Report from Fabio Marcelli, the Research Director of the International Legal Studies Institute of CNR, and the Director of the Association of Democratic Jurists at national, European and international level.

The First Conference of the Mediterranean Lawyers took place in Naples the 7th and 8th of October 2017 with the participation of delegations from Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Rojava, Turkey, Greece, France, Italy, Catalunya and Spain.

The creation of a Network among Mediterranean lawyer, embracing various situations from Europe and from the Southern and Eastern Coasts of the Mediterranean Sea appears to be a very urgent challenge, due to migrations, human rights violations, widespread repression taking place in many countries, peoples to whom fundamental self-determination rights are negated, military bases, economic injustices and environmental problems.

The existence of these and others unresolved issues calls for the creation of a permanent Network of Mediterranean Lawyers. The Conference in Naples represented a first step in the right direction. Others should follow and we hope to be able in one year more or even less, may be in Barcelona or elsewhere.

The Conference, sponsored by the Municipality of Naples and by the National Bar Association of Italy (Consiglio Nazionale Forense) expressed the unanimous will of all participants to build up such an open space of cooperation, exchange of information and promotion of common initiatives among lawyers. At the Conference, there was focus on migrants’ and asylum-seekers’ rights, repression against social movements in Europe and to the situation in Turkey.

The following Declaration (Charter of Naples) was adopted on Sunday 8th October:

We, jurists of the Mediterranean Countries, gathered in Naples on the 7th and 8th of October 2017:

  • aware of the fundamental role played by attorneys, judges and other jurists, men and women, for the protection of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights and the development of democracy;
  • aware of the urgent need of reasserting international law, the rights of the peoples and the fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, as well as idea and aspirations which formed the very basis of the antifascist struggle;
  • alarmed by the proliferation of attacks on the independence of attorneys and judges, as well as their own freedom and security due to the exercise of their functions, as demonstrated in the last most evident episodes in Egypt and Turkey;
  • concerned about the growing obstacles placed by individual Countries in the international observation of criminal trials, which seen by defendants also attorneys and judges;
  • alarmed by the spread of hatred episodes on racial, religious and sexual basis, and by the attempts made by several actors to build walls rather than bridges of dialogue between the different cultures facing the Mediterranean;
  • alarmed by the disavowal of Mediterranean Governments of all international obligations assumed with the ratification of international treaties and conventions on the protection of human rights, now secondary to economic and political interests;
  • alarmed by the growing violations of the fundamental rights of migrants and persons requesting international protection, trafficked, exploited and tortured by common and organized criminality and security forces, confined in administrative detention camps under inhuman conditions, where women and girls experience rape and violence;
  • aware of the need to promote, support and hope for effective action against the global and massive economic inequalities alimented by the growth of international finance and foreign debt in order to achieve the fulfillment of human rights;
  • wishing to establish a closer coordination between jurists in all Mediterranean Countries, as a sign of affirmation of peace, self-determination, democracy, fundamental rights and response to any form of human rights violation put in place by private groups or institutions, condemning all forms of fascist, racist, terrorist and sexist oppression.

We commit ourselves for the time to come to work for the full achievement of our goals through the application of all relevant progressive principles and rules of international and national law in the following areas:

  1. Self-determination and democracy: opportunities for all peoples, including those currently subject to colonial domination and territorial occupation, to freely express their will and to decide their destiny without external inferences, building up a democratic participation from below.
  2. Peace: abolition of nuclear and mass destruction weapons from the whole Mediterranean area, complete abolition of foreign military bases and peaceful settlement of conflicts according to the principles and procedures set out in the United Nations Charter. Blocking arms trade towards countries in war or responsible of grave human rights violations.
  3. Rule of law: effective safeguards for attorneys and judges allowing them to exercise their functions without the risk of facing forms of persecution by State organs or terrorist groups and without suffering obstacle to their activity based on wealth, gender or sexual orientation. Promotion of effective international mechanisms for the protection of fundamental rights and the repression of international crimes.
  4. Abolition of any form of discrimination and violence against women and girls and end of criminalization of people with different sexual orientation; support of the activity of attorneys, judges and jurists pursuing the eradication of all forms of gender discrimination, for a common struggle to overcome historical prejudices and assert the leadership of women in the promotion and defense of fundamental rights.
  5. Migration: for the full protection of the rights of migrants and persons requesting international protection and the uncompromising struggle against racism, the opening of new access routes to and ways of integration in Europe and the elimination of detention camps where migrants and asylum seekers are being held in several Countries, such as Libya, as well as for struggling the remote causes of the phenomenon, which are set in conflicts, human rights violations, environmental degradation and growing poverty.
  6. Environmental protection: promotion of co-operation both intergovernmental and between peoples to defend the heritage of humanity and adopt effective policies in the agricultural, industrial and energetic field, in order to protect biodiversity and prevent and contrast environmental degradation and climate change.
  7. Struggle against organized crime, which is strongly interconnected with the power of finance, and judicial protection of the victims.
  8. Defense of natural commons necessary in order to satisfy the fundamental rights, and recognition and development of emerging (urban and digital) commons, as an expression of democratic self-government and of a new law.

Judges and attorneys are – if they exercise with responsibility, dignity and awareness their key functions – human rights defenders, and every attack towards them shall be considered a threat to the rights of people they defend, and a violation of the freedom of all people, undermining the basis of the Rule of law.

According to this strong belief, we launch from Naples the idea of a permanent observatory allowing to coordinate all initiatives protecting judges and attorneys, human rights defenders and promoters of democracy and of the rule of law in the Mediterranean Countries.

We conclude reaffirming our firm commitment to make the Mediterranean the sea of peace, democracy, gender equity, intercultural dialogue, environmental protection, and safeguard of human rights of all kinds.