Day of the Endangered Lawyer highlights plight of Iranian lawyers

On 24 January 2024, we held an event to mark the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, which this year focused on Iran.
A coloured map of Iran on a world map

Co-organised by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the International Observatory of Lawyers (OIAD), the Geneva Bar Association (Ordre des Avocats de Genève), the event highlighted the plight of Iranian lawyers who face persecution for carrying out their professional duties to uphold human rights and the rule of law.

The event was opened by our vice president, Richard Atkinson, who underlined our duty as representative bodies to speak out on behalf of our fellow lawyers who bravely undertake their duties under extreme conditions, at great risk to themselves and their families.

Javaid Rehman, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Margaret Satterthwaite, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, detailed the threats, intimidation, imprisonment, disbarment, and worse faced by lawyers in Iran, and the ways in which the independence of the legal profession is undermined.

An Iranian human rights lawyer spoke anonymously about the lack of access to clients and case documents, targeting with arrest and imprisonment for the same alleged crimes as their clients, and threats and intimidation of lawyers and their families which results in them leaving the profession or the country.

“The impact of this abuse is not only felt by the defendants, lawyers, and their families; when people don’t have lawyers who are free to defend them against state oppression, it leads directly to the limit of freedom of speech, association and assembly for all citizens, and the general public will suffer as a result.”

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran described the Islamic Republic’s “infatuation” with the death penalty and the lack of fair trial and due process in how it is imposed.

Ghaemi also described the parallel guild established by the state with thousands of former security and other state agents issued licences to practice as lawyers.

Finally, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, highlighted the transnational threat, with people targeted beyond the borders of Iran, including here in the UK.

Gallagher called on lawyers acting internationally on cases in Iran to recognise the risks to the domestic lawyers and ensure good security hygiene.

In powerful closing remarks, Sandrine Giroud, vice president of the Geneva Bar Association and member of the International Observatory of Lawyers, named many of the lawyers who have and are still facing persecution in Iran.

The event was moderated by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, director of IBAHRI.

Co-sponsors of the event included:

Watch the full recording of the event:

Our 2023 intervention tracker

To mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer (24 January), we published our annual intervention tracker which shows we took 40 actions to support lawyers at risk relating to 17 countries in 2023.

Explore the intervention tracker and find out more about our Lawyers at Risk programme.

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