International Association of People's Lawyers

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  Dissent Special Issue - Defending Lawyers

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IAPL's 5th Congress Held in Brazil

IAPL successfully held its 5th Congress, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 11 - 15, 2014. Lawyers from Turkey, the Netherlands, Australia, the UK, Iran, Mexico, Chile and Bolivia, and 32 lawyers and law students from 8 states of Brazil, as well as supporters, activists and members of organizations of people’s struggle participated in the congress. The theme of the Congress was "the role of people's lawyers facing the increase of people's protest and state terror."

           Poster 400
The opening ceremony had welcoming speeches from representatives of IAPL, Brazilian Association of People's Lawyers (Abrapo), Brazilian Center of Solidarity to the Peoples (Cebraspo), Union of Construction Workers of Belo Horizonte (Marreta) and Rio de Janeiro Institute of Criminology (ICC). There were presented solidarity messages sent by International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (from U.K.), National Lawyers Guild (NLG, from United States) and a joint statement from Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (Mumbai), Campaign Against Criminalizing Communities (CAMPACC), Indian Workers’ Association (in U.K.), Association for Democracy and International Law (MAF-DAD), Roj Women (Kurdish women organization, U.K.), TamilNet, International Voice of Baloch Missing Persons.

            Aside the internal activities of the congress, there were the following lectures and debates in the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro: "Persecutions, tortures, killings and arrests: criminalization of struggle for land", in the National Faculty of Law; "Megaprojects: displacements and other rights violations"; and "International Campaign for the release of Political Prisoners", in the Institute of Philosophy and Social Sciences. The foreign lawyers could share reports of the rights violations and people's struggles in their countries with the situation in Brazil exposed by prominent jurists, like Professor Juarez Cirino dos Santos. These lectures had an effervescent participation of students, workers and activists. The participants could fulfill their hearts and minds with a small part of the revolutionary energy that got over the country since the June days, and keeps on going.

            There was an organization seminar with the theme "Defending the defenders", about the situation of lawyers under attack, with testimonies of cases. The discussion started with stories from Rondonia and São Paulo, and it was widened with testimonies of many regions of the country, when the speakers exposed the situation of persecution by exercising their profession in support of the mass protests and other struggles. A report about attacks on lawyers in Brazil was sent to Lawyers for Lawyers foundation, based in the Netherlands, which is monitoring these cases. There was also presented reports of attacks on lawyers in México, Philippines, Turkey, Iran and Western Europe.

            There was a session, requested by some IAPL Board members, to evaluate the developments of the International Fact-Finding Mission in the Brazilian state of Rondonia in 2008. The situation of extrajudicial killings, torture and repression in the region gone worse, and three activists of the organized peasants’ movement that met with the international delegation were killed: Gilson Gonçalves, Élcio Machado and Renato Nathan. The testimonies gave clear information about how the facts succeeded and the perpetrators. There were informations about the police investigations on both cases, and participants concluded that the Brazilian state has made nothing effective to apply justice, and have direct responsibility for these killings.

            The Brazilian people's lawyers and law students had sessions to discuss their organization, which happened in full spirit of mutual commitment and gave a boost in the organization and planning of their activities, in order to respond to the situation of people's protest and repression that develops in the country.

            The congress participants also had a talk with the president of Human Rights Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association in Rio de Janeiro, when he spoke about their role in supporting the mass protests, giving emergency legal assistance to activists under harassment and detention, and explained the conservative character of most of legal professionals and Bar associations. It were discussed the difficulties and limitations due to the structure and political composition of these institutions, as well as the importance on working with them to win support for the struggles.

            The IAPL Board of directors and invited participants also had productive discussion to plan the next turn. The General Assembly of IAPL was given the reports from the Board (President's report, Secretary General Report, Treasurer Report); 9 resolutions were proposed and approved; new country chapters were approved (Mexico and United Kingdom), and confirmed the membership of Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, India, Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Australia and Bolivia. It was also approved the invitation of non-lawyers solidarity organizations as cooperators. The new Board of directors elected in the congress is composed by P.A. Sebastian, from India, as Honorary Chairperson; Julio Moreira, from Brazil, as President; Kemal Toraman, from Turkey, as Vice-President; Dundar Gurses, from the Netherlands, as Secretary-General; Mohammed Hoshi, from United Kingdom, as Treasurer; and Nicolas Vazquez, from Mexico, as Auditor.

            The Congress ended with a vibrant Solidarity Night with presentations of the Costa-Rican singer Adrián Goizueta, the Chilean singer and lawyer Nicolás Toro, and other cultural participations from lawyers and activists. With so much energy, everybody sang and celebrated the advance of organization of people’s lawyers’ organizations against imperialism and its victorious congress.