MANILA — More than 150 international and domestic bar associations and other lawyers’ organizations from 49 countries urged the Philippine government to take all necessary measures to stop the extrajudicial killings of Filipino lawyers and other attacks.
In a petition initiated by Lawyers for Lawyers dated Sept. 17, lawyers and legal professionals from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia North America and South America expressed alarm over the intensifying attacks on Filipino lawyers and the culture of impunity in the country.
The petition said that at least 41 lawyers and prosecutors were killed between July 2016 and 5 September 2019. In addition, at least five judges and retired judges have been murdered since July 2016, bringing the total number of jurists extrajudicially killed in the Philippines to at least 46 in the same period. Eight jurists survived attacks on their life. Lawyers are also subjected to (death) threats, surveillance, labelling, and other forms of attacks.
The international groups noted that “most killings and attacks of lawyers took place as a result of discharging professional duties or are believed to be otherwise work-related.” Lawyers representing people accused of terrorist or drug related crimes, or government critics, such as journalists, political opposition leaders, and human rights defenders are especially at risk, they added.
These attacks, they said, “impair the ability of lawyers to provide effective legal representation, make
lawyers increasingly wary of working on sensitive cases, and consequently severely undermine the proper functioning of the rule of law and the adequate protection of rights, including the right to remedies and fair trial.”
The petitioners called on the Duterte administration to investigate promptly, effectively, thoroughly and independently all extrajudicial killings and attacks against lawyers, and other jurists, and bring the perpetrators to justice.
They also called on the Philippine government to fully comply with and create awareness about the core values underlying the legal profession, such as by bringing the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to the attention of relevant stakeholders, especially members of the executive, police, and the military.
Lawyers for Lawyers has been granted the special consultative status by the UN Economic and Social Council.
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted in July this year a resolution seeking to investigate the killings and other human rights violations in the country.