Ancile Avocats, Amnesty International France, and ACAT
The law firm Ancile Avocats, in coordination with Amnesty International France and Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), drew up a legal opinion on the French arms trade with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the context of the ongoing Yemeni armed conflict and humanitarian crisis. The opinion, published on the 20th of March 2018, analyzed the lawfulness of the arms trade with States involved—especially regarding international humanitarian law and France’s international commitments, in particular the Arms Trade Treaty and the 2008 Council Common Position defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment. Ancil Avocats assessed precisely the high level of legal risk regarding the compliance of France with its domestic, European and international law obligations, since the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia and the UAE can potentially be used to carry out war crimes. The legal opinion exposes several axes for lawsuits including administrative, civil, and criminal claims, tackling both the French State and French arms exporting companies. This could be the first step towards NGOs partnering with Ancil Avocats to use legal claims to defend Yemeni human rights. After the publication, NGOs have used the opinion in their advocacy actions and are considering joining any potential legal case as claimants or civil party to pursue the partnership in the long run.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Lawyers Without Borders
Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) worked with lawyers at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to conduct a mid-program external review to ensure that LWOB was on track for compliance with each of their grant and program objectives and to alert LWOB to any gaps. The “Gap Analysis, Evaluation and Review” is considered a best-practice planning tool that is essential to identify the tasks that are required to properly deliver each project. Monitoring and evaluation are possibly the most critical aspects of a rule of law program, yet often NGOs lack the resources that would ensure a comprehensive analysis. Akin Gump’s lawyers observed and monitored all major training programs, interacted with attendees, staff and trainers, and elicited input from all key stakeholders. This yielded important programming data and metrics, and also signaled to stakeholders that their input and contribution to the nature, extent, and quality of the program is valued. The programming areas reviewed included wildlife crime and community/wildlife conflict, and anti-human trafficking programs in Tanzania and Kenya. Currently, Akin Gump is reviewing programs aimed at countering extreme violence (counter-terrorism) with LWOB in Kenya.
Linklaters, Debevoise & Plimpton, Hogan Lovells and eyeWitness to Atrocities
Linklaters, Debevoise & Plimpton, and Hogan Lovells partnered with eyeWitness to Atrocities to review footage gathered on their mobile app. eyeWitness to Atrocities provides human rights defenders and organizations documenting human rights abuses with a mobile app to capture relevant video footage and photos embedded with metadata to verify where and when it was taken and whether it has been altered. Both the images and the metadata are stored within the app until the footage is then sent to a secure server and reviewed by pro bono lawyers who curate the information for potential use in international investigations and prosecutions. Every piece of footage that had been recorded and secured through the app was reviewed by a team of lawyers who used their legal training and understanding of the rules of evidence to catalogue, tag, and objectively record the material in legal terms and then compile dossiers on particular situations. The eyeWitness app has had a significant positive impact on the delivery of justice to victims of international war crimes due to its revolutionary ability to safeguard the authenticity of video and photo evidence of human rights atrocities around the world. By sending the footage to a secure server, a secure chain of custody is established which then allows the footage to be used as evidence in prosecutions and investigations. The partnership with the firms, and the ability of the pro bono lawyers to review an enormous amount of footage in a short amount of time, has allowed eyeWitness to have an impact on international accountability by contributing audiovisual evidence to help secure prosecutions for the most heinous crimes. The partnership between eyeWitness and the pro bono firms is what allows this technology to have impact. Without this partnership, eyeWitness would not have the capacity to review the vast amount of evidence that comes in or deal with requests from investigators and prosecutors where evidence must be provided on a tight deadline.
White & Case and ACCEPT Romania
White & Case partnered with ACCEPT Romania to represent Adrian Coman, a Romanian national who argued for the right to have his same-sex American husband live with him in Romania, despite the Romanian Civil Code (RCC) prohibiting the recognition of same sex marriages or partnerships legally registered in other states. ACCEPT initiated strategic litigation leading to a case before the Romanian Constitutional Court and a referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). White & Case joined ACCEPT in preparation for the CJEU hearing, arguing that the European values of dignity and non-discrimination should be applied to same sex couples, and to clearly establish the balance between national identities and traditions, and the respect for EU fundamental freedoms. The impact of the case has already been felt in Romania where the Constitutional Court decided in July 2018 that the Civil Code prohibition is unconstitutional on the basis that it limits freedom of movement of same sex couples. ACCEPT has also used the case to advocate for legislation on same sex partnerships. A draft bill that provides for legal recognition of same sex couples is currently pending in the parliament. The case is also having a ripple effect in other countries where there is no legal recognition of same sex couples, including Bulgaria, where the courts have already started to apply the Coman decision directly.