Stars and awards at PBI's 30th Anniversary Gala
On 21 November, the grand Middle Temple venue of PBI’s 30th Anniversary gala in London resounded with a capacity audience of almost 300 supporters.
The actors Simon Russell Beale, Jack Fortune, Juliet Stevenson, Stephanie Street, Zoë Wanamaker and Samuel West, and the musicians Helen Chadwick, Joanna Foster, Barbara Gellhorn and Osnat Schmool, gave up an evening from their busy schedules to perform for free in support of PBI and the threatened human rights defenders we protect. They gave a performance that surpassed all our hopes and expectations.
With scripts based on interviews with human rights defenders and PBI volunteers, the readings and music were woven together to create a powerful and moving whole directed by Ice & Fire. Needing no embellishment, the stories of loss, struggle, setback and triumph shocked and inspired everyone.
PBI presented lifetime achievement awards to Mexican human rights defender Tita Radilla, who attended with her lawyer Juan Carlos Gutierrez, and to the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) from Colombia, as well as to former PBI volunteer Nikki Evans on behalf of all past and present PBI field volunteers.
Lawyer Bridget Petherbridge, who has carried out pro bono work with CCAJAR, accepted the award on their behalf. She conveyed thanks from director Alirio Uribe for PBI’s accompaniment over the last 16 years. “It is a testimony to their work that, since the involvement of PBI, not one of CCAJAR’s lawyers has fallen victim to any physical attack,” she said.
In the weeks preceding the event, several of Colombia’s highest officials, including the President himself, had publicly accused CCAJAR of fraud and corruption. These ungrounded accusations seriously jeopardize the lawyers work and even their lives. In Alirio’s words, the award brought “comfort and inspiration… in such difficult times”.
Tita Radilla appeared visibly moved having watched the actors’ portrayal of her story. She thanked her lawyers and PBI, calling the volunteers who have accompanied her on the ground during the last eight years her “beautiful angels”. “I believe that without them, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve everything we have achieved,” she said.
Tita’s award also came at a significant moment. Despite winning her Inter-American Court case against the Mexican government on behalf of the families of 600 forcibly disappeared people in 2009, most of Court’s ruling remains unfulfilled, even though it is meant to be binding. She appealed to the audience to urge Mexico to comply with the ruling.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of our sponsors and supporters, the night raised over £10,000, which will contribute to furthering the work of PBI and the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk, protecting lawyers and human rights defenders who face threats to their lives because of their human rights work.
PBI would like to express our sincere gratitude to the performers Simon Russell Beale, Jack Fortune, Juliet Stevenson, Stephanie Street, Zoë Wanamaker, Samuel West, Helen Chadwick, Joanna Foster, Barbara Gellhorn, Osnat Schmool, and Ice & Fire; to the evening’s sponsors Bindmans, Caravana de Abogados, the City Law School at City University London, Clifford Chance, John and Taline Halpern, Hansen Palomares Solicitors, Linklaters, No.5 Chambers, Simmons & Simmons, and especially Sir Henry Brooke; to the members of our Lawyers’ Advisory Committee, for helping make the idea of the event into a reality, and to Sir Peter Roth, Maya Lester and Mark Cunningham for their speeches on the night; to PBI UK’s volunteers for all their work; and to everyone who gave their support by attending themselves or spreading the word among friends, family and colleagues.