The Law Society will support the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on January 24, recognising the risks many lawyers across the world face as they work to uphold fundamental human rights in dangerous environments.
The day of recognition is designed to bring to the international legal community’s attention the hazardous situations in which many international lawyers work to ensure victims can have access to justice.
In the past, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer has focused on the plight of advocates in Iran, Turkey and Spain, but this year turns its attention to the plight of lawyers in Colombia where, in the last 13 years, nearly 400 lawyers have been killed because of the cases they have taken.
Rommel Durán Castellanos is a Colombian human rights lawyer who has endured these risks to represent vulnerable communities in rural Columbia against global corporations in cases of land restitution and environmental protection in the face of multinational mining projects.
Because of this work, he and his colleagues have been threatened and attacked, and last month were shot at by armed men when visiting clients in Colombia’s rural Pitalito community.
While Mr Castellanos’s experiences are all too familiar to many human rights lawyers working in treacherous regions, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer gives members of the international community the opportunity to hear their stories and join initiatives like the Law Society’s Lawyers for Lawyers programme which draws on a network of probono practitioners to intervene on behalf of lawyers at risk across the globe.
To mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24 January at 18.30, Rommel Durán Castellanos will speak at Garden Court Chambers on the dangers lawyers face in Colombia, particularly as they relate to the fight for human rights and land and environmental rights.
Rommel Durán Castellanos said:
“I am very proud to be honoured on the day of the endangered lawyer. So many lawyers across the globe face persecution on a daily basis due to their work. Not only do lawyers face physical threats but also interference with their work.
“I am grateful for all the international support. Interventions such as those from the Law Society provide solidarity to those at the forefront. International scrutiny saves lives. This makes all the difference.”
There will also be a short panel discussion with Professor Bill Bowring, president of European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, and Carlos Orjuela, Haldane Society. The event will be chaired by Professor Sara Chandler, chair of the Law Society Human Rights Committee and of the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers’ Group.
Professor Sara Chandler, chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee, said:
“Rommel’s experiences can put into sharp relief the cases most lawyers are presented with. The Day of the Endangered Lawyer does not stand to present a point of comparison but rather to spur the international legal community into a refreshed state of awareness and action.”