Around 120 people attended the launch of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk at Simmons & Simmons' City of London premises on 10 November 2010. Among them were judges, barristers, solicitors, academics, politicians and civil servants, and the Attorney-General, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve.
Richard Dyton, Simmons & Simmons Pro Bono Coordinator opened the proceedings, followed by speeches of support from Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Linda Lee, President of the Law Society and Richard Keen QC, Dean of Faculty. Retired High Court Judge Sir Henry Brooke chaired the event, and Colombian lawyer Alirio Uribe Muñoz and the Attorney-General were key-note speakers.
Alirio Uribe welcomed the Alliance, which he said would help protect lawyers like him who face grave threats in the course of their work. With his colleagues in the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective (CCAJAR), Mr Uribe was among the principle targets of illegal surveillance and wiretapping carried out by state intelligence agency DAS, whose former head is on trial for murder.
He described how security agents had rented an apartment opposite his and gathered reams of intelligence on him and his family, including details of his children's schools and activities. "People have died after appearing on those lists," he said.
PBI's international volunteer observers offer unarmed accompaniment to many lawyers and other human rights defenders working on legal cases, often making the difference between life and death.
Their lives are in danger due to their efforts to promote and protect human rights and challenge human rights violations committed in their countries. In Colombia alone, as many as 25 lawyers are killed each year.
The Alliance is an initiative through which firms and lawyers in the UK can contribute their skills and resources to the protection of these lawyers.
“The launch of the Alliance marks an opportunity for lawyers in the UK, individually and through their firms and Chambers, to fulfil our commitment to the protection of human rights around the world and help our fellow professionals. I very much hope that you will join us for the launch and consider becoming a member of the Alliance.” Sir Henry Brooke
“I believe that this network is a valuable resource to the global legal community.” UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul