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Report Documents Lawyer Harassment In Many Nations

Legal professionals that stand up for human rights face kidnapping, death

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COURAGE has become a job prerequisite for lawyers and judges in many parts of the world, particularly in countries with unstable or repressive governments.

A new report from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights documents close to 500 cases in 1991 involving the harassment, arrest, torture, or murder of legal professionals for their defense of basic freedoms. The report was released today, a date celebrated as Law Day in many nations.

Most of the human rights violations against lawyers and judges occurred in nations run by governments that are either repressive or under attack by opposition forces. In Peru, where the government and Shining Path guerrillas have been in a virtual state of war, violent deaths of legal professionals have been common. Repressive governments intimidate lawyers

In a number of other cases - such as Argentina, the Philippines, and Brazil - former ruling forces, such as the military, often continue to intimidate lawyers and judges who take a stand for human rights.

According to As Jeneen Masih, who compiled the report, the government may be doing the harassing itself or may be failing to provide enough protection for lawyers and judges under attack.

Cases cited in the report include the dismissal of more than 200 ethnic Albanian judges and lawyers by the parliament of Serbia in Yugoslavia, the deaths of 22 legal professionals in Colombia, and 31 cases of arrest and harassment in the Sudan.

The Khartoum government also has banned the Sudan Bar Association. Ms. Masih says if legal professionals cannot join together to challenge the legitimacy of a repressive government's laws, or the way they are carried out, lawyers miss a powerful tool. "It's a very easy way for such governments to disarm unfavorable criticism," she says. Courageous lawyers face death


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