Daily Archives: 18/02/2016

(ATINER Conference Papers) Defending the Defenders: Attacks on Lawyers- A Problem in Search of Solutions

By Gill Boehringer, Stuart Russell, Kristian Boehringer & Julio Moreira

(2015) Athens: ATINER’S Conference Paper Series, No: SOC2015-1763.
(Athens Institute for Education and Research)


Lawyers are being attacked with increasing frequency around the globe. Hardly a day goes by that lawyers are not attacked somewhere. We use a broad definition of attacks: any deliberate action against the lawyer which is intended to or is likely to prevent the lawyer from carrying out his or her legal duties. The numbers are staggering. In the past decades thousands have lost their lives. Many more are disappeared, harassed, threatened, detained or charged without cause, disciplined in politically motivated professional proceedings, or dealt with in a variety of other ways such as SLAPP actions at law, including defamation actions which in many countries may result in a prison sentence. Although understandably the contemporary attacks on journalists, which also appear to be increasing, gain much media attention, attacks on lawyers seem not to attract the same amount of publicity. But in research we have done in the Philippines, it appears that lawyers can be as much at risk of extra judicial killing/disappearance as journalists, and perhaps more at risk of at least some other kinds of attacks. Within the category of lawyer we include judges, prosecutors, public and private advocates, law students and paralegals. We have not used the criteria of being a human rights defender for several reasons. First, it is difficult to determine why a lawyer has been attacked. It may have been for their work in human rights defending, but it may be for some other reason. Second, many lawyers are involved in the defence of human rights primarily, but others are only occasionally involved in human rights matters. Both should be of concern to us. Indeed, even those lawyers who do not do human rights work are included in our work because all members of the legal profession play a role in protecting us in different ways, essentially by implementing the rule of law. In a sense then, an injury to one is an injury to the profession, to the institutions of the law and to all of us. Attacks on lawyers occur across the globe and are not limited to the 9th Annual International Conference on Sociology, 4-7 May 2015, Athens, Greece: Abstract Book 27 less economically developed world as might appear from media accounts. Perpetrators appear to be largely state forces, but paramilitary, private army forces, and hired gunmen are also involved. Some attacks are politically motivated while others, we believe a minority, are privately motivated.


Click to access SOC2015-1763.pdf

China: [CHRB] Government Reprisals: Assault, Imprisonment, Torture & Cancellation of a Lawyer’s License (1/28-2/3/2016)

February 3, 2016

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), who recently went online to express support for persecuted lawyers and activists, was manhandled and threatened by police and thugs after he met with relatives for Chinese New Year.

(Lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), was manhandled and threatened by police and thugs after he met with relatives for Chinese New Year.)

On January 30-31, rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟)was manhandled and threatened after he left his home in Shaanxi Province and met with relatives in a nearby city for Chinese New Year. Gao has recently made comments online in support of imprisoned activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) and the targets of the “709” crackdown on lawyers and activists. Gao, who was released from prison in Xinjiang in August 2014 following a three-year prison sentence, lived under illegal house arrest in Urumqi and then in his family’s rural village in Yulin, Shaanxi Province. When Gao went to his relatives’ home in urban Yulin City, officers from Yuyang District Public Security Bureau, along with thugs, subjected Gao and his relatives to over 30 hours of harassment, including hammering on the doors and windows, shouting insults, and shoving them if they went outside. Eventually, Gao had to leave the city to spare his relatives from the attack.[i]

Petitioners Seeking State Compensation Harshly Punished for “Extorting the Government”

On February 1, a Chinese court sentenced two Jilin petitioners, Guo Hongwei (郭洪伟) and his 73-year-old mother, Xiao Yunling (肖蕴苓), to prison terms of 13 years and six years, respectively, with both convicted on combined charges of “extorting the government” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Guo received an unusually long sentence of 11 years for “extorting the government” and five years for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” to be served consecutively. One of their lawyers, Shu Xiangxin (舒向新), was himself sentenced to prison last month following years of harassment from Shandong authorities, who had levied the same charge of “extorting the government” against him for his efforts to defend his clients.

[CHRB] Government Reprisals: Assault, Imprisonment, Torture & Cancellation of a Lawyer’s License (1/28-2/3/2016)

Iran: Justice Ministry attorney returned back to prison

February 17, 2016

political prisoners, Abdulfattah Sultani

An attorney working on human rights cases and political prisoners, Abdulfattah Sultani was detained again and sent back to Ward 350 of the notorious Evin Prisonafter a short leave from a previous detention. He was briefly released after spending 4 years and 4 months behind bars. This political prisoner and a human rights lawyers, was arrested on September 10, 2011 and sentenced to 18 years behind bars and a 20 year ban of practicing law for receiving the Nuremburg Human Rights Award in Germany, giving interviews to media outlets on the case of his clients, and taking part in the formation of the Center of Human Rights Lawyers. Sultani is suffering from heart and blood pressures problems, and taken many times to the prison clinic.

(Campaign in Defense of Political & Civil Prisoners – February 13, 2016)



Imprisoned Human Rights Defender Abdolfattah Soltani Denied Visitation with His Wife