Fighting to uphold human rights around the world

10 Dec 2018

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This year, 10 December marks both Human Rights Day 2018 and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since 1948, this date has held great significance as a day that celebrates the equal rights of human beings, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Despite the signing of the declaration 70 years ago, human rights are increasingly under threat, so too are the human rights defenders (HRDs) who seek to protect these rights. Since 1998, over 3,500 HRDs have been killed for defending the most fundamental values. In 2016 alone 281 HRDs were killed across 22 countries. Based on the firm’s on-the-ground experience working with HRDs, particularly in Colombia, Simmons & Simmons have been compelled to act to support these individuals and the human rights they work, fearlessly to protect.

In June 2018, the firm produced a Human Rights Defenders Toolbox for Peace Brigades International (PBI) on a pro bono basis. The Toolbox is the first centralised online resource for rural communities and lawyers. It was also launched in Spanish, in particular to assist HRDs in Colombia, seeking to expose human rights adverse practices by companies, whom both the firm and PBI are working to support and protect. This year, the firm also worked with Child Soldiers International (on a pro bono basis) in relation to an online global report relating to the application of international laws pertaining to the recruitment of child soldiers. The firm also works closer to home with it’s Access to Justice Programme. To date, the Programme has taken on 150 cases and achieved backdated payments of over £315,000. When taking into consideration advance awards, the total achieved for vulnerable clients is over £900,000. The programme has had a 93% success rate.

While many achievements have been made this year, the firm is consistently aware of the work that needs to be done to continue to support the human rights that are constantly under threat. This Human Rights Day, Simmons & Simmons is keen to look at what more can be done and that comes largely from raising awareness of human rights offences, protecting the work of HRDs and supporting the continue fight towards human rights for all. The firm is, and will remain wholly committed to supporting this, both on this 70-year anniversary and in the years to come. Human Rights can only be achieved if we work alongside one another to defend them because, as Eleanor Roosevelt stated:

without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Colin Passmore, senior partner at Simmons & Simmons commented: “The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is certainly cause for celebration. It is great to look back at the positive steps that have been taken to support human rights around the world. But while this is a time for reflection, it is also a time to look forward to the work that still needs to be done to stamp out injustice and progress towards equal rights for all human beings. Over the past year, we have committed a significant amount of time and effort to various pro bono projects and I am incredibly proud of the work members of this firm have done to support human rights around the world.

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