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Lawyers for Lawyers: “A call for concern on human rights defenders”

On Tuesday May 9th, 2023, followed by the introduction by Irma van den Berg from SIX Advocaten, also chairman of Lawyers for Lawyers, Claudia González Orellana from Guatemala, and Salah Hammouri from Jerusalem received a warm welcome from the office of Everaert Advocaten. Both later delivered us an unforgettable and inspiring speech.

Claudia González Orellana is granted the prestigious Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2023 on May 11th, 2023. The award is granted to Claudia this year to honour her continuous contribution in working as a prosecutor with International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) in Guatemala to pursue accountability for corruption and human rights abuses. The life of her whole family is affected severely as a result of her taking the responsibilities at CICIG, to defend for Virginia Laparra, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned in retaliation for her work as a prosecutor and who has been designated as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and many others in years.

Salah Hammouri, a French-Palestinian human right lawyer and defender, was advocating for political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian prisons with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, an internationally respected human rights organisation and UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture grantee. Accused of “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel”, he was forced to be deported by Israel to France against on December 18th, 2022, with his permanent residency status in Jerusalem revoked. Before his deportation, he was held in administrative detention for 9 months in a high security prison without charge or trial.

Their stories are different, but they are also in common in the way that both of their lives are facing violent treatment, harassment, and intimidation from the authorities because of what they devote themselves to – protection of human rights and pursuant of justice in law. We are deeply impressed by their courage against the public authorities and their strong belief in law and justice. “When I see all those colleagues that are in prison facing unfair treatment, it was impossible for me to stop,” Salah says. And Claudia, as someone “who has witnessed the democratic Guatemala” and was educated in that period, simply wants to “see that again.” “I believe in law, and I want to be the one who keeps pointing to the system and telling them that this is not right.”  

We would like to invite the ones who are reading this article to pay your attention to the situations of Claudia González Orellana in Guatemala, Salah Hammouri in Jerusalem, and many others who are facing the similar issues. It is limited what we can do for them from a distance, but more concern on each individual case, more solutions are likely to come out to solve their problems faced.  

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