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Commonwealth Lawyers Association The CLA team, which is based at Russell Square in London www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 83 commonwealth network Close-up The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) is an independent professional membership association for lawyers practising within the Commonwealth. Its purpose is to provide its members with information, education and assistance to ensure the rule of law is upheld throughout the Commonwealth. It aims to unite its members by improving legal education and standards, as well as informing and advising the community and the broader Commonwealth about areas of concern or abuse of the rights of Commonwealth citizens. Its work includes trial observation, projects for the further development of the Latimer House Principles and a programme of events, including the biennial Commonwealth Law Conference. Its members include lawyers, judiciary and government officers, academics and legal professionals, from the Commonwealth and around the globe. It also has many institutional and corporate members in its network. CLA has existed in its present form since the 1980s, but has a much longer history that dates back as far as 1955 when the first Commonwealth and Empire Conference (the modern day Commonwealth Law Conference) was held. CLA has a president, who holds office for two years, a ruling Council of 25 members and an Executive Committee of 15 members who are working lawyers in member states of the Commonwealth. The current president of CLA is Mark Stephens CBE. Today the CLA’s work encompasses individual and joint projects with other Commonwealth legal groups, contributes to legal forums and working groups, monitors areas of concern across the Commonwealth and ensures, through its website and social media channels, that the wider community is in touch with the latest developments in the law within the various member states. CLA recently worked with the Bertha Foundation and the Socio Economic Rights Institute of South Africa as being trial observer at the Beatrice Mtetwa trial in Zimbabwe. CLA’s premier event, the Commonwealth Law Conference (CLC), is held every two years in a member state and regularly attracts more than 1,000 delegates and speakers. The next CLC will be held in the city of Glasgow from 12-16 April 2015. ■■ Contact the association at: www.clc2015.co.uk Lawyers across the Commonwealth work together to protect human rights and advance the Latimer House Principles Joint project on blasphemy legislation in the Commonwealth In 2011 the Bar Human Rights Committee of respect of compliance with international all of the focus countries and the research England and Wales (BHRC) and CLA recruited human rights obligations. On the basis of this conducted was necessarily limited to Englishlanguage a group of volunteer researchers to work on overview, focus countries from all regions of legal documents, NGO reports and a project intended to provide a survey of the the Commonwealth, reflecting the breadth operation of blasphemy legislation across the and diversity of approaches to blasphemy Commonwealth. legislation, were identified for further indepth The initiative aims to assess whether existing analysis. The focus countries that were blasphemy laws meet international human selected were Australia, Botswana, Canada, rights standards in Commonwealth countries Guyana, Jamaica, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, and, in particular, whether they are consistent Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda. with the rights to freedom of expression and During 2012 and 2013 a group of volunteer religion, and the right to a fair trial. The end lawyers with expertise in international human result of the initial survey was to provide an rights law conducted research on the theory overview of the issues involved across the and practice of blasphemy legislation in some 53 Commonwealth countries and a basis for of these countries. Due to a lack of resources further research in countries where current to fund translations and conduct in-country blasphemy legislation causes concern in research, it was not possible to research media articles. Following consultation with practitioners and academics it was decided that, given the sensitivity of the issues involved, it was not helpful to publish research that was reliant upon incomplete and potentially inaccurate third-party sources. The project is currently on hold due to an inability to obtain accurate translations of the relevant legislation and court rulings. CLA and the BHRC will be applying for funding in 2014 based upon the research that has been conducted on Pakistan and the UK, as these countries had the largest amount of English language research materials available.


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