Legal experts discuss frameworks to tackle impunity

The European Court of Human Rights was the venue for an international seminar on Monday, with close to 100 participants sharing worldwide experiences on how courts and laws could better protect journalists and counter impunity for attacks on free expression.

The event was organized by the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, and the European Lawyer’s Union.  Participants included senior representatives of the European Court of Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Pan African Lawyers Union.

Among the speakers were Judge Manuel Ventura Robles from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion; and James Stewart the deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Civil society representatives and academic experts were part of the pioneering discussion, which followed the 2 November inaugural International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalism. It was tweeted under the hashtag #dialogprotectjournos.

Participants dissected how states could better implement their obligations to protect freedom of expression through applying universal standards, improving legal frameworks and sharing cross-national experiences.

A consistent theme was that there are many legal instruments at global and regional level which can provide protection and justice for journalists under attack, but these mechanisms need to be publicized within individual countries.

An analysis of several of the instruments is available in a background paper prepared for the seminar by law professor Sejal Parmar.