Irene Petras is the Regional Director for the Sub-Saharan Africa program. She manages country and regional programs in East, Southern, and West Africa. Irene works to improve the legal environment for civil society organizations by facilitating CSOs’ understanding of, and participation in legislative and policy-making processes and providing technical support to governments on enabling legislation.
Irene’s work and interests at ICNL have covered a variety of topics including the drafting and implementation of laws and policies regulating CSOs; developing and implementing continental and global legal instruments to protect the freedoms of assembly, association, expression, and public participation, and equipping local partners to better respond to legal threats, including advances in laws regulating digital space and countering terrorism. Irene’s research has contributed to the development of continental guidelines for effective state protection of association and assembly in Africa. Her current research focus on how civil society should respond to threats to association and assembly rights in the digital age; effective models for self-regulation of CSOs in Africa; and interrogating the legal framework for philanthropy in Africa.
Prior to joining ICNL, Irene led the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights – an internationally recognized non-profit organization of lawyers working to promote and protect human rights through the provision of legal support services to human rights defenders at risk in Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region.
Irene is a graduate of the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, where she specialized in international human rights law, earning her Master of Laws With Merit. Irene earned her Bachelor of Laws degree cum laude from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Arts degree at the same university. She is a registered lawyer with right of appearance in all courts in Zimbabwe. She has also been a lecturer in human rights law and public international law at the University of Zimbabwe’s Faculty of Law.