The Day of the Endangered Lawyer
A4ID explains why 2014’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer focusses on Colombia.
On Friday 24th January 2014, lawyers from across Europe will protest outside Colombian Embassies to raise awareness of the dangers faced by lawyers working in the country. There will also be a series of discussions with officials from the Colombian embassies.
This year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer focusses on Colombia for good reason. Colombia is an extremely difficult country in which to be a lawyer. Colombian human rights lawyers face intimidation, arrests and even murder. According to the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, over 400 lawyers have been killed in Colombia since 1991. That’s an average of one lawyer being killed every month.
The Day of the Endangered Lawyer began in 2010 as a way of highlighting the dangerous situation faced by human rights lawyers in Iran. It’s a joint initiative between the European Democratic Lawyers (AED-EDL), the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), theEuropean Bar Human Rights Institute (IDHAE), Haldane Society of Socialists Lawyers, and Lawyers for Lawyers Holland.
Violence against Citizens and Lawyers
Land is a major issue in Colombia. Around 4.5 million people in Colombia have been displaced (forcibly removed from their homes and land). Colombia has the second highest rate of forced displacement in the world. Typically, the paramilitaries arrive in a community, brandishing guns and ordering people to leave. The Day of the Endangered Lawyer is important as international attention puts pressure on the Colombian authorities to investigate cases of human rights abuses, and bring perpetrators of forced displacements to justice.
The Importance of Legal Reform
Colombia urgently requires high-level legal reform. The country has been a state of conflict since the Forties. Only now is Colombia starting to recover from the impact of civil war. There are laws in place but they are not enforced. There is a backlog of legal cases and the courts are overloaded. Again, international pressure is needed, to encourage the government to put in place a proper legal system.
A4ID’s Chief Executive Yasmin Batliwala says, ‘The whole spectrum of development issues in post conflict countries should be addressed from the perspective of legal reform. Addressing corruption in the courts, slow and unenforceable court decisions and executive interference into the judiciary should be on top of the agenda for any society in transition’.
The importance of legal reform is central to A4ID’s work. Transitional countries need to pay attention to developing effective legal systems, in order for any development initiatives to be effective. This was one of the messages from Professor Bill Bowring’s lecture at A4ID’s Law and Development Training Programme. Professor Bowring is a barrister and head of ELDH London, who are jointly leading with Colombian Caravana, on this year’s events.
To mark this year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer we have invited Rommel Duran, a Colombian human rights lawyer, to provide a first-hand account of the situation in his country. Rommel has been working on land restitution cases. Only three weeks ago he received serious death threats.
Please come to hear Rommel speak on Friday 24th January 2014 at 6.30pm, at Garden Court Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.Professor Bowring will also host a panel discussion.
If you are interested in learning more about the situation in Colombia there will be an official launch of this year’s Caravana on the 13th of February 2014 at 6pm, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.