A look at some of our achievements over the past year.
The International Lawyers Project played an important role in the development of the United Kingdom’s April 2021 Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions regime.
This new tool targets individuals and entities involved in serious corruption, naming them publicly, banning them from travelling to the UK and freezing their assets. As a direct result, the government blacklisted 27 individuals for corruption including the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, and Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, at the centre of South Africa’s “state capture” $3 billion embezzlement scandal which contributed to the downfall of former President Jacob Zuma.
We suspended the sale of 49% of Ghana’s entire gold reserve.
The International Lawyers Project was asked by a coalition of Ghanaian NGOs to secure emergency legal advice to prevent the sale of 49% of the country’s gold reserves - and at a price far below market value. By alerting regulators and officials to the red flags, our campaign achieved a suspension of the sale an offshore, opaque shell company, with close links to the ruling party. UK regulators and a specially-appointed Ghanian special prosecutor conducted an investigation into the legality of the proposed sale. The Special Prosecutor’s investigation concluded that the sale was “an opaque bid-rigging exercise wrought with multiple violations of Ghana’s laws.”
Our lawyers have worked in Mozambique and the Republic of Congo to return millions in stolen assets to the true victims of corruption - citizens.
When the tiny principality of San Marino seized €100 million in bank accounts used by the Congolese President, ILP was asked to play an intermediary role between the San Marinese government and the Congolese NGOs to return the stolen monies to the Congolese citizens. ILP assembled a team of top Italian lawyers, supported by a working group of international repatriation experts to represent Congolese citizens. ILP’s lawyers were invited to meet in-person with the Prime Minister of San Marino to put forward the Congolese petition for the seized monies to fund development aid.
We represented Dawn’s journalists and helped them to face down multiple legal threats from Malik Riaz, a businessmen with deep connections to the country’s politicians, so that their publications could stay in the public domain.
Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) actions are brought by powerful and wealthy oligarchs, eager to avoid scrutiny, to intimidate journalists and civil society into either not publishing or removing information from the public domain and penalise them for critical reporting. As a result of Dawn’s investigations remaining publicly accessible, the UK Home Office used the data as part of its case to revoke visa access for Malik and his son to travel to the UK, where they had purchased tens of millions in properties, on the grounds of their evident involvement in corruption. The National Crime Agency has seized more than £190 million of the family’s assets in the UK and returned these to the government of Pakistan.
Our Lawyers represented an investigative journalist seeking information on the alleged trafficking of human blood samples from Sierra Leone to the UK by corporations, without the consent of patients.
Our case was joined with other FOI challenges including Wikileaks. Together, we successfully set a new legal precedent to include rights of access for non-UK citizens. We helped overturn a potentially damaging decision by the lower tribunal that would have enabled companies to operate abroad on behalf of the British government without the equivalent level of scrutiny and accountability that they have to provide to UK citizens.
We supported communities across Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya with legal training on their land and human rights, including registering land holdings to reduce land theft by corrupt actors.
Our land lawyers provided a bespoke series of workshops reaching 1,050 community members through direct training and public forums. When the pandemic prevented physical gatherings we took to the airways with call-in discussions on land rights hosted on Mayian FM in Maa language. The radio shows reached an audience of 245,000 listeners across rural areas and due to popular demand ILP’s lawyers were asked to host more radio call- ins. Women in particular benefited from the change in format. In more formal settings, discussions are often led by (male) community elders. Women are also disproportionately affected by evictions and by lack of legal title to land. As a result the communities say they have become more resilient, and able to defend their land.
The International Lawyers Project provided support to a Nur-Sultan based fiscal reform NGO whose senior managers were arrested by Kazakh tax authorities.
Authorities were threatening to fine our client and other governance NGOs by taking an extreme interpretation of newly introduced obligations on reporting foreign funding. ILP’s lawyers supported the civil society leaders through their arrest and trial, leading to the charges, fines and court action being dropped. We subsequently supported the affected NGOs to draft an amended reporting obligation to prevent future harassment and abuse of legislation against civil society.
Our lawyers analysed the position of People with Disabilities (PWD) and marginalised sections of the population in Kenya’s tax legislation, providing recommendations on how fiscal policies can eliminate features of their tax systems that are discriminatory, while promoting more inclusive and equitable taxation across the population.
Our comparative study aided the civil society to prepare a report on taxation of PWDs in Kenya which provided recommendations on how Kenya could apply best practices in tax legislation and fiscal reforms to achieve economic and social justice for persons with disabilities.
We filed a claim with the East African Court of Justice for an emergency injunction to prevent the rapid deforestation in Bugoma.
Key to global conservation efforts, Bugoma’s 41,000 hectares of ancient woodland are sanctuary to more than 34 species of mammals, nine threatened species, 550 highly-endangered chimpanzees, and hundreds of rare bird and tree species. It is the largest remaining block of natural tropical forest along the Albertine rift valley, playing an essential role in preserving wildlife migratory corridors. Under the 1998 Land Act, forest reserves like Bugoma are held in trust for the “common good of the citizens of Uganda’’ and may not be leased out or sold by the government. This case is ongoing. Our legal strategy in supporting civil society organisations to file a claim and participate in a regional tribunal tested/is testing the tribunal’s ability to decide on environmental issues without the political influence that can hamper domestic court cases.
To protect the Republic of Georgia's freshwater ecosystems, The International Lawyers Project lawyers helped environmentalists and representatives of local communities to review the agreements signed between the investors and the government and where they violated EU environmental obligations.
A month later, amidst significant media scrutiny and popular protests, investors pulled out of mediation talks and terminated the construction plans. The plans also threatened hundreds of local villagers who would have had to be relocated.
We work with our partners to halt the corrupt networks that support illegal animal trade.
Indonesia is home to the largest remaining tropical rainforest, peatlands and mangrove forests and is a focal point for illicit wildlife trade. By monitoring enforcement crime tribunals and analysing patterns of enforcement success for all types of conservation crimes - wildlife, timber, marine and natural resources - we were able to support our in-country partners to better map illicit networks, strengthen their working relationship with Indonesia’s government ministries and enforcement agencies and make technical recommendations on how to prioritise resources, improve prosecutor training, levels of enforcement and legislation to reduce illegal wildlife trafficking.
Our lawyers partnered with local environmental NGOs to analyse legislation and enforcement issues to better implement international conventions such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
ILP’s work also included a review on how to enforce fishing violations and what action Tanzania needed to take as a priority to conserve these marine species.
Chinese conservation groups asked the International Lawyers Project lawyers to provide ongoing expert technical advice for the next two years on how the country could benefit from better regulation and management of wild animal trade and consumption.
After Covid-19 was detected in Wuhan province, the epidemic spread rapidly. A number of respected studies point to the virus originating from wet market trading in wild animals for consumption. ILP’s volunteers helped to identify, and introduce, legal tools to change cultural attitudes towards the consumption of wild and endangered animals in order to reduce zoonotic threats. This information was shared with civil society and government officials as part of a two-year support programme.