Law360 Profiles Orrick Partnership with PILPG and State Dept

April.11.2022

Law360’s Access to Justice column spotlighted Orrick’s collaboration with pro bono law firm Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and the U.S. State Department to support their investigation and provide legal assistance to the Rohingya, who fled widespread violence in Myanmar. The State Department sought to determine if Myanmar had committed crimes against humanity, or possibly, genocide — acts that could be tried in international courts — since it began a military crackdown of the Rohingya in 2016.

More than 100 Orrick lawyers and legal professionals collaborated with the State department and PILPG on the project which entailed PILPG collecting evidence from over 1,000 Rohingya refugees, using a questionnaire prepared by Orrick. Then, a team of Orrick pro bono attorneys helped PILPG investigators pore over 15,000 documents to examine the claims in the testimonies and determine whether they met legal thresholds for crimes against humanity or genocide and drafted a 100-page report with their findings.

Paul Williams, a former State Department attorney who co-founded PILPG, told Law360 that Orrick's support was crucial in compiling the report. "We could not have done this without Orrick," Williams said.

Rene Kathawala, Orrick’s Pro Bono Counsel, told Law360 that the partnership between government and private sector is crucial in making an impact on society and the world. "This is a classic case where the private sector is critical for the resources, and to allow the governmental function to be fulfilled in a professional way," Kathawala said. "It demonstrates the power of pro bono."

Last month, at a press conference held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States has determined Myanmar's military had committed genocide, with the bulk of the material supporting that conclusion from PILPG’s and Orrick’s report.