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Lawyers on frontline of human rights struggle

10 December 2018

Lawyers must never be persecuted for defending human rights, the Law Society of England and Wales said on International Human Rights Day - 10 December 2018.

“70 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,” Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said.

“In many countries around the world lawyers are hindered in carrying out their professional duties because of the cases they work on or the clients they represent. In many places their lives are at risk – even lost – for defending the human rights of others.

“It is our duty to speak out clearly whenever we see this happening and we will continue to do so without fear or favour.

"Threats to the independence of the legal profession undermine the rule of law and impede access to justice for all, especially the most vulnerable."

A variety of legislation has been used to prosecute lawyers in different jurisdictions in recent years. This includes anti-terror legislation, foreign agent laws, sedition laws and Interpol Red Notices. There are many instances in which one or a combination of these laws have been misused to intimidate, arrest and sometimes extradite lawyers and human rights defenders to countries where they are likely to face persecution.

The Law Society promotes and defends human rights in the UK and internationally, challenging threats to judicial independence and speaking out for lawyers at risk so that they can continue to protect the most vulnerable and uphold the rule of law.

Christina Blacklaws added: "Respect for human rights is integral to the rule of law. These principles strengthen and protect societies and economies around the world."

Notes to editors

Attend the Law Society's International Human Rights Day seminar

Find out more about the Law Society's human rights work

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | harriet.beaumont@lawsociety.org.uk | 020 8049 3854