New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck has praised the courage of lawyers around the world who risk harassment, imprisonment or even death to stand up for the rights of their clients.
Lawyers’ organisations and lawyers internationally are recognising January 24 as the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.
“Each year a disturbingly high number of lawyers are threatened, beaten, incarcerated or murdered because they represent unpopular clients or speak out against human rights abuses. Their brave and courageous actions are something for all lawyers to salute,” Beck says in a media release.
“New Zealanders are very fortunate that they live in a country where the rule of law is respected and adhered to. We take it for granted that we can be critical of our institutions, our justice system, our government and to seek to change the way things are done without fear of physical harm or unlawful imprisonment.
“We have a right to legal representation and we know that a lawyer may represent any client as a matter of course, whatever they are alleged to have done, or whatever they believe. It is important, therefore, that as a profession we give our support to lawyers in other countries where that is not so.”
Ms Beck says this year’s Day of Endangered Lawyer is the seventh such commemoration. The focus in 2017 is on China. There have been many reports of harassment and imprisonment of Chinese human rights lawyers.