THE ADVOCATE 867
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
By Catherine Morris*
LAWYERS IN DANGER: THREATS TO ADVOCATES WORLDWIDE
The independence and safety of lawyers are increasingly threatened
around the world. Lawyers in too many countries are vilified, criminalized,
imprisoned, threatened, attacked or murdered simply for doing their lawful
work of upholding their clients’ rights. In 2020, volunteers from Lawyers’
Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) are monitoring the situations of lawyers and
other human rights defenders (“defenders”) in dozens of countries.
Countries of major concern to LRWC in 2020 are China, Turkey, the
Philippines, Colombia and Saudi Arabia. This year, LRWC volunteers have
raised concerns, including at the UN Human Rights Council, about lawyers
and defenders in these and other countries.1 LRWC is also monitoring situations
of lawyers in many other countries, including challenges to international
human rights in North America.
LRWC increasingly engages with the UN human rights system through its
UN consultative status received in 2005. LRWC also publishes numerous
reports and manuals,2 including a 2020 book, Attacking Defenders: The Criminalization
of Human Rights Advocacy.3 LRWC, a volunteer-run organization,
is launching a drive for memberships of Canadian lawyers to secure independent
financial support for LRWC’s work to meet the growing demand for
LRWC experience developed over two decades.
INDEPENDENCE AND SAFETY OF LAWYERS UNDER THREAT: EXAMPLES
China: Lawyers and Defenders Arrested, Disappeared and Tortured
China claims to uphold the “rule of law”, but its aggressive promotion of
“human rights with Chinese characteristics” fails to conceal egregious and
* Catherine Morris was appointed as LRWC’s executive director on June 1, 2020, succeeding LRWC’s founding executive
director, Gail Davidson.