An international conference of lawyers has denounced the killing of Atty. Norman Bocar last Sept. 1 in Eastern Visayas.
Joining the conference in Seoul, South Korea former Indian Supreme Court Justice Jitendra Sharma said Sept. 3 that the Philippines exemplifies the worst example of the attacks against the independence of lawyers and judges.
Before a shocked audience, Sharma pointed out the number of Filipino lawyers killed in the exercise of their profession and advocacy. He castigated President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for failing to act on these killings and attacks.
Sharma, currently the president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), delivered a keynote speech at the Conference of Lawyers in Asia and Pacific (COLAP 4) in Seoul, South Korea.
The conference was attended by about 250 lawyers, jurists, professors, bar leaders, students, unionists, members of parliament and other government officials. The delegates came from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, United States, and Vietnam.
Sharma broke the news to the assembly about the extrajudicial killing of Bocar, a known progressive lawyer and local leader of people’s organizations. Sharma lamented that Filipino lawyers who get killed are mostly those defending the human rights of the poor and the oppressed.
This sentiment was also shared by other participants in COLAP 4 including Eric Sirotkin of the US-based National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and Shafique Ahmed, president of the Democratic Lawyers Association of Bangladesh, among others.
Filipino lawyers Neri Colmenares and Edre Olalia are also in Seoul to attend the COLAP 4. The conference carries the theme “Peace, Human Rights and Co-Existence.” Colmenares is the spokesperson while Olalia is the head of international affairs of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL, formerly Committee for the Defense of Lawyers). Olalia is also representing the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) as its vice president.
Colmenares, in his opening response, made a scathing indictment on the attacks not only on lawyers but also on civil liberties and its connection with the status of the impeachment against Arroyo as well as on U.S. intervention in the Philippines. He declared that if the people cannot trust the “rule of law,” then they will exercise their sovereign right to make their government accountable.
The CODAL lawyers are also set to discuss the details of a planned international fact-finding mission to look into these killings and attacks. (Bulatlat.com)