Category Archives: Publications

China/Australia: Attacks on lawyers

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 290

Attacks on lawyers are increasing around the world, and represent a significant threat to the rule of law and democracy. They include extra judicial killings, disappearances, political imprisonments and torture, revocation of licences to practice among many forms of interference with a lawyer’s professional duty. They are usually aimed at human rights lawyers and legal critics of government policies.

Australia has not been immune, with a Melbourne lawyer slain a few years ago and a judge some years earlier. There we have also seen unprecedented attacks by the media and political figures on the judges who decided that Brexit must be authorised by Parliament.

The International Association of People’s Lawyers’ list of countries where there have been attacks on lawyers has grown to 115, about 20 per cent in Africa. Recently, human rights lawyers were assassinated in Kenya and Nigeria. In October 2016, at Nairobi, Kenya, the Pan African Lawyers Union Conference devoted a session to the problem.

In China the entire human rights lawyer community is under sustained attack. All have been sanctioned with a wide range of punishments, including prison, torture and loss of licence to practice. At a meeting in Brussels in November, representatives of European legal professional societies and lawyer activist groups met to plan activities for the 7th annual Day of the Endangered Lawyer, 24 January 2017 which focuses on China. In Australia, the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights is organising events for the day. Hopefully the professional societies will join their European colleagues and those in other countries to give support to the brave Chinese lawyers.

France: The crusade against a French people’s lawyer

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 216

by Stuart Russell

A 65-year-old lawyer is arrested at home at dawn, his home is searched by the police, he is involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital and then suspended from practice for three years. In China? No, in France. In one of the most spectacular and outrageous attacks against lawyers in French history, people’s lawyer Bernard Ripert of Grenoble suffered this massive indignity in May 2016.

Ripert was arrested, allegedly for ’intimidating a judge’, and then immediately placed in a psychiatric hospital against his will. An outspoken and courageous member of the Bar for more than 40 years, he was the quintessential people’s lawyer. Since 1976 he has acted pro bono for demonstrators, as well as conscientious objectors, the poor and the downtrodden. In previous years he represented the terrorist group Action Directe. He was well-known across the country for his unbridled attacks against injustice and arbitrariness, inside and outside the courtroom, and because of this many judges detested him, particularly in Grenoble.

Over the years Ripert was subjected to professional disciplinary proceedings, and sanctioned on three occasions, including a one year suspension. Although an 11-member panel acquitted him of disciplinary charges brought in early May this year, the prosecutor lodged an appeal before the Grenoble Court of Appeal. His subsequent arrest unleashed a wave of indignation, solidarity and protest on the part of the Bar, in France and across Europe. The day after his arrest about a fifth of lawyers in Grenoble demonstrated in robes against his arrest, while he undertook a hunger strike.

Defending and Protecting Lawyers Under Attack: 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.


Invitation to Participate in PALU’s 7th Annual Conference on 12-15 October 2016 at Nairobi, Kenya

European lawyers and the defence of their international colleagues

Stuart Russell, Alternative Law Journal: (2016) 41(2) AltLJ 141

(Alternative Law Journal) Globalization, Lawyers and the State

Gill Boehringer and Stuart Russell
Alternative Law Journal, Vol. 33-3, September 2008

Lawyers today both facilitate and resist the major social forces which lie behind globalisation: multi-national capital and compliant, often repressive, states. This Comment examines different forms of ‘resistance lawyering’ in three countries.

See full text

(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.

(Taipei Conference 2016) China: Initiatives for Supporting the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers: A View from the International Association of People’s Lawyers

By Gill H. Boehringer (presentation at the International Conference on Rights of China Lawyers, Taipei, 9 January 2016)


I feel privileged to be here today amongst such a distinguished and, I must say, formidable line-up of speakers and conference participants.

And I would like to congratulate our hosts for their splendid work in organizing this historic event and, of course, their hard work and commitment in supporting the Chinese human rights lawyers.

I also wish to pay my respects to our friends and colleagues from Hong Kong for the singular and inspiring work they have been doing for the defence of the Chinese lawyers, but also in providing the rest of the world with so much, and so immediate, information that has allowed the international community to push back against the government in China.

Finally, to the courageous lawyers from mainland China- I salute you.

I have been asked to talk about the work done by the IAPL on this matter of the “709” (July 9th 2015) crackdown in China, and attacks on lawyers generally. It was also suggested that I should indicate what I believe the international legal community and human rights groups can do to assist the beleaguered Chinese lawyers-and the others suffering along with them which includes family, friends, colleagues, and the activists who support them as well as the lawyers who defend them.

Taipei paper 25 1 16 final version 4th