Every year, lawyers who work for the defence of human rights are harassed, threatened, persecuted and even killed. On the 24th of January, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the international community celebrates the importance of lawyers in upholding human rights and the rule of law, and reflects on how to combat the serious threats they face.
This year’s focus will be on Egypt. But the risks faced by Egyptian lawyers are shared by many of their colleagues across the world. Here, lawyers accompanied by PBI reflect on their experiences risking their lives to stand up for justice.
Donald Hernández (Honduras)
Donald Hernández (left) is a Honduran lawyer specialised in environmental issues, especially mining and hydroelectric projects. He currently represents over 30 criminalised human rights defenders. Violence and repression has escalated sharply in Honduras since the military coup in 2009, and according to CONADEH, 114 lawyers and prosecutors were murdered between January 2010 and August 2016, while 94% of these cases have remained in impunity.
Honduras has become such a violent country that ordinary people say goodbye to each other in the morning, not knowing if they will return that evening.
Olga Silva (Colombia)
Olga Silva is a lawyer with Colombian human rights organisation Humanidad Vigente. Her work supports communities across the country in the struggle against impunity, the defence and promotion of rights of children, adolescents, and women, and the defence of land and territory.
Defenders play an important role in the construction of the peace in Colombia.
Alirio Uribe (Colombia)
Alirio Uribe is a lawyer with the CCAJAR Lawyers’ Collective, which works to improve access to justice for victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. Over more than 30 years, the work of CCAJAR’s lawyers has resulted in landmark decisions that have begun to erode impunity for the perpetrators of severe human rights violations.
I don’t just walk down the street, I try not to be in public places where there are lots of people which leaves you exposed. Little by little you make these changes and the space available gets smaller and smaller.
Dipendra Jha (Nepal)
Dipendra Jha is a Nepali human rights and constitutional lawyer. He works on securing justice for human rights abuses in the Terai region including cases of torture, arbitrary arrests, and threats to human rights defenders. He is subject to regular smear campaigns, stigmatisation and defamation.