ICJ and other NGOs express concern at adverse impact of COVID-19 measures on lawyers (UN Statement)

The ICJ joined civil society organisations in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council during the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The joint statement reads as follows:

“Madame President,

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and others appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s report, including its focus on the impact of COVID-19 on independent and accessible justice. The pandemic has severely affected the independence and safety of lawyers and defenders, especially in countries that misuse anti-terrorism or security laws.

The ongoing plight of lawyers in the Philippines is of particular concern. The Special Rapporteur noted the repeated criticism of the Philippines’ “policy of human rights violations,” and that “[d]efamation and harassment of lawyers have increased during the pandemic, as has impunity, with dozens of lawyers…killed.” He notes that most attacks are apparently perpetrated by the President’s counter-insurgency task force or by national or State security. Despite Council Resolutions in 2019 and 2020, Philippines lawyers and their associations continue to face violence and vilification through “red-tagging.”

In Iran, numerous human rights lawyers, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, are arbitrarily detained on illegitimate security charges. In Turkey, hundreds of lawyers are arbitrarily detained on spurious charges under overbroad terrorism laws. Defenders have been excluded from COVID-19 prisoner releases, putting their health at risk.

We ask the Council to insist that these countries halt their harassment and attacks on lawyers and defenders. We recommend a Council investigation into extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since 2016.

Thank you.”


  • Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  • International Bar Association’s Institute for Human Rights (IBAHRI)
  • Lawyer for Lawyers (L4L)
  • Association of American Jurists (AAJ)
  • International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
  • National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in the Philippines


Massimo Frigo, ICJ UN Representative, e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org, t: +41797499949

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