: International


Gill Boehringer

Attacks on lawyers occur around the globe. The International Association of People’s Lawyers Monitoring Committee has found 83 countries, including Australia, where such attacks, physical and non-physical, have occurred. In this, and subsequent issues, we will present some examples of what is being done to interfere with lawyers, in the pursuit of justice, human and environmental rights in a neo-liberal globalised world.

Azerbaijan (2014) A practice has developed whereby lawyers defending human rights cases are removed from the defence team because the prosecution says they will be called as a witness and would then have a conflict of interest. In one case, involving a leading human rights lawyer and activist who was in jail, several of her lawyers were removed from the case using this ploy. In the same case, another lawyer was removed, and later disbarred, because of his ‘behaviour in court’. A third lawyer was removed and sentenced to 250 hours of community service for allegedly committing libel. In another case, a lawyer for human rights activists and journalists critical of the government, was removed from a high profile case involving a leading journalist detained and charged with treason, espionage and tax evasion. The removal followed a recommendation from the government controlled Azerbaijan Bar Association that he be disbarred for ‘breaching professional ethics’ by questioning the fairness of the court’s decision to imprison his client. Recently a highly respected human rights lawyer and the Director of a Legal Education Society was sent to prison for seven years. The charges: tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power.

Saudi Arabia (2015) A lawyer was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, thereafter a 15-year travel ban and a fine of about €50 000. He has been moved six times since his arrest and detention; he has been severely beaten in his latest prison. Charges brought against him were ‘striving to overthrow the state and the authority of the king’, ‘criticising and insulting the judiciary’, ‘assembling international organisations against the Kingdom’, ‘creating and supervising an unlicensed organisation and contributing to the establishment of another’ and ‘preparing and storing information that will affect public security’. The organisations mentioned included the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. His application to register this NGO was rejected. Three human rights lawyers were jailed in October 2014 on similar charges.

Spain (2015) Twelve lawyers from the Basque region were illegally detained during an ‘anti-terrorist’ mass round-up of Basques, and charged with terrorist crimes. According to the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, ‘All the arrested lawyers have in common that they work as defence lawyers for Basque prisoners, some of them lawyers … this is not the first time that Basque lawyers have been arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned … ELDH has denounced this practice as a violation of the right to a fair trial and other human rights … there was strong evidence that in violation of the ‘Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers’ these lawyers were identified with their clients or their clients’ causes’.

GILL BOEHRINGER is a former Dean of Macquarie University Law School, and a member of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks against Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 215
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