Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Men on motorcycles currently tailing the movements of CODAL lawyer: CODAL reiterates call for an End to the Attacks and Justice for the Victims!

CODAL denounces in the strongest terms the harassment and surveillance targeting one of its members. The lawyer’s identity is being withheld in the meantime for personal and security reasons. Since last week, men on motorcycles have been tailing the whereabouts of this lawyer by visiting the latter’s home and interrogating neighbors about the lawyer’s schedule.

Yesterday, two men also visited the home of one of this lawyer’s clients, who was away at the time. The men, however, demanded to know if the client and the lawyer were together at a hearing and wanted to know the location of said hearing. The client believes that the lawyer is the real target of these men.

A staunch defender of the rights of the poor, the lawyer has served as a counsel for workers and peasants. Only last year, the lawyer was harassed by an armed man who pretended to be a client. Now, with men on motorcycles aggressively trying to locate this lawyer, a very grave and imminent threat is posed on our colleague’s life.

Given the current pattern in the killing of activists, journalists, churchpeople and lawyers, CODAL expresses serious alarm about this threat on the safety and well-being of its member. It is ironic that CODAL, which was formed originally as the Committee for the Defense of Lawyers to protest the attacks on members of the legal profession and protect them from such attacks, is being targeted itself.

The impunity that surrounds the hundreds of human rights violations under the Arroyo regime and the almost daily killings has serious implications on the practice of the legal profession and the administration of justice, as lawyers who passionately defend human rights are themselves being targeted by death squads.

Since January 2006, CODAL has recorded at least six cases of serious harassment and threats on lawyers, one serious physical attack against one of the impeachment lawyers, and a total of three lawyers brutally killed: Atty. Carlo Magno Umingga, a member of the Pangasinan People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB); Prosecutor Godofredo Pacenio, Jr. in Agusan Del Norte; and Atty. Rogelio Montero in Bulacan. Four lawyers and three judges were killed in 2004 while seven lawyers and one judge were killed in 2005. CODAL also recorded 12 cases of non-fatal attacks including 2 cases of frustrated murders against lawyers in 2005.

CODAL reiterates its call on the international community, especially law groups in the United States and Europe, to condemn these attacks and pressure their governments to withdraw support from the current Arroyo administration in light of its abysmal human rights record.

Reference : Atty. Neri Colmenares, Spokesperson
Date : 31 May 2006