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The protection of lawyers in India and Brazil: a new FNI study for the United Nations

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Facts and Norms Institute submitted information on hostilities against lawyers, the national legal framework of Brazil and India, the legal profession amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, among other topics.

Image source: Media from Wix

In November 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers invited relevant stakeholders to submit inputs for the Rapporteur's next thematic report on the protection of lawyers.

Facts and Norms Institute (FNI) was among the contributors. In December 2021, the Institute concluded and submitted the input “Protection of Lawyers: input to the UN regarding Brazil and India”.

A collective effort by FNI's Global Human Rights Observatory, the report was carefully prepared by researchers Adriano Koslides Mitre, Henrique Napoleão Alves, Samyuktha Banusekar and Amit Anand.

Topics addressed by FNI included legislation and policies regarding the legal profession, barriers to the work of lawyers (including acts of intimidation and violence), as well as information related to the profession amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Acts of intimidation and violence against lawyers

In Brazil, there had been reports and international documentation regarding acts of intimidation and violence against lawyers throughout the years, in contexts such as legal representation in matters of police violence, the promotion of human rights among the military and legal representation in matters of land conflicts.

The Bar’s National Commission for the Defense of Guarantees and Enhancement of the Lawyer Profession has registered 72 homicides of lawyers in the country from 2016 to 2018, 45 of which could be directly related to the exercise of the legal profession.

In India, reports of hostile acts against lawyers and human rights defenders and their targetting by spyware add up to concerns with the vagueness of the legal concept of "contempt of court" as a possible barrier to lawyer's basic freedoms of speech and expression.

The Gabriel Sales Pimenta Case

On December 4, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented the Gabriel Sales Pimenta case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, regarding Brazil.

The case refers to the State's responsibility for the death of Gabriel Sales Pimenta and the subsequent impunity of his assassination. Mr. Pimenta was a lawyer for the landless. According to the IACHR, his death occurred as a retaliation to his successful legal work defending poor rural workers against violent landowners.

In December 2021, the case was still pending before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the profession

On April 2021, a Special Committee established by the OAB presented a Legal Opinion according to which conducts adopted by the President of Brazil in the context of the pandemic resulted in national and international crimes, including murder and bodily harm through “improper omission”, or “commission by omission”, and crimes against humanity.

In India, courts switched to online hearings. However, the technology and physical facilities necessary for online hearings were not accessible in every court. The physical closure of courts also led to a decrease in fresh litigation.


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