as Human Rights Defenders

International Conference on the Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Legal professionals play a pivotal role in addressing human rights violations by providing various forms of legal safeguards. When they uphold the rule of law, advocate for journalists, human rights activists or opposition politicians, they become human rights defenders. Notably, not every lawyer falls into this category, as only those who, individually or collectively, actively work to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms at both national and international levels, can be considered human rights defenders.

On 8 December 2022, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) for Freedom and the German Bar Association (Deutscher Anwaltverein) co-hosted an international exchange in Berlin. The conference centered on the role of lawyers as human rights defenders in conflict-ridden places in Europe and the emerging protection mechanisms at the European level. Participants included notable figures such as Dr. Marco Buschmann, Federal Justice Minister of Germany who reminded the conference of the bravery of law. Indeed the without courage of human rights lawyer, for instance, it would impossible to submit a criminal complaint against the revolutionary guards in Iran. Other participants were renowned human rights lawyers, policymakers, and a pre-recorded statement from Ms. Margaret L. Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. Ms. Satterthwaite reiterated the need to support lawyers worldwide and protect them against repression.

During the conference, experts analyzed that in repressive regimes and conflict-ridden environments, the legal profession consistently and globally ranks among the most persecuted professions for these very reasons. Human rights lawyers frequently encounter substantial challenges meeting their responsibilities. These challenges manifest as accusations of treachery, threats, restricted access to courtrooms, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, exile, constant surveillance, and social isolation. This predicament leads to the stigmatization of human rights lawyers and their portrayal as agitators, not only in authoritarian regimes and regions beset by armed conflict or severe civil unrest but increasingly in established democracies.

The protection of lawyers facing threats due to their work is an imperative step forward. It is necessary to recognize them as a vulnerable professional group. These discussions have been systematically depicted in a policy paper published by the FNF together with the German Bar Association.

Panelists discussing the emerging draft European convention on the protection of lawyers

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger

Dr. Michaela Lissowsky concluding the conference. She insisted on international protection of lawyers, especially in conflict situations

Federal Minister of Justice, Dr. Marco Buschmann, reaffirms the importance of lawyers in upholding the rule of law

Ein Angebot der

Justice and accountability

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