The international Day of the Endangered Lawyer is an opportunity to recognise our good fortune to live in a country where the rule of law is respected, New Zealand Law Society Rule of Law Committee convenor Austin Forbes QC says.
“Lawyers around the world have marked the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24 January each year for the last decade. Over that time a disturbing number of lawyers in quite a few countries have been threatened, beaten, imprisoned or murdered because they spoke out against human rights abuses or represented unpopular clients.
“Every year New Zealand consistently ranks highly in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. This is something which all New Zealanders should value. It is a fundamental part of our system of government and justice. We can speak out or criticise our government, our justice system and other institutions without fear of arrest or violence. If we are accused of any crime we can expect legal representation and lawyers can act for clients without fear of being threatened or hindered. Unfortunately, this does not happen in some parts of the world.
“The New Zealand Law Society recognises the courage of lawyers around the world who continue to represent clients no matter what they are charged with, and who speak out against oppression and violation of human rights.”
Mr Forbes says along with some 80 other legal organisations, the Law Society has also recently supported the work and efforts of groups such as Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, both of which stand up for lawyers who are threatened or hindered in their criminal justice and related work.
This year's Day of the Endangered Lawyer has a focus on Pakistan. A report by Avocats Européens Démocrates says over the past several years lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, (death) threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation in the execution of their professional duties.