Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) calls on all countries, including Australia, to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional obligations without fear of retribution.
On 24 January 2020, the 10th Day of the Endangered Lawyer, lawyers across the world are given a specific opportunity to reflect on the grave infringement of human rights experienced by some of our colleagues, and to advocate for systemic change in their treatment. ALHR finds it highly concerning that lawyers risk danger for upholding the human rights of others and protecting vulnerable clients.
ALHR is always saddened by news of lawyers facing consequences such as being silenced, harassed, kidnapped, imprisoned, injured and killed for fulfilling their roles as advocates.
The mistreatment of lawyers contravenes a number of international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
ALHR President Kerry Weste said, “on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, ALHR gives thought to the many human rights lawyers around the world who remain in prison or are at risk for simply doing their job and attempting to carry out their duties in line with international standards.”
ALHR notes that in 2020 the Day of the Endangered Lawyer focuses on the experiences of lawyers in Pakistan. The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers recorded at least 21 Pakistani lawyers murdered since 2018. In addition, recent years have seen lawyers in Pakistan subjected to acts of mass terrorism, attempted murder, assaults, death threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation in the execution of their professional duties. They have also been arrested, detained or tortured and, in some cases, the family members of the murdered lawyer have also been murdered. Some lawyers have been threatened with disbarment or had their homes raided by the police.”
ALHR is also using the Day of the Endangered Lawyer to highlight the plight of Australian lawyer Bernard Collaery who, together with his client Witness K, is currently subject to a secretive prosecution under national security laws for revealing that the Australian Government spied on East Timor. Ms Weste said, “Even here in Australia we must remain vigilant to protect the important role that lawyers, using legitimate legal mechanisms, play in uncovering illegality in government agencies. Lawyers who do so, should not find themselves facing secretive prosecution and a jail term.”
“ALHR calls on all countries to comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and ensure that lawyers can act in accordance with the law and without improper interference or persecution,” Ms Weste said.
Read the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2020 Report here.
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ALHR was established in 1993 and is a national association of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and specialist thematic committees. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.