A SOUTH African lawyer whose firm represents the trade union movement COSATU was among those who spoke at the CIIR conference on Vigilantes and Death Squads last Wednesday and Thursday.
Peter Harris' talk on South Africa was followed by testimony from Maris Diokno of the Philippines, who analysed the vigilante movement in her own country and criticised the Aquino government for failing to control it.
There was also the personal testimony of Fr. Freud Jean, a Haiti-born priest and the General Secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, on the activities of vigilante groups in that country.
The two-day conference, which took place in London's Regent College in Regent's Park, was addressed by Labour MP Joan Lester and CIIR General Secretary Ian Linden, who spoke on the theme of "Vigilantes as a block to development".
Other speakers included journalist Jon Snow, who has worked extensively throughout Africa and who is on CIIR's education committee, and Julian Filochowski, Director of CAFOD.
The aim of the conference, said the organisers, was "to disclose the terrible reality which can be hidden behind the friendly sounding word, vigilante."