Lawyers across the world risk harassment, imprisonment and even murder just for doing their jobs, the Law Society of England and Wales said on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: “We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers around the world who uphold justice, despite considerable risk to themselves, their colleagues, and families.”
The rule of law is essential to preserve democratic values, fundamental freedoms and good governance.
An independent legal profession underpins political, social, and economic stability.
“Lawyers must be allowed to carry out their professional duties without interference and should never be identified with their clients or clients’ causes,” Joe Egan added.
The country focus for the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2018 is Egypt, where lawyers and human rights defenders face prosecution and travel bans for carrying out their professional duties. Some have been imprisoned for extended periods of time.
Egyptian human rights defender Dr Nancy Okail said:
“In a damning report, Amnesty International has reported that repression in Egypt has reached unprecedented levels, with shocking numbers of forced disappearances, torture deaths, and pre-trial detentions that exceed the legal limit of detainees.
“Because the regime is fully aware of the scale of these atrocities, they work to silence those who document, support or defend the victims of such repressive means.
“The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy has also found that the current emergency law, which was renewed earlier this month, makes the situation even more threatening, and human rights lawyers, who are in the forefront of this battle, are themselves subject to repressive measures.
“It is ironic that the lawyer who defended me in the notorious NGO trial, Negad ElBorei, is now a defendant himself and is currently banned from traveling. Supporting those lawyers is absolutely necessary especially under these conditions.”
Dr. Okail was tried in absentia in Egypt in 2013 and convicted to five years imprisonment in proceedings in which 43 NGO workers were charged with using foreign funds to foment unrest in Egypt. She is now the Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington DC and is speaking at the Law Society on 24 November to mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.
Joe Egan concluded: “The Law Society stands in solidarity with legal professionals around the world. We will continue to fight to ensure the survival of strong, vibrant justice systems everywhere.”