Toronto, ON, Nov. 10, 2016 — The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns over the harassment of lawyer Ramón Cadena Rámila.
Ramón Cadena Rámila is a well-known human rights lawyer and the International Commission of Jurists’ (ICJ) regional director for Central America. He was a key witness in the trial of former President Efrain Rios Montt for his role in the alleged genocide and other atrocities committed during the civil war of the 1970s and 1980s. Ramón Cadena Rámila also provides legal advice on behalf of the ICJ to communities fighting against mining projects in Guatemala.
It has come to our attention that on August 15, 2016, armed men ransacked Ramón Cadena Rámila’s home in Guatemala City while he was attending a workshop in another part of the country. Ramón Cadena Rámila’s family and a security guard were forced to wait on their knees outside.
The Law Society is deeply concerned about these reports. It is our understanding that attacks against human rights lawyers in Guatemala have intensified in the past months and that this incident is the latest in a string of incidents of intimidation and harassment against human rights lawyers in Guatemala. We believe strongly that lawyers should be able to exercise their legitimate duties without fear for their lives, for their liberty and for their security.
The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the government of Guatemala to comply with Articles 16, 17 and 18 of the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
Article 17 states:
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
Article 18 states:
Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.
The Law Society urges the government of Guatemala to:
- conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into the harassment and intimidation of Ramón Cadena Rámila and bring those responsible to justice;
- put an end to the harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders in Guatemala;
- ensure that all lawyers can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations; and
- ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.
*The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and more than 7,800 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.
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