As a lawyer who defends activists and organizations against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) as part of the Protect the Protest task force (PtP), I was excited to be invited to participate in the PILnet Global Forum held this year in Singapore. Lawyers working in private law firms and NGOs from around the world get together to exchange legal strategies and tactics in pursuit of the public interest. The Global Forum is held every two years and this was the first year the forum was held in Asia. Each day, workshops, networking opportunities, and continuing legal education panels are offered on a variety of topics that affect public interest lawyers from around the world.
I spoke on two panels during the Global Forum—the first was focused on defending SLAPP suits with Nadthasiri Bergman, Human Rights Lawyers Association, Thailand; and Andrew Khoo, Bar Council Malaysia. I described PtP’s new multi-prong coalition approach in the U.S: empowering progressive movements and deterring bullies through free legal representation in civil suits, campaign and communications amplification, and legislative efforts. I described our coalition’s working group structure and explained several of the cases we had recently won. Many other countries around the world are newer to SLAPP suits in their legal systems. In Thailand, SLAPP suits occur in the context of criminal prosecutions where the activist targeted by the bully faces decades in prison. We also have common enemies. Many countries around the world, including the U.S., are dealing with SLAPP suits filed by fossil fuel corporations—resulting in an extended conversation about litigating against greedy multinational corporate energy law firms (who are also conferring to come up with better ways to sue us into ineffectiveness).
The second panel I spoke on addressed defending Indigenous activists around the world. My co-panelists spoke about defending activists in Indonesia, Nepal, and Hong Kong. I described the State repression that Native American water protectors faced at Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock) by North Dakota state and federal law enforcement as well as private “security” companies like Tiger Swan. CLDC represented water protectors who were falsely arrested, jailed and prosecuted, as well as those who were gravely injured by law enforcement or were illegally spied upon by public and private intelligence agencies. Again, many were surprised at our shared challenges and struggles—even in the purported “land of the free.”
The global forum was an introductory talk in a longer conversation. The opportunity highlighted the interconnectedness of our climate and social justice struggles around the world and the importance of sharing our successes and failures in order to expedite our effectiveness in light of imminent catastrophic climate change and growing global fascism—whether in the courtroom, in the streets, or at sites of proposed pipelines. I look forward to sharing our continuously increasing skills and case strategies with the lawyer-comrades I met at PILnet!