Human Rights Committee
Defence of the defenders
Human Rights Award
Every day, lawyers are harassed, threatened, prosecuted, imprisoned or even murdered, simply for carrying out their professional activities. In recent years, these attacks have intensified around the world, including in Europe. On 19 February 2019, a hearing specifically dedicated to attacks against the legal profession was held by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) in Brussels. The hearing highlighted the different types of persecution perpetrated against lawyers, drawing on examples from countries where lawyers are victims of human rights violations. This event also provided an opportunity to present and evaluate the European Union’s existing tools to assist lawyers and, more generally, human rights defenders around the world. The brochure opposite was published to mark this hearing.
A group of 15 lawyers from 7 European countries representing various national and regional bar associations and lawyers' organizations, including the CCBE, met in Istanbul from 13 till 15 October 2019 for a fact-finding mission to clarify the legal circumstances that led to the conviction of 18 Turkish lawyers by the 37th High Criminal Court in March of this year, resulting in long prison sentences.
We, the undersigned organisations, lawyers, and members of the legal profession, express deep concern over the increasing attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and the oppressive working environment they face since the start of President Duterte’s administration. We call on the Duterte Government to adequately protect the safety and independence of lawyers and end the culture of impunity in which these attacks occur.
The CCBE supports the call for urgent action initiated by the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, addressed to the United Nations special rapporteurs requesting to end the arbitrary detention and long-term imprisonment of 18 Turkish lawyers and to stop all forms of harassment against lawyers in Turkey. The letter has been co-signed by 24 lawyers’ organisations, Bars/Law Societies and human rights organisations.
In March 2019, Iranian lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes. Freed in 2013 after several years of imprisonment, she was again incarcerated on 13 June 2018 for publicly opposing the mandatory wearing of the veil and for defending in the media one of her clients who had removed her scarf in public. The CCBE and other lawyers’ organisations and Bars are calling for her immediate release.
The French National Bar Council (CNB) has launched a petition calling for her release, which has been signed by many lawyers and Bars. We invite you to sign this petition which is available here.
Every year since 2007, the CCBE has granted a Human Rights Award. The objective of the CCBE is to honour distinguished lawyers/lawyers’ organisations that have demonstrated outstanding commitment and sacrifice to uphold fundamental values. It is an effective and useful tool to raise awareness of the core values of the legal profession. The Award is officially delivered to the winner by the CCBE President at the Plenary Session.
At its Plenary Session in Brussels on 29 November, the CCBE granted its 2019 Human Rights Award to Iranian lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh, Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Najafi and Amirsalar Davoudi for their courage, determination and commitment to defending human rights in Iran - where all forms of opposition, be it ideological or political, are not tolerated.
Given the situation of these four lawyers who are currently detained in Iran, three of them accepted that Ms. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Peace Nobel Prize, receive the Award symbolically in their name.