London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Darfur Lawyers Training 2011

Training Programme in Human Rights and International Criminal Law for Darfur lawyers Geneva, Switzerland 2011

HRSJ and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) designed and implemented an eight-day training programme for Darfur lawyers in coordination with The Darfur Bar Association, an NGO supporting Darfur lawyers based in Sudan. The training programme took place in Geneva, Switzerland from February 28 – March 7th, 2011, designed to coincide with the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The project was commissioned by the British Embassy in Sudan and the Open Society Institute East Africa.

Darfur is home to one of the largest war-affected communities in the world. The conflict has resulted in over 200,000 deaths, the internal displacement of over two million people, and has caused 250,000 people to flee across the border into eastern Chad and other neighbouring countries (UNHCR, 2010). The human rights situation continues to deteriorate in Darfur. The situation for Darfuri women is particularly acute, with women constituting the majority of the displaced population and thousands of women and girls at risk or victims of sexual violence. Supporting the rule of law and the administration of justice are two crucial challenges in Darfur, particularly in an environment where human rights defenders are systematically threatened and many are forced to leave, lessening the numbers of human rights lawyers in the region.

In order to respond to the needs of attorneys, IBAHRI and HRSJ partnered to offer a training programme that aims at fostering capacity and institution building among Darfur lawyers. The location and timing of the programme offered participants unique opportunities to network with relevant actors, to develop their technical skills in human rights litigation, and to gain a deeper understanding of the context in which international law operates by organising the programme to coincide with the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The programme enabled participants to more effectively intervene as key actors in the protection of human rights in Darfur.

 The training content covered key aspects of internationafl human rights law, international criminal law, skills for engaging with international and regional human rights protection mechanisms, and provided a thematic focus on the protection of women’s rights and combating gender-based violence. The training engaged Darfur lawyers with human rights experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with UN Special Rapporteurs, with experts from the International Criminal Court, and with human rights lawyers, human rights academics, and experts from human rights NGOs working in Africa. Karen Bennett from the HRSJ Research Institute designed the programme content with support from Alex Harrison and Stephanie Jones, HRSJ interns; Marie-Pierre Olivier from the IBAHRI organised the project with administrative support from Caitriona Harte of the IBAHRI; Professor Philip Leach, Joanna Evans, and Karen Bennett from the HRSJ Research Institute led the training course content.  

Comments from the training participants

“It was the first time I attended such a programme, so I was discovering many of these things from the beginning. The training was integral for helping me to think about the many different aspects of human rights discourse [...] Overall, it gave me an excellent grounding in specific areas of human rights; I would like the opportunity to learn more.”
Darfur lawyer (male) supporting human rights network in Darfur

“The most crucial aspect of the programme for me was in analysing problems as I look at my city in relation to human rights violations. The training expanded my knowledge and really equipped me with confidence and capabilities to be more active in the field of human rights.”
Recently exiled lawyer (male) from Darfur

Generally it was a very good programme, and it was the first opportunity I have had to learn a lot of the things I need to know for interacting with international legal institutions and international law, including human rights and humanitarian laws. It was a great opportunity to establish useful networks and my hope is that this programme will carry on strengthening the capacity of Darfur lawyers further. I hope to be involved in future programmes.”
Exiled Darfur lawyer (male) living in the United Kingdom 

“I found the conference/training to be very useful. It was well organised within the time frame, the discussions were exciting and the subjects were very relevant. I would like to take part in more workshops in the future. In particular, I feel it would be beneficial to have more participants from Darfur and a greater focus on specific subjects, such as the ICC in more depth. If a greater significance were afforded to a single specific subject it would better equip us to train other trainers. Perhaps the next training session could do this, and take place in Kenya, Egypt or Uganda.”
Lawyer (female) practicing in Darfur


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