The Law Council of Australia (LCA) and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) have made a call to action in support of the 2017 Day of the #EndangeredLawyer.
This year the day of observance was held in honour of legal practitioners working in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Via Twitter, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC shared a press release from 2015. In December of that year the group publicly expressed its concerns regarding a Chinese “crackdown” on the legal profession.
Two years ago the LCA held the position that “the independence of [China’s] legal profession must be protected” and pushed for the state to stop sanctioning lawyers for actions taken in accordance with their professional duties.
In what later came to be known as China’s ‘709 crackdown’, over 300 lawyers, law firm staff and human rights activists were affected by state force. A number of that group were forbidden from leaving China and 36 lawyers were detained or held incommunicado.
“The crackdown on lawyers has been comprehensive, destabilising personal and professional lives,” the LCA said.
“Concerns remain for lawyers in PRC,” Ms McLeod added in her tweet.
The Day of the Endangered Lawyer falls on 24 January every year, shining a spotlight on the dangers that legal representatives and advocates face for doing their job.
The ALHR released a statement adding that protections must be available in every country so that lawyers can perform their professional obligations without fear of retribution.
Failing to do so, the group suggested, is a direct contravention of several international laws.
“On the Day of the Endangered Lawyer ALHR gives thought to the many human rights lawyers around the world who remain in prison or are at risk simply for doing their job and attempting to carry out their duties in line with international standards,” ALHR president Benedict Coyne said.
“ALHR calls on all countries to comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and ensure that lawyers can act in accordance with the law and without improper interference or persecution.”
Mr Coyne noted the efforts of lawyers in China who have dedicated their working lives to upholding the rule of law and defending human rights in challenging conditions.
“ALHR finds it highly concerning that lawyers risk danger for upholding the human rights of others and protecting vulnerable clients,” he said.