23 January 2012
Brussels, 23 January 2012 – On the twentieth anniversary of Avocats Sans Frontières, the French-speaking Bar association of Brussels paid tribute to the NGO founded in Belgium. At the formal opening session of the Bar on 18 January, Solicitor General Buyle hailed ASF as an ‘indispensable organisation in the humanitarian sector, in the fight against impunity, and in the promotion, everywhere, of the law over brutal force.’
On 24 January 1992, representatives from several foreign bar associations (European, Canadian and African) gathered at the Justice Palace of Brussels and signed the founding Charter of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF). Exactly 20 years later, a conference dedicated to the ‘without borders’ movement was held in the prestigious formal hearing room at the Court of Cassation (High Court) where the ASF Charter had been signed.
In 20 years, from Cuba to Rwanda and Nepal, ASF’s core activity has progressively evolved from providing emergency legal assistance to supporting development. ‘ASF is first and foremost about solidarity and humanity,’ declared ASF President, Ms. Hafida Talhaoui in her opening remarks. ‘ASF’s objective, which is to guarantee a transnational and impartial right to defence, necessarily transcends borders.’ The needs of the most vulnerable – women, minors, those in illegal preventive detention or victims of torture – are numerous, whether they relate to social justice, international criminal justice or daily access to justice.
Famous French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who was invited by the Bar, shared his views on the right to interfere (in State affairs) and the responsibility to protect civilian populations. In particular, he recalled that borders can never be ‘walls which imprison people’ and that, beyond borders, ‘human rights are universal.’
The ASF Charter had been drafted under the impetus of the then Solicitor Generals of the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking Bar associations of Brussels and their successors: Mr. Magnée, Mr. Legros, Mr. Bevernage and Mr. Carre.
ASF is supported by numerous other Bars in Belgium, in addition to the Bar of Brussels. Bars bring together lawyers who practise at the courts within a particular district.