Authoritarian state accountability via private sector strategies

Date & time
9–10.30am Wednesday 27 October 2021

Online via Zoom Webinar

ANU College of Law
Authoritarian state accountability via private sector strategies

The past decades have witnessed a growth in authoritarian regimes, with the Myanmar military coup and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan marking the most visible recent examples.

In such cases, civilian protests have demonstrated a will for democratic resistance. The international community, however, has struggled to find multilateral state responses, with attempted initiatives in forums such as the United Nations impeded by the resistance of Russia and the Peoples’ Republic of China. Unilateral state responses are possible but suffer from ad hoc implementation and a reliance upon the will of political leadership.

Join our speakers as they explore the alternative of non-state action as a potential option and present an overview of strategies against authoritarian states available to private parties in civil society and business. They will also discuss the creative approaches by private sector actors interested in supporting the struggle of pro-democracy voices against the growth of authoritarian states.


  • Felicity Gerry QC »

    Professor Felicity Gerry QC is admitted at the International Criminal Court and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, to the Bar of England & Wales and in Australia (Victoria and the High Court Roll). She has also had ad hoc admission in Hong Kong and Gibraltar. As an international QC she is regularly called upon to handle serious, complex and sensitive trials and appeals at every level of court. Her cases and advisory work often involve an international or human rights element, including genocide, war crimes, torture terrorism, homicide, biosecurity, illegal logging, human trafficking and other major domestic and international crime. Felicity holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws in International Governance. She is Professor of Legal Practice at Deakin University and an Honorary Professor in the School of Health and Society at Salford University. Her core practice and research interests include the links between criminal and corporate responsibility for human rights abuses, particularly in the context of individual and systemic complicity. She has advised on the role and responsibilities of foreign corporations involved in commercial relationships with companies that are owned and controlled by Myanmar’s military.

  • Keren Adams »

    Keren Adams is a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre where she leads the Centre’s work on business and human rights. Keren has over 15 years’ experience working as a human rights lawyer and advocate in Australia and internationally. Prior to joining the HRLC, she was a partner at UK law firm Leigh Day, where she litigated a range of landmark human rights cases against UK multinationals in relation to abuses in their overseas operations. Keren is a member of the advisory board of the Australian OECD National Contact Point and has previously advised the Australian Government on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

  • Merryl Lawry-White »

    Merryl Lawry-White is a member of Debevoise & Plimpton’s International Dispute Resolution Group based in London. Merryl’s practice focuses on cases, complaints and advisory work across all areas of public international law, human rights, investment treaties, international arbitration, ESG and transitional justice. Merryl has acted as counsel before the ICJ, the WTO, international conciliation commissions, international arbitration tribunals, UN human rights treaty bodies and domestic courts. Merryl has previously worked at the ICJ, human rights and transitional justice NGOs, for development agencies and at a leading UK international law firm. She is recognised as a rising star in public international law and a future leader in international arbitration. Merryl is a member of the IBA Subcommittee on ESG, a member of the Justice Rapid Response Roster of Experts for the Investigation of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law and international crimes and the Safeguarding Trustee of an international NGO. 

  • Marco Simons »

    Marco Simons oversees EarthRights’ use of legal strategies to work with communities around the world in protecting their human rights and their environment. With EarthRights, Marco has served as counsel on transnational corporate accountability cases including Doe v. Unocal, Wiwa v. Shell, Bowoto v. Chevron, and Maynas Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum, and submitted amicus briefs in numerous other cases. He has written or co-authored several articles and publications on corporate accountability for earth rights abuses as well as taught college and law school courses on human rights. Marco previously worked for EarthRights on the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights after graduating from Yale Law School. Prior to returning to EarthRights, he clerked for the Honorable Dorothy Wright Nelson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked for the civil rights law firm Hadsell & Stormer, which was co-counsel on Doe v. Unocal and Bowoto v. Chevron. Marco holds an undergraduate degree in environmental science and, prior to law school, worked on developing educational materials on conservation biology. He is currently admitted to the bar in California, Washington, D.C., and Washington State (inactive), as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court and several other federal courts.

  • Dr Jonathan Liljeblad »

    Dr Jonathan Liljeblad received a PhD and JD from the University of Southern California (USC), an MS from the University of Washington (UW), and a BS from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His research largely focuses on rule-of-law, with case studies from human rights and environmental issues. His fieldwork is mostly in Myanmar. Generally, his research falls within the fields of international law, rule-of-law, human rights, environmental law, law & development, and law & society. Due to the empirical nature of his research, his work connects academia, government, and civil society; seeks interdisciplinary, transboundary, and cross-cultural collaborations; and endeavors to nurture direct impact upon policy-makers and societal leaders. He was born in Myanmar, but grew up in Sweden and the United States. He received an Endeavour Research Grant (2018) and was a Fulbright Scholar (2014-2015). He currently is working on projects supported by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR), Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


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