January 24, 2017
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) calls on all countries to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional obligations without fear of retribution.
ALHR has always been saddened by news of lawyers facing consequences such as being silenced, harassed, kidnapped, imprisoned, injured and killed for fulfilling their roles as advocates.
24 January 2017, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, gives lawyers across the world a specific opportunity to reflect on the grave infringement of human rights experienced by some of our colleagues and 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.
The mistreatment of lawyers contravenes a number of international human 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 Benedict Coyne 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 simply for doing their job and attempting to carry out their duties in line with international standards.”
00737612203 (THE HARD COPY OF THE MARCH 2017 LAWYERS WEEKLY ARTICLE)
(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.
November 6, 2016
An Italian man with Mafia connections is reportedly being investigated over the shooting murder of gangland lawyer Joe Acquaro.
He met a drug dealer from the Honoured Society crime gang at one of Victoria’s highest security prisons about a week before Mr Acquaro was killed in Melbourne, the Sunday Herald Sun reported.
The revelation comes eight months after the 54-year-old criminal lawyer was shot five times as he walked towards his car after closing his Gelobar cafe and restaurant at Brunswick East.
The Italian man flew back to his homeland in the days after Mr Acquaro was murdered, in the early hours of March 15, and was detained at an airport for questioning before being released, the News Corp story said.
He had met the Honoured Society drug trafficker, an enemy of Mr Acquaro, at Barwon Prison near Geelong about a week before the killing.
Other Honoured Society identities are believed to have visited this prisoner, housed in the Acacia section of the jail, which is regarded as one of Victoria’s most secure compounds.
Another man, regarded as a potential early suspect, knew the late Mr Acquaro through his Gelobar business before they had a dispute over debt, the newspaper report said.
July 11, 2016
The Law Council of Australia is urging the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to redouble its efforts with the Chinese Government, with the goal of: securing the release of the 23 lawyers and activists still in detention, ending torture and ill-treatment of those detained, removing travel bans against 39, and stopping the harassment of the families of lawyers. At least 319 lawyers, law firm staff, activists and their family members have been targeted since the ‘709’ crackdown commenced.
The Law Council is joining with the International Bar Association in marking the one year anniversary of the crackdown, expressing its continued concerns with China’s respect for the rule of law and a rules-based international order.
Many of the lawyers caught up in the crackdown, which commenced on 9 July 2015 are still missing, with no access to their family, let alone a lawyer. For example, a partner at Beijing Global Law Firm, Li Heping (李和平), has not been seen since 10 July 2015. Of further concern are reports suggesting that some of the detained have been tortured or have suffered sexual abuse.
Since the crackdown commenced, the Law Council of Australia has met with senior DFAT officials and senior advisers to the Prime Minister. The Law Council appreciates the Australian Government’s advocacy to date. In particular, a joint statement with 11 other countries at the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council on 10 March 2016 expressing concerns about China’s deteriorating human rights record, which referred to the arrests and detention of lawyers.
May 16, 2016
At least 45,000 people have been forced to represent themselves in court since 2009 because the nation’s Legal Aid service is in turmoil, statistics released today by the Law Council of Australia reveal.
The group has launched a new campaign called Legal Aid Matters, calling on all sides of government to commit to an extra $350 million to fix a service it says is in crisis mode.
Law Council of Australia president Stuart Clark said it was the first time in his 35 years of practice that the legal profession had “been so angry” and concerned about the service.
Mr Clark said the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and some community legal centres had also taken hits.
“They say that they could be turning away anything up to 160,000 Australians a year for advice,” he said
The Queensland chief justice, Tim Carmody, has announced he is prepared to quit in an attempt to end dysfunction in the judiciary since he assumed the role 10 months ago.
Carmody claimed the public revelations of “disharmony between me and some judges … shine a light on serious cultural and structural problems within the judiciary”.
The chief justice, whose only move towards legal reform to date has been to set up a committee to examine televised court cases, has tied his offer to quit to obtaining a government commitment to a broader reform agenda.
Yesterday’s comments by Premier Campbell Newman represent a dangerous and unprecedented attack upon hard working members of the legal profession. Newman suggests that lawyers are part of the bikies “criminal gang machine”. In saying this, he suggests that solicitors facilitate the commission of criminal offences.
As a solicitor of this State, I find these comments deeply disturbing. They strike at the very heart of the profession’s reputation and trust among the community. Both the President of the Queensland Law Socety and the Queensland Bar Association responded publicly and quickly. This was very good to see given that a failure to publicly respond to such serious allegations would potentially, leave those in the community believing that there is some truth to these ridiculous claims. The reality is that lawyers are subject to onerous ethical obligations owed to the court. Lawyers are officers of the court.