5SAH Chambers is delighted to announce that Ben Keith has been named International Pro Bono Barrister of the year. Advocate, the Bar's national pro bono charity, presented Ben with the award on 3rd November 2021 at a ceremony at Gray’s Inn. Ben received the award jointly with fellow barrister Rhys Davies for their work at International Human Rights Advisors.  Ben and Rhys set up IHR Advisors in 2019 to deal with their expanding international case work which focuses on international criminal and international human rights law and campaigns. They were nominated for their work on the case of Ryan Cornelius. Ryan is a British national who has been arbitrarily detained in prison in Dubai. He was arrested in 2008 and has been held in custody ever since. 

Ben Keith and Rhys Davies said:

“We are delighted to accept this award and are pleased that we are able to raise awareness of the importance of pro bono work in the international area. However, the most important people are our clients.

Ryan Cornelius has been the victim of the most egregious human rights breaches imaginable and will almost certainly die in prison unless we can help secure his release. We have been working with his family we've asked the UN and the UK and US governments for assistance and in his campaign for justice. His case is a perfect example of how pro bono lawyers can try to help those most in need.”

Advocate made the following remarks:

Rhys and Ben have worked extensively on a pro bono basis to achieve justice for Ryan, a British national who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Dubai for over 13 years. They have acted as legal counsel on his campaign and have provided the client’s family with advice, written advocacy, legal submissions and in-depth legal assistance.   

In a real-life David and Goliath situation, their work has involved gaining a detailed understanding of the complex commercial beginnings of the case in order to bring out the full extent of the injustice done to the client, as well as taking on powerful international adversaries who can fund expensive litigation.   

Their work has centred around the UN conventions against torture and arbitrary detention, and what is conventionally referred to as the Global Magnitsky Sanctions legislation now in force in the UK, US and Canada. They have made submissions under UN Conventions to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva and the UN Special Rapporteur against Torture in Geneva. They have also made Global Magnitsky Sanctions submissions to the UK FCDO and the US governments.   

Rhys and Ben’s work has involved the challenge of using what is still relatively new legislation, both in the UK and internationally, with both of them operating outside of their areas of expertise. It has been an incredibly time-consuming case in which they have drafted lengthy submissions to the UN and to the British, US and Canadian governments. They have made themselves available whenever required for meetings with Ryan’s family, towards whom they have shown unfailing patience, professional humility and understanding.   

The outcome of this has been a legal framework which has knitted together a far more substantial campaign than the family had been able to mount unaided, which has already garnered support from high proļ¬le human rights activists. Although the campaign is still in its opening stages, it is now equipped to achieve its desired result. 

Chris Pagett CMG, OBE, who supported their nomination, said: “Rhys and Ben have throughout this displayed unfailing attentiveness and sensitivity, never losing sight of the fact that they are working to help a frightened and vulnerable family. That family now has grounds for hope.” 

Ben Keith is a leading barrister specialising in Extradition and International Crime, as well as dealing with Immigration, Serious Fraud, and Public law. He has extensive experience of appellate proceedings before the Administrative and Divisional Courts, Criminal and Civil Court of Appeal as well as applications and appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and United Nations. Ben is a Deputy Judge of the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber).

He is ranked in Chambers and Partners as a band 1 leader in the field of Extradition at the London Bar and in the Legal 500 as a Tier 1 leading individual in international crime and extradition.