Netherlands: ICJ extremely concerned at killing of lawyer

by | Sep 20, 2019 | News

The ICJ today expressed concern at the killing of lawyer Derk Wiersum, who was shot on 18 September 2019 in broad daylight in front of his home in Amsterdam.

Derk Wiersum was representing a key witness for the prosecution in a high-profile criminal trial against 16 members of a criminal organization, accused of five murders and an attempted murder between 2015 and 2017.

The Netherlands’ counter-terrorism agency, NCTV, is leading a team of police and prosecutors carrying out an investigation into the killing; other lawyers and officials involved in the case have been put under emergency protection.

“The killing of a lawyer, apparently in connection with his work, raises serious concern both for security of lawyers and for the rule of law. We welcome the prompt measures taken by the Dutch authorities to initiate an investigation into this crime, which should lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators. It is also crucial that measures be taken to ensure the safety of other lawyers and other individuals who may be at risk,” said Róisín Pillay, ICJ Europe Programme Director.

Dutch lawyers, prosecutors and judges have issued a joint statement expressing their shock and raising concern at the threat of this attack to the country’s legal system.

Additional information:

International human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights to which the Netherlands is a party, requires that States take steps to protect the life and physical integrity of persons who they know or ought to know are at real risk of violence.

According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference (principle 16). The UN Basic Principles specify that “[w]here the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (principle 17).

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