November 2011 – Saunders Law Limited at International Bar Conference in Dubai

Saunders Law Limited Chairman, Stephen Gilchrist attended this year's IBA conference in Dubai which was attended by more than 5,000 lawyers and legal professionals from around the world. The six-day event was held for the first time in the UAE.

The conference was opened by Minister of Justice Dr. Hadef Bin Jouan Al Dhahiri who emphasised the "..independence of the judiciary which is considered to be the foundation of the rule of law in all countries" and that "the UAE has reached the top among Arab States in transparency in its judicial system". Despite these words of comfort, the conference found itself mired in controversy when it was sensationally revealed during the conference that only five weeks before opening, the conference was almost cancelled after "Kafkaesque" indirect talks between IBA executive director Mark Ellis and security officials, who apparently were nervous about human rights This resulted in the rewording of titles and descriptions of a handful of sessions at the event. It was suggested by Dubai officials that certain sessions could lead to 'regional instability'

Mr. Ellis said there was no sign over five years of preparation for the conference, that Dubai or United Arab Emirates officials were concerned about its content. Then, five weeks before opening (on 30 October), all work on the conference suddenly ceased.

He flew to Dubai with other senior IBA officials to sort out the problem. He says he never met with the mysterious UAE security branch officials, clearly spooked by the Arab Spring demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, who decided to scrap the conference. But through an intermediary, a local lawyer, Mr. Ellis said he learned that they objected to the titles and descriptions of seven human-rights-related sessions.

In the event, one session, entitled "Women in Islam, Challenges and Opportunities," was pulled by the organising committee, with one leading member of the committee, boycotting the conference altogether, a move that prompted the IBA to issue a statement about the controversy to delegates during the conference week.

Mr Ellis told the Globe and Mail, a nationally distributed Canadian newspaper, that the Arab Spring, and the "heightened paranoia" it had prompted in local security officials, wasn't the only factor. He said his contact in Dubai told him that ever since Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, bailed Dubai out of its recent financial crash, UAE security forces have had much more influence in Dubai.

The conference ultimately went ahead successfully. At this year's annual conference, speakers included Nobel laureate and Egyptian presidential candidate, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei; UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul; and one of China's foremost banking and finance experts, David Liu; among many others. In his keynote address at the opening ceremony, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei called for a serious dialogue based on respect and universal values to help resolve the continuing turbulence in the Middle East."The region is going through an Arab spring, the key is to ensure it doesn't turn into a tsunami," said Dr ElBaradei.

Stephen Gilchrist ,whilst attending the premier international legal conference , took the opportunity of meeting with a number of leading luminaries, including the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation and leading lawyers from around the world, including many Bar leaders from other jurisdictions, in furtherance of reciprocal professional arrangements.

Additionally, since Saunders Law currently is engaged in litigation on behalf of a client currently incarcerated in the UAE, discussions ensued with the UK Consulate to protect our client's interests and to ensure that inter governmental representations were made between Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and his counterpart in the UAE, to ensure protection of our client's rights and a speedy resolution of his case.

With its practice extending internationally in areas of financial regulation activities, business crime and extradition and aspects of family law including child abduction, Saunders Law Limited is committed to extending its network of worldwide contacts and correspondents to provide clients with the most effective service possible in association with the expertise offered by top firms in many other jurisdictions.



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