In criticism of a US head of state unprecedented in recent years, the International Bar Association (IBA) has called for a halt in what it says is President Donald Trump’s undermining of the US judiciary - and consequently the rule of law - through 'personal attacks on respected jurists'.

In a statement after the decision of the judges of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not to reinstate the president’s executive order banning nationals travelling to the US from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the IBA cautioned against 'further diminishing public confidence in the vital institution of an impartial and independent judiciary'.

The IBA, established in 1947, represents practitioners and professional bodies in 160 countries. Its president, Martin Šolc, founding partner of Czech firm Kocián Šolc Balaštík, said: ‘The rule of law, the centuries-old legal principle that law should govern a nation, is something that is being chipped away at each time Trump publicly attacks and disrespects a judge. Not only is this demoralising for the individual who is the target of the contempt, but more widely it damages public confidence in the judicial system. 

'For all the president’s statements opposing elitism, he needs to remember not to attempt to place himself above the law.’

IBA executive director Mark Ellis said: ‘The US president, though not having received the decision of his choice, should be reassured that, despite unrelenting public attacks, a component of the US judiciary held true to the oath sworn to safeguard the rule of law; an example which legal professionals everywhere should seek to emulate.’

Supporting the independence of the judiciary and the right of lawyers to practise their profession without interference is one of the three core objectives of the IBA.

However although the IBA's Human Rights Institute frequently calls attention to governments' failures to uphold these principles - most recently in Myanmar, following last month's murder of Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni - attacks on named heads of state are rare.