We are pleased to announce that the NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s member organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law for its exemplary perseverance in promoting greater environmental justice, in milieus where the foundations of the rule of law are under severe challenge.
Established in 1992 by Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque, BELA promotes environmental justice and has secured sound environmental jurisprudence in Bangladesh through public interest litigation, advocacy, research and publications, as well as capacity-building for actors in the public sector and civil society.
Ever since the first case, Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque v. Bangladesh & Others in 1994, BELA has initiated more than 250 public interest litigations and advocated for legislative reform for environmental justice. Issues drawn within its ambit have ranged as widely as river pollution, industrial pollution, vehicular pollution, illegal construction, labour welfare, illegal mining, prevention of soil erosion, reduction of plastic use, wetland protection and prevention of pollution from shipbreaking. The latter was the focus of a recent ground-breaking judgement given by the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in a public interest litigation filed by BELA.
By persuading the courts to recognise its standing to instigate a case on behalf of people affected by environmental degradation, BELA successfully opened the path for public interest litigation. BELA also moved the courts to extend the fundamental right to life to cover the right to a decent environment under the Constitution.
The Tang Prize is a set of biennial international awards bestowed by the Taiwanese Tang Prize Foundation in four fields: Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. The 2020 Tang Prize in Rule of Law, was also awarded to Colombian Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society and Lebanese The Legal Agenda.