"The symbolic significance of the work of PBI being celebrated in the physical presence of Magna Carta is compelling and inescapable." - Mark Cunningham, QC, 16 April 2015.
Mandira Sharma speaks about defending human rights in Nepal
Around 160 people attended PBI and The Alliance for Lawyers at Risk celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta at the British Library on 16 April 2015. Among them were judges, barristers, solicitors, members of civil society, academics, politicians and civil servants.
The event was held to celebrate the anniversary and to honour defenders of the rule of law who are at risk for their work to uphold the principles embedded in the Magna Carta. Chaired by PBI UK patron Sir Henry Brooke CMG, the event was also addressed by PBI UK patron Lord Scott of Foscote, Nepalese Human Rights Lawyer Mandira Sharma and Dr Frederick Mulder CBE who illustrated the importance of the legacy of the Magna Carta in the work of human rights lawyers today.
Sir Henry Brooke CMG opened the proceedings stating that "The Magna Carta is important for the work of Peace Brigades International because it's all about fair trial and fair process". Similar sentiments were expressed by Lord Scott of Foscote who outlined the importance of articles 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta, which refer to fairness before the law and a right to trial.A co-founder of the Advocacy Forum in Nepal, Mandira Sharma provided testimony about her fight against impunity in Nepal and described her work documenting human rights abuses:
"There, I found the resonance and significance of the Magna Carta, which laid down the principle of fair trial and due process as protection for those in detention." She has been the subject of defamation, threats and intimidation. Due to her fragile security situation, Mandira has received support from PBI and the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk. Mandira thanked the organisations for their support, telling guests that "Because of the support like this I have always felt that I am not alone."
The event was also held to raise funds to support the work of lawyers and other human rights defenders accompanied by PBI. To this end Dr Frederick Mulder CBE, a dear funder and supporter, donated a Picasso print from his private collection.
"Picasso once said “What I want is for universal hunger and universal thirst" and I take it in this context he meant hunger and thirst for justice to be finally set free." - Dr Frederick Mulder CBE.
We are thrilled that the prize draw for the artwork together with generous donations raised £11,225 to support our work protecting threatened human rights defenders and lawyers around the world.
After an introduction to Magna Carta by curator Julian Harrison, guests were treated to a private viewing of the exhibition at the British Library. PBI would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone who came and to all involved, especially the speakers, our team of wonderful volunteers, The British Library and sponsors Linklaters, Blackstone Chambers, Hart Publishing, Leigh Day and Doughty Street Chambers without whom the event would not have been possible.