Past Events

Below you can read the reports of this year’s AGM which took place in June and the IAWJ conference in May.

Report from the Annual General Meeting 2016

This year's Annual General Meeting was held on Friday 24 June 2016 at the London offices of Martineau Johnson Solicitors.

The formal business of the AGM was dealt with, including approval of the minutes of the last AGM, a Report from Membership Secretary, a Report from the Secretary, and the Treasurer's Report. The Annual Accounts were approved as was the Appointment of the Auditors, and Judges Loraine Morgan, Mathu Asokan and Isobel Brownlie were unanimously re elected as Members to the Committee. These matters are set out more fully in the minutes of the AGM.

In opening the AGM, the Vice-President Mrs Justice Laura Cox welcomed those who had attended and thanked Martineau Johnson Solicitors for making the room available to the committee again and kindly assisting in arranging refreshments.

The Vice-President gave an oral report, with a brief review of the year. This AGM was the launch of “Religion, Culture and the Law” which the UKAWJ has adopted as the theme for its events over the next 2 years, and which will allow for consideration of issues and subjects across a range of jurisdictions. This theme will be the focus of the October annual conference which will take place on 20-21 October 2016 in Manchester.

Further, the international work of the committee was highlighted:

  1. Judges Nike Balogun and Anisa Dhanji were both members of the IAWJ Board of Directors until recently; Anisa Dhanji successfully stood for re-election at the IAWJ regional conference in Washington DC. Nike had taken the gracious decision not to stand again, thus not splitting the uk candidate vote, and allowing a vacancy for a judge to fill from a different country in the region. The other judge elected to the Board of Directors this year was from Morocco. Anisa presented an oral report regarding the work she and Nike had undertaken, the role of the UKAWJ in international matters, and the recent IAWJ 13th Biennial Conference which took place on 26th - 29th May 2016 in Washington DC. This had been a terrific conference with over 1000 people attending from 82 countries. It was an opportunity to meet, network, share ideas, and get to know the challenges faced in different countries. The next biennial conference will take place in Argentina in 2018. Anisa described the efforts to try to contact and support Syrian judges who had left Syria and were now living across Europe.

  2. HHJ Rachel Karp informed the meeting of the progress of her work on the international project to build links with and assist the women judiciary in Myanmar on gender issues, and her participation in a high profile international visit to Myanmar in March 2016. The aim was to engage with the judiciary and new democratic government with a view to discussing, scoping and eventually delivering a version of the International Association of Women Judges’ Jurisprudence of Equality Programme, tailored to their needs, to forge direct links with the women in the judiciary in Myanmar, and to promote information sharing and building international collaboration. She told the meeting of the steps to continue with the project, including mentoring individual Myanmar judges, assisting them in forming their own association, and offering to assist in training their judiciary on their proposed domestic violence legislation which will be the first such legislation to be enacted in Myanmar. The UKAWJ had funded two Myanmar judges to attend the biannual conference in Washington, which they had found hugely rewarding. They had sent the Association for its financial support, and had given Rachel a scroll to show their gratitude. Following this, the UKAWJ had been specifically invited to join a SE Asian application for funding which could assist in funding this further work.

The Vice President proposed a vote of thanks for (a) Rachel Karp for her impressive and effective work in pursuing her idea that she had brought to a previous committee meeting. She had since made great connections and progressed the project enormously, and (b) for Nike Balogun and Anisa Dhanji for their commitment and for doing so much important work on the IAWJ Board.

During the meeting, the UKAWJ President Baroness Hale presented the medallion that had been created and was awarded by the Association of Philippine Judges to the former Presidents of the IAWJ. Lady Hale described some of the highlights she had enjoyed at the Washington conference, and her pleasure that two Myanmar judges had been able to attend with UKAWJ support. She hoped that increasing numbers would be encouraged to attend; there had been an excellent range of speakers, and many interesting things to talk about. It was a rewarding and enriching experience, which helped in the role of judging and encouraged those who attended to think about issues outside their daily job.

Once the formal business was concluded, those present enjoyed a stimulating talk from Karen Armstrong who is a British author and prolific commentator known for her books on comparative religion. She more than lived up to her description as a "provocative, original thinker on the role of religion in the modern world... [who] has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, studying what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and how our faiths shaped world history and drive current events." Her presentation was timely, important and cross jurisdictional, addressing issues which affect our daily lives.

She described her background and how she became "entranced" in studying the similarities between different faiths. She spoke of the history of fundamentalism, the role of feelings of fear and anger, disempowerment and disenfranchisement, and the continued relevance of these issues. She explained the Golden Rule of reciprocity - the principle of treating others as one would treat oneself, which occurs in some form in nearly every religion.

She spoke with clarity, vigour and humour; she also expressed her concerns about the "narrowing" of focus across nations and an increase in nationalism and paranoia when citizens feel threatened by globalisation. Her talk was described by Laura Cox as hugely interesting, informative, inspiring and thought provoking - an excellent speaker to launch the association's new theme of Religion, Culture and the Law.

June 2016

"Building Bridges, Not Walls"

A view from the IAWJ 13th Biennial Conference: 26th - 29th May 2016, Washington DC

This conference was the 13th biennial event organised by the IAWJ, titled "Women Judges and the Rule of Law: Assessing the Past, Anticipating the Future". Over 900 IAWJ members from 82 countries attended the event which also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the IAWJ.

So what is the IAWJ?

The International Association of Women Judges is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation whose members represent all levels of the judiciary worldwide and share a commitment to equal justice and the rule of law. The IAWJ currently has approximately 4,600 members in over 75 countries and areas worldwide.

The IAWJ website describes its work with its members around the world to:
  • Pioneer judicial education programs to advance human rights, uproot gender bias from judicial systems, and promote women's access to the courts;
  • Develop a global network of women judges and create opportunities for judicial exchange through international conferences, trainings, the IAWJ newsletter, website, and online community;
  • Foster judicial leadership and support judicial independence; and,
  • Collaborate with other organisations on issues of equal access to justice.
What does it do?

The IAWJ’s activities fall into two broad, overlapping categories:

  1. Networking, Support and Judicial Exchange - the IAWJ hosts international conferences for its members every other year to bring members together to network and explore issues of common concern. In addition, the IAWJ encourages young women to consider careers in law and the judiciary, encourages governments to select and promote women as judges, and believes that women should be represented at all levels of courts, whether domestic, regional, or international. It notifies members of openings on international fora, and it responds to requests for judicial experts on a broad range of topics.
  2. Access to Justice: Programmes and training to Advance Human Rights and Equal Justice For All - the IAWJ works with its national associations in 5 regions to develop and implement training and educational curricula on issues concerning discrimination and violence against women. The IAWJ’s flagship judicial training programme is called the Jurisprudence of Equality Program, or JEP. Other recent and current educational programmes focus on such topics as gender-based violence, human trafficking, property rights and HIV/AIDS, and the abuse of power through "sextortion"(a phrase coined to denote corruption in which sex rather than money is the currency).

The key goals for the IAWJ - the promotion of gender equality, the protection/ promotion of Human Rights, the Rule of Law and the full participation of women in their courts and communities - were evident in each plenary session, which addressed gender inequality, and new developments in international human rights and humanitarian law, specific barriers to accessing justice and judicial advancement for women within the Middle East and North Africa, utilising new restorative justice measures, and running courts in an emergency or crisis situation.

A welcoming reception took place on Thursday evening at the conference hotel, and the conference opening ceremony started on Friday morning with a large brass band, all dressed like the Blues Brothers, playing some big numbers and getting the crowd to their feet.

Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, President of IAWJ, and Associate Justice in the Supreme Court of the Philippines opened the conference. The sight of over 800 judges from 82 countries in an enormous conference room in the Omnishorham hotel, and the increase in the number of national associations was described as "the realisation of the founders' aspirations" to see more conferences, the growth of the number of member countries, and the conquering of discrimination and enhancing the lives of women and girls. The goal for equal justice was described as "the glue" holding all member nations together.

The conference was addressed by the "trailblazing justice of human rights", Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only the second woman to be appointed in the Supreme Court of the United States; the first having been Justice Sandra O'Connor who had been appointed 11-12 years earlier and who had since retired. She spoke of the "bright side" in America, with the increase of women law students, teaching staff and in the number of Federal Judges; but also the "bleak side" - continuing poverty and disparity in earnings, and the fact that sexual harassment at work and domestic violence at home had not been warded off. However, the problems in the USA "pale in comparison" to those problems in troubled nations which contributed to the denial of basic human rights to women and girls. Setting the tone for the conference, Judge Bader Ginsburg said that through discussion, those present had the "opportunity to learn from each other".

A letter from President Obama was screened and read to the conference. He welcomed everyone to Washington DC, thanked the association for 25 years of service, its dedication in upholding the Rule of Law, and its endeavour to make societies more equal and inclusive.

Ms. Lisa Davis is now the IAWJ Executive Director, following Joan Winship who served as the Executive Director of the IAWJ for 13 years from 2002-2015, and whose "enormous contribution" to the association was recognised at the conference.

The opening ceremony was rounded off with a lively and colourful "roll call of nations", where each of the 81 countries represented were identified, their national flag screened, and their judges stood to the applause of the others - a full list of countries at the bottom of this article.

As part of the UKAWJ international project to build links with and assist the women judiciary in Myanmar on gender issues, a member of the committee, HHJ Rachel Karp researched and took part in a high profile international visit to Myanmar in March 2016, which was facilitated by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The aim was to engage with the judiciary and new democratic government, at this critical time in Myanmar’s political development, and build relationships with the Myanmar judiciary with a view to discussing and eventually delivering a version of the International Association of Women Judges’ Jurisprudence of Equality Programme, tailored to their needs.

The UKAWJ also aims to forge direct links with the women in the judiciary in Myanmar and to promote information sharing and building international collaboration, for example by assisting them in forming their own association and offering to assist in training their judiciary on their proposed domestic violence legislation which will be the first such legislation to be enacted in Myanmar. As part of this exciting international project, the UKAWJ facilitated and funded two members of the women judiciary in Myanmar to attend the IAWJ Conference in Washington, and were delighted to sponsor Daw Aye Aye Kyi Thet and Daw Ohnar Aye.

The first panel of the conference was EQUALITY’S FRONTIERS. A panel of women judges from the highest courts in five countries were interviewed by Professor Judith Resnik from Yale Law School, and asked to reflect on how they became judges, their own work in responding to inequality, and consider the future issues jeopardising equality.

The judges on the panel were the Right Honourable Lady Brenda Hale, who became the United Kingdom’s first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in January 2004 and was appointed Deputy President of the Supreme Court in June 2013; Deputy Chief Justice Elena I. Highton de Nolasco, a judge of the Supreme Court of Argentina since 2004 and described as a model of "brilliance and kindness"; Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Supreme Court of the Philippines; Chief Justice Irene Mambilima, Supreme Court of Zambia - Zambia's first female Chief Justice; and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court of the United States.

Each of the judges observed that there was a lot to celebrate, and recognised many areas of progress - but each agreed that there is still a lot of work to do and identified examples where inequality remains or has been introduced into their respective legal systems; in some cases resulting in reduced access to justice and / or an inherent imbalance and unfairness between parties which it is difficult for the court to address.

The next session was titled NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN LAW.

The focus of this session was missing persons and the implications for those women and children left behind. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in The Hague is the world’s leading human rights/rule of law organisation dedicated to ensuring the cooperation of governments in addressing the issue of missing and disappeared persons from conflict, human rights abuses, forced migration, organised crime, disasters and other causes. The Director-General, Kathryne Bomberger, spoke of the offences committed against women, who were targeted when their husbands went missing - including torture, abduction and forced marriage to their captors. These offences, which involved sexual slavery, have been classified as crimes against humanity specifically targeted against women, who were no longer to be regarded as "collateral damage".

The Moderator for this session was Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, from the Botswana/International Criminal Court. In addition to the Director-General, the panel comprised Judge Jacinta Correia da Costa, Dili District Court, Timor-Leste/ East Timor, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Residual Mechanism Judge Melika Murtezic, Municipal Court of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Justice Melissa Anne Perry from the Federal Court of Australia.

In the session CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN JUDGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA) REGION, Judges from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia discussed the barriers to women and girls having access to justice due to discriminatory laws, religious constraints and corruption.

The session focused on post-Arab Spring developments in the law, from children’s rights to new laws concerning human trafficking and anti-terrorism initiatives. Judge Mina Sougrati from the Administrative Tribunal of Casablanca, Morocco, spoke of how child marriages in her country were not the exception, but were rather the norm - children could be married and divorced as young as 10 years old either by judicial authority, by reciting a form of words, or by payments of money to the child's family. Such breaches of the Convention of Human Rights could end in tragedy, including suicide.

Judge Raoudha Laabidi Zaafrane from the Court of Cassation, Centre for Legal and Judicial Studies in Tunisia spoke of counter terrorism laws and Jihadi brides. The Egyptian judges who had been invited to speak, including Judge Hanan Elshaarawy, from the Cairo Family Appeals Court in Egypt, had been denied permission to attend the conference by their Ministry of Justice, showing the difficulties that judges continue to face in some parts of the world.

The judges present, including Justice Suhair Tobasi from the Court of Cassation in Jordan, also spoke of the challenges facing women judges in the MENA region and the IAWJ "Jurisprudence of Equality" programme which is designed to address the gap between the letter of the law and its implementation, due to social attitudes and stigma which deter women from asserting their rights in court. This resonated with the UKAWJ members, as this will be the focus of some of the speakers who have accepted invitations to speak at our October annual conference in Manchester.

These judges described how the IAWJ was invaluable - one judge describing it as a "candle in the dark" - to allow them to hear of each other's experiences, see that they suffer from the same problems, and could learn from each other about these issues. It also provided very important training and enables them to work together to improve human rights in general and for women and children in particular.

The GENDER AND INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW PROJECT was demonstrated during the first day of the conference in a separate room from the plenary sessions. Those who attended the demonstrations were able to see how they can use a database compiled by the War Crimes Research Office and the Women in International Law Project at the American University Washington School of Law. This database, the Gender Jurisprudence Collections, is a unique database containing more than 30,000 documents that are collected from 13 international, internationally-supported, and domestic courts and tribunals. Over the past 20 years, international and domestic courts have recognised rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide. Critical decisions made by the tribunals were difficult to locate and research, which prompted the gender and international criminal law project.

The database allows searches via 30 criteria and over 130 keywords, is available for free to judges and can be used to support research in conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence cases. The particular reason for write about the database in this article is that my good friend and Liverpool barrister Celestine Greenwood is involved in it! It was lovely to see Celeste, who now lives and is studying in Washington DC, demonstrate how the database works and the case digest that she helped to write. It is a very impressive website and research tool which you can find at genderjurisprudence.org.

After a full and interesting first day, we were treated to a reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and a further address from the clearly much admired Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On Saturday the first session was a MOOT COURT litigating the fictional case of GRACE SSALI AND DAUGHTERS V. UNITED REPUBLIC OF MALAGANDA. An international panel of judges from the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa ruled on a complaint against this fictional African state, the facts of which were based on the case presented to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile, where a woman judge from Chile lost custody of her children in the domestic courts of her country because she was living in a same-sex relationship with another woman. The judges were also asked to describe how the underlying custody dispute would have been decided under the laws of their respective countries.

This was followed by a session about RESTORATIVE JUSTICE in which judges from a range of jurisdictions discussed ways in which this concept is being utilised in their courts. Judge Carolyn Henwood, CNZM, New Zealand spoke of the adverse impact of colonisation on the Maori people in New Zealand, and of the Waitangi tribunal - a restorative justice project - which began in 1975 to right the wrongs of the past. But as the speaker said, "they could do better" and she chaired the 2007 Confidential Listening and Assistance Project which concluded in 2015. This project invited New Zealanders to come forward and tell their stories and helped them find their files, access counselling, and made referrals for compensation.

Judge Nawal Al-Jawhari from the Administrative Court in Jordan spoke of family feuds, acts of revenge including killings to restore face/ honour/ reputation, and tribalism in her country which was both a historical and modern problem. She spoke of their conflict resolution system which looked at reconciliation, mediation and apology to promote peace. She spoke of the role of the elder to seek truce / solutions for families and the role of "blood money", and how it may be possible to arrange a "sulha," a reconciliation meeting with the family of the deceased, which may lead to a reduction of the sentence imposed for the crime in court.

The range and diversity of the judges on the panel was very broad, including a Judge from the Philippines and Bangladesh, and Chief Judge Kimberly Craven who sits at the Oglala Lakota Oyate Tribal Courts in South Dakota, USA who described the difficulties faced by those living on the reservations, and spoke with clarity and passion that the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples has only been adopted by Bolivia and should be placed on the IAWJ agenda.

In the afternoon, COURTS IN CRISIS: MAINTAINING THE RULE OF LAW IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS addressed the difficult question of how a state seeks to maintain the Rule of Law in an emergency or crisis situation, and keep its courts running when disaster strikes. Those attending this session heard very personal judicial responses and descriptions of bold leadership from six experienced judges from around the world in response to recent natural and man-made disasters and crises; namely the mall shootings in Kenya (Judge Wasilwa), the aftermath of earthquakes in 2011 and 2015 (Judge McKeekan from Zealand, and Judge Karki from Nepal) and hurricanes in 2008 (Judge Criss form Texas). Further the prompt, compassionate and fair response to victims’ families after the sinking of the ferry boat in Korea in April 2014 was impressively described by Judge Lee. She described the practical steps taken to ensure that the victims could participate in the criminal trial, including steps to ensure witness protection and the provision of psychiatric support. Practical advice regarding operational plans (Continuity Of Operations Plans) and protocols was shared by Judge Craney from the USA, with a summary of lessons learned from what were described as "terrifying and life changing" experiences and practical advice for the future.

On Sunday, the conference addressed WOMEN AND GIRLS IN DETENTION which resonated with the UKAWJ judges as the theme for the committee's events over the last two years has been "Women in Prison". The first Speaker was Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black. She spoke with force and some humour about her experiences as a woman in detention in the United States for a drugs offence 10 years earlier, and how / why she turned her "odd and unusual story" into a book. She was followed by a panel of judges from Kenya, Italy, Brescia, Cameroon and Trinidad and Tobago who discussed the particular problems that women and girls face when they are incarcerated, the gender bias that persists when they are sentenced, and the things that are being done in their countries to address these issues. Although described as "divided by geography and language", their common interest was clear.

At the Closing Ceremony Judge Susana Medina de Rizzo was sworn in as the next IAWJ President by the founder of the IAWJ, Judge Arline Pacht and the IAWJ Banner was transferred to the very enthusiastic Argentine delegation. The new President spoke of her commitment to gender equality, access to justice for the most vulnerable members of society, and her view that it was more constructive to "build bridges than build walls" in striving to achieve a global, plural, egalitarian and just society.

After the serious matter of being sworn in as President, Judge Medina de Rizzo warmly extended an invitation to the 14th IAWJ Biennial Conference in Buenos Aires in 2018. Then the IAWJ turned Strictly as Judge Medina proceeded to perform a very impressive tango! If the noise and music were anything to go by, it should be a very good party in 2018!

On Sunday evening, we attended the Gala Dinner to celebrate the silver anniversary of the IAWJ and conclude this conference. The diversity of the IAWJ membership was vividly displayed by the large number of judges who attended wearing their national dress. Made the LBD look rather dull, but it was a colourful and vibrant end to an interesting and diverse conference - accurately described by one judge as "inspirational speakers on challenging subjects".

Christine Bispham Secretary UKAWJ 7 Harrington Street chambers, Liverpool Barrister and recorder

The countries represented at this conference: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire/Ivory Coast, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Republic of Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, East Timor, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe

19 September 2016
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