“This is something which all New Zealanders should value”
Austin Forbes QC, New Zealand Law Society Rule of Law Committee, says New Zealanders should value living in a country where rule of law is respected.
The comment comes on the eve of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, which is marked worldwide today, 24 January. Lawyers around the world participated in the occasion each year for the past decade, Forbes said.
“Over that time a disturbing number of lawyers in quite a few countries have been threatened, beaten, imprisoned or murdered because they spoke out against human rights abuses or represented unpopular clients,” he said.
Forbes said that New Zealand consistently ranks high in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index each year.
“This is something which all New Zealanders should value. It is a fundamental part of our system of government and justice. We can speak out or criticise our government, our justice system and other institutions without fear of arrest or violence. If we are accused of any crime we can expect legal representation and lawyers can act for clients without fear of being threatened or hindered. Unfortunately, this does not happen in some parts of the world,” he said.
He also said that the New Zealand Law Society recognises the courage of lawyers around the world who continue to represent clients no matter what their charged with, and who speak out against oppression and human rights violations.
The Law Society has recently banded together with 80 other legal organisations to support the work of groups such as Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada. This year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer is focused on Pakistan, where lawyers have been subjected to mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, death threats, contempt proceedings, harassment, and intimidation while executing their duties, according to a report from Avocats Européens Démocrates.