In the Media

Barefooted lawyers for human rights

PUBLISHED May 2, 2012

Wednesday 02 May 2012 by Jonathan Rayner

Lawyers campaigning for an international human rights day are to strip off their shoes and socks and go barefooted to their offices and into court.

Toes, ankles and soles are to be bared on 12 November, the birthday of Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng. Chen, who is known as the 'barefooted lawyer' because of his work in rural China, is believed to have been sheltering in the US embassy in Beijing after escaping from house arrest for exposing and opposing human rights abuses.

The barefoot campaign, which is supported by the Law Society's human rights committee, is the brainchild of St Ives Chambers barrister Jason Hadden. He said: 'We are calling for an international human rights day to press governments worldwide to allow lawyers to do their jobs in safety. Lawyers are being "disappeared" and persecuted simply for defending their clients' statutory rights.

'Governments, including our own, are keeping very quiet, perhaps because of a conflict between commercial interests and what everybody recognises as a gross violation of international law. A show of solidarity by lawyers from across the globe might persuade those in authority to rethink their policies and let lawyers practise without fearing for their lives or liberty.'

Law Society human rights adviser Courtenay Barklem said: 'Lawyers are a vital part of a functioning justice system. This makes them a target for repressive regimes that want to stifle the truth and prevent reform. Stopping lawyers from carrying out their proper role obstructs a fair hearing and denies victims a remedy. Interfering with a lawyer's professional duty is to interfere with the administration of justice.'

The barefoot lawyer day on 12 November requires solicitors, barristers, legal executives, paralegals, students and the judiciary to bare their feet for five minutes and to take a photograph as a record. The photograph can then be posted on Twitter at tweetlawfeet or to the Facebook page of the same name.

Hadden said: 'All of us can become a barefooted lawyer for one day - even justice minister Kenneth Clarke.'

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