Lawyers must never be persecuted for defending human rights, the Law Society of England has said to mark International Human Rights Day.

Christina Blacklaws, president of the society, said that in many parts of the world lawyers were hindered from carrying out their professional duties because of the cases they worked on or clients they represented.

“Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, laws that should provide the framework for safer, fairer societies are being hijacked in efforts to prevent lawyers and human rights defenders doing their work,” she said.

Ms Blacklaws, who leads the body that represents solicitors, said that in many countries around the world, lawyers’ lives “are at risk – even lost – for defending the human rights of others”.