April 21, 2017
A Background Paper for the Pan African Lawyers Union Conference, Nairobi, October 12-15, 2016
The authors of this paper are Gill H. Boehringer and Stuart Russell of the International Association of People’s Lawyers. The IAPL was created in 2000 to gather lawyers involved in the legal support of collective struggles for people’s rights and in situations of gross rights violations. The IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers was created in 2014 and maintains a very extensive blog documenting such attacks.
This paper is endorsed by:
the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD for its French acronym), was relaunched in 2015 by the Paris Bar, the French National Bar Association, as well as the Italian and Spanish National Bar Associations, and also aims to bring any kind of support a lawyer under threat may need.
Endangered Lawyers | Avvocati Minacciati was started in 2015, and later officially presented in 2016 to the Italian Criminal Lawyers Association (Unione Camere Penali Italiane or UCPI). It is coordinated by Italian lawyers Nicola Canestrini and Ezio Menzione.
Created in 2001, the European Bar Human Rights Institute (IDHAE) monitors human rights protection, the training of lawyers in international human rights law, interventions, regardless of the limitations of borders, in favour of freedom and the fundamental rights of lawyers, organizes the World Observatory for Defence Rights and attacks against lawyers, workshops, symposia and seminars related to publications on international human rights law.
Created in 2010, the purpose of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation is to “call attention on that day to threatened human rights lawyers with special attention to one designated country.”
Avocats Européens Démocrates/European Democratic Lawyers (AED/EDL), founded in 1987, is a professional confederation of lawyer unions and organizations. On the international level it promotes the rights of defence and especially seeks to preserve the physical integrity, as well as the political and economic freedoms of lawyers.
Today, in many countries of the world, it is dangerous to be a lawyer. This is especially true if the lawyer is attempting to protect the rights of the people against corporate or government interests or is uncovering corruption. Attacks on lawyers include both physical and non-physical interference with a lawyer’s capacity to perform his/her professional duty to the client or the court. Examples of the former could be assassination or extra judicial killing (EJKs), involuntary disappearance or wrongful detention, often accompanied by torture. Non-physical attacks are many and various e.g. threats, intimidation and harassment, unjustified professional disciplinary proceedings, illegal failure by the prosecution to make material evidence available to the lawyer, non-provision of legal aid, SLAPP suits such as libel actions. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg as we have been surprised at the extent to which lawyers are under attack and the innovative methods used to prevent lawyers from fulfilling their professional duties.