International Law

ABA supports 'Day of the Endangered Lawyer'

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The ABA is paying tribute to lawyers who support human rights throughout the world by recognizing the 2018 Day of the Endangered Lawyer, according to a statement by ABA President Hilarie Bass.

Now in its eighth year, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer recognizes lawyers and judges who work to ensure that governments respect human rights, often at great personal risk, according to Bass’ statement.

“Courageous lawyers and judges face risks in countries throughout the world—risks ranging from harassment, surveillance and intimidation to disappearance, detention, prosecution, torture, imprisonment and worse,” Bass says. “The protection of lawyers, judges and human rights defenders is a responsibility of all lawyers.”

A Day of the Endangered Lawyer website says this year’s focus is on lawyers in Egypt, who along with human rights activists and journalists “have to live with their phone calls being tapped, endless smear campaigns and hate speech from state-affiliated media as well as continuous harassment and intimidation from the authorities.”

An article in the Law Society Gazette focuses on harassment and death threats against lawyers in Northern Ireland involved in legacy cases related to paramilitary killings in the 1960s. According to the Huffington Post, some fear former British soldiers will be charged in the killings, exposing government collusion. Lawyers representing families of victims have been called parasites in online forums and attacked in the press.

See also: The most dangerous job in law

New York City Bar President John Kiernan has sent a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May expressing concern about the “climate of intimidation” and asking the government to “refrain from the use of inflammatory rhetoric,” report the Huffington Post and the Irish News.

Bass’ statement says the unique role of lawyers is enshrined in international law and norms. The U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers call for steps to ensure that lawyers are able to work without intimidation, harassment or improper interference and to ensure that they are adequately safeguarded when their security is threatened. Also, the U.N. Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary call for measures to ensure the safety of judges and to protect them from threats or interference.

In addition, the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders establishes the right of defenders to offer legal assistance in defense of human rights in an environment where defenders can do their work without fear of retribution.

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