corruption. However, there is a need to implement guiding principles that include the framework established in the Colombian Criminal Code, the Anti-Corruption Statute, in addition to international standards that are applicable, such as those encompassed in the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Maria Cristina spoke about the work of the Procuraduría General and the challenges it faces in combatting corruption in the public sector. Claudi Dangond followed with a practical dimension of corruption in Colombia, discussing the legal and institutional framework and its effectiveness. Saimo spoke of the importance of an independent judiciary to minimise corruption and uphold the rule of law and spoke about the use of judicial review before the Courts of England and Wales, highlighting a number of important cases such as challenges to Brexit and attempts to prosecute the current Prime Minister for misleading the public during the Brexit campaign. Philip concluded the session, following on from Saimo, discussing the challenges faced and using a number of topical anecdotes, such as #Plebgate to highlight the importance of judicial review and judical scrutiny of public office holders.

Colombia, as the panel observed, has taken significant steps to address corruption and transnational crime, and must continue to build upon that work, seeking to implement relevant guidelines that strengthens the institutional capacity.

The panel, as Toby concluded:

recognising the steps Colombia has taken so far, and its ongoing to commitment to address corruption whilst also upholding, and strengthening the Rule of Law, it must be noted that it is not solely the legal framework, it is the institutional framework and public trust in the institutions that is important in the fight to eradicate impunity.

At the conclusion of #EnglishLawDayColombia, a reception hosted by the British Embassy to Colombia was held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Bogotá. The Deputy Ambassador Ambassador, Greg Houston gave the concluding remarks highlighting the important areas discussed during the day, such as infrastructure, security and the commercial interests of both countries. Guernica co-founders Toby Cadman and Almudena Bernabeu had the opportunity to brief the Deputy Ambassador on its work in Colombia addressing the #SpecialJurisdictionPeace and #TruthCommission.  

In addition to attending #EnglishLawDayColombia, Guernica Co-founder, Almudena Bernabeu travelled to Colombia as part of Guernica's ongoing programme of support to meet the Head of the Transitional Mechanisms, including the #SpecialJurisdictionPeace, #TruthCommission and Unit for the Disappeared in an effort to jointly conceive the ways in which Guernica can continue to support this critical part of the #PeaceAgreement, through our representation of the victims and their communities, supporting the mandates of these organisations as well as ensuring victims participation, a critically important part in the process.

As part of the discussions addressing #AntiCorruption Guernica 37 was able to discuss its current work with the Procuraduría General de la Nación with whom it signed a collaboration agreement earlier this year.

On 6 September 2019 a special meeting was held with the Colombian Commission of Jurists, an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, where a host issues were discussed including the challenges of implementing the peace agreement, strengthening an independent judiciary and ensuring accountability for the victims of human rights abuses.

Our team at Guernica 37 would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers at the Bar Council and the Law Society, the British Embassies in Mexico City and Bogotá, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, Mexican Bar Association, Colombian Chamber of Legal Services, British & Colombian Chamber of Commerce, Procuraduría General de la Nación, República de Colombia and the Governments of Mexico and Colombia for a highly productive and educational exchange.


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