On the Day of the Endangered Lawyer (24 January 2017), Robert Bourns, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, gave a speech in solidarity with all lawyers at risk in various jurisdictions. The Law Society is committed to support all lawyers and human rights defenders under threat as a result of their work or advocacy in protecting and promoting human rights.
Read the Law Society’s press release.
The Law Society’s Lawyers at Risk programme supports lawyers who are hindered in carrying out their professional duties through threats, intimidation, disciplinary measures, disappearance or murder. This support is provided through intervention letters sent to State authorities regarding specific cases, but also through structural work to improve lawyers’ safety. The Law Society, therefore, responds to individual cases of lawyers under threat, but also aims to address the structural causes that give rise to such threats. We submit amicus curiae briefs to domestic courts and international tribunals to achieve law reform and change practices that are detrimental to the effective functioning of the judicial system.
The Law Society makes use of its ECOSOC consultative status with the United Nations to make submissions to UN treaty bodies, UN Human Rights Council and UN Special Rapporteurs. We collaborate with a network of NGOs, international institutions, State agencies, and Bar associations for advocacy and follow-up on interventions and submissions. All interventions and follow-up actions are included in the Law Society’s Intervention Tracker. This tracker compiles the data and allows for analyses regarding, for example, regional trends of intimidation and the identification of places where the independence of the legal profession is particularly threatened.
In accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the Law Society’s Lawyers at Risk programme also supports human rights defenders who exercise the functions of a lawyer and legal assistants, as well as those lawyers who have lost their license to practise, have been disbarred, or have not been admitted to the Bar for reasons other than proven misconduct.
The Lawyers at Risk programme aims to raise awareness of the risks and challenges associated with being a lawyer and the importance of the independence of the legal profession, as well as to foster professional solidarity with colleagues abroad. The work of the Lawyers at Risk programme is supported by the International Action Team (IAT), a volunteer group that consists of practising solicitors, barristers, and law students.
The domestic law reform work program focuses solely on the UK’s domestic legislative and administrative human rights regime, and particularly to facilitating member input to the policy development and law making process.
Examples include lobbying against Secret Court proposals under the Security and Justice Bill, campaigning for the retention of the Human Rights Act and promoting compliance with the European court of Human Rights.
Recent examples include responding to the open call for information on the Longer-term future of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, the Modern Slavery Bill and responding to the MoJ’s call for evidence on Fundamental Rights.
We have also being working on business and human rights with a practitioners’ advisory group. The recommendations from the group were published earlier this year. This work is ongoing.