A Colombian lawyer who last month survived a gun attack while visiting clients is in London this week to mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2014.
Human rights lawyer Rommel Duran Castellanos was shot at when visiting clients in a rural community near the town of Pitalito in the coffee-producing Huila region of Colombia.
Duran represents poor communities in rural Colombia in cases of land restitution and environmental protection where global corporations, including mining companies, have abused their power.
He and his colleagues have been threatened and assaulted by paramilitaries and other hired thugs, culminating in being shot at last month.
Assassins have killed some 400 Colombian lawyers in the past 13 years.
The Day of the Endangered Lawyer aims to alert the international legal community to the hazardous conditions under which many lawyers work to ensure access to justice.
Duran said that he was proud to be honoured. ‘So many lawyers across the globe face persecution on a daily basis, whether it is physical threats or interference with their work,’ he said. ‘International support, such as interventions from the Law Society, give a sense of solidarity to those on the front line. International scrutiny saves lives.’
Day of the Endangered Lawyer has previously focused on advocates in Iran, Turkey and the Basque region of Spain. Every year it gives members of the international community the opportunity to hear the stories of threatened lawyers and to join initiatives such as the Law Society’s Lawyers for Lawyers programme, which draws on a network of pro bono practitioners to intervene on behalf of lawyers at risk.
Duran will speak at Garden Court Chambers, Lincoln's Inn Fields, on 24 January at 6.30pm. His address will be followed by a panel discussion with Professor Bill Bowring, president of European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, and Carlos Orjuela, Haldane Society. Professor Sara Chandler, chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee and of the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers’ Group, will chair the event.
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