Today, on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers joins the voices of the international community and other lawyers’ organizations calling for the cessation of all forms of harassments and attacks on lawyers worldwide.
In the past year, at least sixteen lawyers and judges have been murdered in the Philippines while many others have been subjected to various forms of intimidation and harassment. Based on the total number of attacks on Philippine lawyers and judges monitored from 2001 to the present, it appears that almost a third of the murders occurred during the first year of the Duterte Administration.
Many of these lawyers killed from 2016 to 2017 belong to the Department of Justice and the Judiciary but disturbingly, these institutions despite vast resources at their fingertips have not spared any effort to promptly and effectively investigate and run after the perpetrators.
Worse, in most cases, agents of the state are themselves the suspected perpetrators hence the hesitance to investigate and the inaction. Many of these murdered lawyers have taken up the cudgels for the poor and defenseless. They have become the voice of the silent but they themselves have been silenced.
Worldwide, the attacks against lawyers continue unabated, more so against lawyers who defend human rights cases or defend communities under siege from developmental aggression. In Iraq, at least 210 lawyers and judges have reportedly been killed in the period from the 2003 U.S. Invasion. In Colombia, lawyers representing rural communities opposing indiscriminate mining projects have been threatened and attacked.
In Egypt, Egyptian authorities have escalated from threats to taking concrete action to silence critical voices, running the gamut from wire-tapping, smear campaigns and hate speeches, and harassment and intimidation from state authorities. The decade-long human rights crisis in Egypt was worsened in 2015 with the adoption of national security laws. After that, a number of Egyptian human rights lawyers have been subject of attacks like illegal arrests, illegal search, surveillance, unreasonable and unexplained travel bans, restriction in the practice of their profession, filing of false and trumped up charges, and other forms of harassments.
These attacks on individual lawyers are attacks against the whole justice system and against the so-called rule of law. The killings, harrassment and intimidation deprive victims of human rights violations from receiving adequate legal assistance and exacerbate the injustice and oppression that they suffer.
On this Day of the Endangered Lawyers, we stand in solidarity with our Egyptian colleagues and lawyers from all parts of the world in condemning all forms of attacks against lawyers. We call on the Egyptian government for the cessation of harassments and intimidation of Egyptian lawyers and the curtailment of their basic freedoms as persons and members of the legal profession.
We also call on other lawyers and groups to gather our ranks and strengthen our ties with organizations and networks because a united stand must be made against the widespread and almost orchestrated attacks against lawyers and human rights defenders and the legal profession.
Finally, we demand our governments to take action for the cessation of these attacks, to ensure respect of lawyers and the legal profession, comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, investigate human rights violations and give justice to our endangered lawyers and to the peoples of the world that lawyers represent.#
Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Atty. Edre U. Olalia
Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General