Juriste – President’s Editorial
“Where there is little justice, it is dangerous to be right”.
1 Francisco de Quevedo
An increasing number of voices are speaking out around the world, with growing insistence, on the subject of human rights. As the President of the International Association of Lawyers, I have spoken at conferences and debates on this topic, which can be approached from a variety of political, cultural and anthropological perspectives.
It is clear that everyone perceives human rights differently, depending on where they are born and the environment in which they are raised. The world is unequal and asymmetrical, with disparate legal systems. For this reason, I will never tire of repeating that everyone needs to make an effort when it comes to understanding human rights.
I chair an organisation that reflects the world I have just described, which is madeup of different men and women with diverse beliefs, religions and origins. The UIA is proud to have made this diversity one of its strengths and, above all, a mark of respect and empathy.
The Preamble to the United Nations Charter establishes the need to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” This statement has been – and still is repeated around the world by hundreds of organisations that have been created to advocate human rights and, above all, to improve situations where respect for human rights can potentially be enhanced: human rights councils, commissions, sub-commissions, committees, nongovernmental organisations, etc. Although we are all familiar with the many different types of pro-human rights organisations, we often forget that it is for the most part lawyers who are tasked with defending human rights.
Today, more than ever, in our capacity as lawyers, we are seeking to ensure respect for these rights throughout the world. To achieve this goal, we must be willing to go to the ends of the earth in our work to ensure that power is subject to the rule of law.
In many situations, lawyers risk their lives in this struggle, therefore we should not neglect the question that has become a driving force for our work at the head of the UIA: who defends those who defend?
In many countries, public opinion sometimes tends to associate lawyers with the institutions or persons who are accused of a crime or offence. In other words, the lawyer’s work is not associated with the protection of rights to freedom and justice, but with the condition of the defendant. This association is one of the many reasons why the role of a defence lawyer can be dangerous, especially at times of social unrest and turmoil.
Added to this is the problem of the lack of judicial independence in certain countries, which gives us new reasons not to give up the fight to defend those who defend, on behalf of lawyers around the world who are threatened when practising their profession.
This issue is one of the major concerns of this presidency. We feel an urgent responsibility to raise international awareness of the problem of lawyers who are under threat. When I say “urgent”, I mean that while I am writing these few lines, many of our colleagues will have to take difficult decisions in order to protect their own lives and those of their families, merely as a result of practising their profession.
We would like to see the introduction of an international day to raise awareness of lawyers who are under threat, possibly as a reference point in order to increase the involvement of the international community in this area and perhaps also in order to convince us that if there is one organisation that must always be vigilant in this area, it is the International Association of Lawyers.
It is true, my dear friends, that without justice, lawyers would not even exist. But it is also true that without lawyers, Justice would be unfair. Therefore, I again refer you to the words of Francisco de Quevedo: “Where there is little justice, it is dangerous to be right”.
Justice is not only defined by the existence and work of the institutions that are tasked with implementing it. It also is a value, which the UIA seeks to defend and uphold. This priority is reflected in the very structure of our organisation.
By understanding that justice is a value to be defended, lawyers will thus remain the last bastion of freedom.
To lawyers around the world, I ask you to not give up this fight; you can count on us to defend the values of justice. To the Lady of Justice, I ask that you continue to hold aloft your scales and not to relinquish your sword, as without them, we are lost.
Dr. Miguel Ángel LOINAZ RAMOS
1 – Francisco de Quevedo (Madrid, 1580 – 1645) Key writter of
the Spanish litterature.