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NEWS

Day of the Endangered Lawyer sheds light on threats and violence against defenders

editor - January 24, 2018

 Foundation of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Lawyers marching in solidarity with Chinese defenders under threat. Credits: Foundation of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.
 

At Fair Trials, we believe that lawyers should be able to defend people without undue restrictions, including violence and threats. An appropriate defence is fundamental to the right to a fair trial. However, lawyers across the world are threatened, persecuted, and even killed for defending rule of law principles and human rights.

In order to raise awareness about the issue, civil society and lawyers have worked to highlight the Day of the Endangered Lawyer each year on 24th of January. The day was chosen in memory of 5 Spanish lawyers who were murdered on 24th January in 1977 in Madrid, for their work in defence of alleged ETA members.

In November 2014, Dutch criminal defence lawyer Hans Gaasbeek set up a dedicated Foundation to promote the cooperation between human rights organisations, lawyers, embassies and other stakeholders, and to organise annual demonstrations on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.

“The Day brings lawyers together” said Gaasbeek, whose Foundation focuses its campaign on a different country every year, including Iran, Basque Country, Columbia, the Philippines, Honduras, and China. This year, the campaign will focus on Turkey, where hundreds of lawyers have been arrested and detained since the attempted coup in July 2016.

A similar association, Endangered Lawyers, was later founded in Italy by criminal defence lawyers to raise awareness about this issue in Southern Europe.

“It’s a marketing issue. Whenever a journalist is attacked, the media will talk about it; the same goes for judges, which have their own networks. But not for lawyers.” said Nicola Canestrini, one of the founders of Endangered Lawyers and member of the LEAP Advisory Board.

Endangered Lawyers monitors cases of threats and violence against lawyers all over the world and has sent delegations to meet with lawyers in Turkey and Egypt. Lawyers are not just under threat in dictatorships but also in so-called liberal democracies. In 1989, Irish lawyer Pat Finucane was shot to death in his home, before his wife and children, for defending members of the Irish Republican Army. In Italy, lawyers are regularly threatened with “paper bombs, banners displaying threats before their houses, and most of all online hate speech”. "Too often, the lawyer is identified with the criminal and even with the crime" said Canestrini, who added “it is the duty of the State to inform its citizens that lawyers defend everyone’s rights”.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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