Tag Archives: UK

UK: SRA prosecution was ‘political game’ to attack human rights – Day

June 22, 2017

Leigh Day senior partner Martyn Day has suggested his prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority was part of a ‘bigger picture of a political game’ aimed at muzzling human rights defenders.

Martyn day

Martyn Day


Day, along with his firm and solicitors Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther, was cleared earlier this month of 19 allegations brought by the SRA. The tribunal was the longest of its kind, lasting seven weeks, and is estimated to have cost at least £9m.

During the hearing, correspondence between the SRA and the government was disclosed, including letters exchanged between defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon and SRA’s chief executive. Day says the extent to which the government influenced the prosecution was unclear, but he maintains there was a ‘very strong political element’ to the case.

‘We always felt very strongly that the Ministry of Defence in particular, but all the way up to the prime minister, him and then herself, they had a very big political battle to fight attacking the Human Rights Act, attacking human rights lawyers and we were the right people at the right time as far as they were concerned, Day told the Gazette. ‘This all became a part of that bigger picture of a political game.’

Day, in his first interview since the verdict, admitted that the firm made mistakes in failing to spot the significance of documents, and he stressed it will be more cautious in future, without affecting the nature of the work it does. The firm will also review the training and guidance given to lawyers in relation to document handling.

He thanked colleagues in the profession for their messages of goodwill and said there was a sense of the wider importance of the case.

‘I have had messages not just from human rights lawyers in the UK but abroad: people saying they would be really worried that the atmosphere is changing about lawyers operating in the human rights field internationally and that they have been delighted that we have been able to successfully bat off these allegations,’ the 60-year-old added. ‘I think it has been seen as being a major case not just in this country but internationally.’

The SRA has said it will consider whether to appeal the tribunal decision once the written judgment is published in August. The issue of costs will also be considered after that date.





UK: Law firm Leigh Day cleared over Iraq murder compensation claims

June 9, 2017

Anna Crowther, Martyn Day and Sapna Malik arrive at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in London

The law firm Leigh Day and three of its solicitors have been cleared of all the allegations of professional misconduct they faced over Iraq war murder compensation claims.

The not guilty verdicts delivered by the solicitor’s disciplinary tribunal (SDT) in London are a severe setback for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which launched the costly prosecution, and the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, who had called for legal action.

The SRA can appeal against the findings of the seven-week trial, which is believed to have cost as much as £10m and came after a three-year investigation by the authority.

None of the 20 charges against Martyn Day, Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther, or the London law firm, were proved.

Summing up the panel’s findings, the SDT chairman, Simon Tinkler, said it had “found that none of the allegations made have been proved”.

The case involved allegations over the way in which legal claims – that British soldiers tortured and murdered Iraqi detainees after the so-called battle for Danny Boy near Basra in 2004 – were pursued.












Northern Ireland/UK: SF candidate is asked about IRA murder of lawyer

June 2, 2017

Sinn Fein general election candidate for North Belfast.  Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A Belfast lawyer entering the political arena has declined the opportunity to unequivocally condemn the murder of fellow lawyer and politician Edgar Graham.

John Finucane has been selected as Sinn Fein’s general election candidate to contest the North Belfast Westminster seat.

He is the son of lawyer Pat Finucane, 40, who was murdered in front of his family by loyalist paramilitaries at his home in the city in 1989.

Edgar Graham was a 29-year-old barrister, Queen’s University law lecturer and Ulster Unionist assembly member. He was shot in the back of the head by IRA gunmen close to Queen’s University in December 1983.

When a current Queen’s University law lecturer stood as a Sinn Fein assembly candidate in March, he faced widespread criticism for refusing to specifically condemn the murder of Edgar Graham as a killing that could in not be justified in any way – instead, speaking of his “profound sorrow” at all Troubles-related deaths.







Cameroon/UK: Trial Observation Report – Cameroon (The Law Society)

June 1, 2017


The Law Society of England & Wales published its Trial Observation Report on the hearing that took place on 27 April 2017 at the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in the case of Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba, and others.

The Law Society found violations of the right to a fair trial, specifically (i) the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal, (ii) the right to defence (access to the case file), (iii) the right to an interpreter, (iv) the right to be tried without undue delay, as well as the right to pre-trial release and the right to physical integrity.

The Law Society made several recommendations to authorities in Cameroon, including:

  • That the Military Justice Code and Anti-Terrorism Law be brought in line with international standards, especially regarding (i) military jurisdiction over civilians, (ii) prolonged and unmotivated remand in custody, and (iii) the absence of a preliminary inquiry.
  • That defence counsel must have access to the case file without restrictions.
  • That adequate interpretation be provided at all stages of the proceedings, as well as translation of documents pertaining to the proceedings.
  • That defendants be tried without undue delay and no multiple adjournments be given, especially in cases where defendants are charged with offences carrying the death penalty.
  • That defendants be seated during the proceedings and conditions in the courtroom be improved to ensure that the right to a public hearing is respected.
  • That authorities welcome international observers and provide information to the extent possible.

For the report, and executive summary, see here:



UK: Shiner did wrong – but torture is worse, says veteran rights campaigner

May 26, 2017

Clive Stafford Smith speaking at the Law Society

Critics of the behaviour of lawyers pursuing claims against British troops in Iraq should look at the bigger picture, a leading civil rights lawyer said last night. Referring to disgraced former solicitor Phil Shiner, Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the advocacy group Reprieve, said: ‘Phil did some things he shouldn’t have done. But what’s worse, what he did as a lawyer or those who tortured people?


Stafford Smith was delivering the twentieth Graham Turnbull memorial lecture, hosted by the Law Society’s human rights committee at Chancery Lane. The lecture and essay competition, is named after English solicitor Graham Turnbull who was killed in February 1997, aged 37, while working as a human rights monitor for the UN in Rwanda.

This year’s topic was whether UK forces should enjoy immunity against civil claims when on active service. Stafford Smith described the government’s proposals for a derogation from the Human Rights Act as a ‘flat earth’ issue, which the legal profession is united in thinking ‘totally mad’. Service personnel would be among the first to suffer, he said, pointing to revelations about injuries caused by inadequate equipment in Iraq.


UK: A lawyer has uncovered the true intention of Britain’s most draconian law [VIDEO]

May 16, 2017

A lawyer has uncovered the true intention of Britain’s most draconian law [VIDEO]

A lawyer and director of a UK-based human rights organisation was arrested under controversial counter-terrorism laws after refusing to give up the passwords to his laptop and phone. He did so to avoid revealing evidence about Western complicity in a torture case. He now faces imprisonment if he does not give up his passwords by Wednesday 17 May.

Business as usual at Heathrow

Muhammad Rabbani, international director of Cage, was stopped at Heathrow airport on 20 November 2016 on his way back from the Middle East. He had just secured instructions from his client over a legal case involving torture, which allegedly involves a Western government and UK ally. Cage has been working on the case for two years and he returned with testimony and other evidence that could implicate senior officials.

Rabbani was stopped under Schedule 7 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000. This is a broad power that allows officials at borders to question individuals, without need for reasonable cause, to determine if they are involved in terrorism.

This was the 20th time Rabbani had been stopped under Schedule 7. But this was the first time he had been forced to hand over the passwords to all his devices.

He had refused previously with no repercussions. On this occasion however, officials handed him a leaflet saying it was now compulsory to surrender passwords. Rabbani said he couldn’t due to client confidentiality and they proceeded to arrest him.




China/UK: Law firms under fire over China business

May 8, 2017

china flag

In evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, civil society pressure group the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) claims UK firms operating in China are unable to fulfil their stated commitments to human rights and may even be in breach of their professional obligations. The network of lawyers, academics and investigative journalists has contributed to the committee’s inquiry into UK-China relations, which is expected to be reconstituted after the general election.

Concerns raised by GLAN, which has offices in London and Dublin, centre on the control exercised by the Chinese government over professional activities. Foreign firms, it concludes, compromise their professional duties to clients and the rule of law when abiding by these restrictions as a precondition of practising in China.

‘The rule of law environment has deteriorated in recent years,’ GLAN’s submission says. ‘Genuine rule of law reform, understood as a project enhancing control of public power and the protection of fundamental rights is in jeopardy.’ It noted that Justice Zhou Qiang, president of China’s supreme court, has said the judiciary should resist principles such as ‘separation of powers’ and ‘independence of the judiciary’.

Rules made in 2001/02 require foreign firms to uphold the ‘professional ethics and discipline’ of Chinese lawyers. Failure to do so means they face criminal or administrative sanctions. ‘This creates an environment in which foreign law firms and lawyers are vulnerable to pressure and to being co-opted for repressive purposes,’ GLAN said.

Hence, the submission’s authors said: ‘UK firms in China are not able to honour their basic commitments to fundamental legal and human rights principles.’ These are set out in the SRA’s 2013 Overseas Rules.