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Concept.png Lawfare Project Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Brooke Goldstein.jpg
Executive Director Brooke Goldstein
Interest of• Mikhail Lesin
• Silvina Romano

Lawfare, a portmanteau of the words law and warfare, describes the use of legal systems and institutions to politically persecute opponents.

Apart from imprisonment, the goal can be to delegitimise them or win a public relations victory, bar them from elections, waste their time and money, scare or warn them, or psychologically discourage them.[1][2]

Examples in the UK

Corbyn's massive legal bill of £1,477,000

Lawfare has been waged in the UK against many individuals, notably Julian Assange, Craig Murray and Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn was sued for defamation by the UKLFI's Richard Millett arising out of statement made by Mr Corbyn during an interview on "The Andrew Marr Show" on 23 Sept 2018.[3]

In 2022, just three weeks before the trial, the case was dropped vindicating Jeremy fully. Still, that left him with a legal bill of £1,477,000. Many small donations and subsequent negotiations helped pay a large part of this but, today, Corbyn is left with an outstanding bill of £400,000.

On the "Not the Andrew Marr Show" of 25 May 2023, Crispin Flintoff discussed Jeremy Corbyn's case with Yanis Varoufakis, legal adviser and former parliamentary candidate Pamela Fitzpatrick and human rights specialist Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC showing how lawfare continues to be used to silence radical voices.[4]

US perspective

The Lawfare Project defines lawfare as "the abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends".[5] From this perspective, lawfare consists of "the negative manipulation of international and national human rights laws to accomplish purposes other than, or contrary to, those for which they were originally enacted".

In a 2010 speech on the topic, Lawfare Project Director Brooke Goldstein elaborated:

"Lawfare is about more than just delegitimising a state's right to defend itself; it is about the abuse of the law and our judicial systems to undermine the very principles they stands for: the rule of law, the sanctity of innocent human life, and the right to free speech. Lawfare is not something in which persons engage in the pursuit of justice; it is a negative undertaking and must be defined as such to have any real meaning.
"Otherwise, we risk diluting the phenomenon and feeding the inability to distinguish between what is the correct application of the law, on the one hand, and what is lawfare, on the other. Because that is the essence of the issue here, how do we distinguish between that which constitutes a constructive, legitimate legal battle (even if the legal battle is against us and inconvenient) from that which is a counterproductive perversion of the law, which should be allocated no precedent?
"The delineation is not as simple as some may like to make it; that is, that lawsuits against terrorists are good, and legal actions against the US and Israel are bad. Now, the question is not 'who is the target', but 'what is the intention' behind the legal action: is it to pursue justice, to apply the law in the interests of freedom and democracy, or is the intent to undermine the system of laws being manipulated?"[6]


An example

Page nameDescription
Foreign Corrupt Practices ActFrom careful beginnings has become a major tool of statecraft


Related Quotation

Silvina RomanoLawfare is a political war through the courts, which uses legal tools improperly for political persecution, which uses the law as a weapon to destroy the adversary. Lawfare operates from high places through a judicial apparatus that rises above the Legislative and Executive Power, expanding the margin of maneuver and power of the judges, paving the way for a growing “juristocracy”.”Silvina RomanoDecember 2020


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:What is UK Lawyers for Israel’s relationship to the Israeli governmentArticle12 March 2019Hilary AkedIsraeli diplomat Shai Masot – who worked for the anti-BDS Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs in London – was recorded in Al Jazeera’s 2017 undercover documentary The Lobby saying of groups such as UKLFI: "It’s good to leave those organisations independent. But we help them, actually."


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