Willie Kimani was a Kenyan lawyer who was brutally murdered in 2016. At the time of his death, he was representing a victim of police misconduct and calling for an investigation into the implicated police officers. The evidence has since linked his death to the same police officers he sought to hold accountable. If proven guilty, the officers will have implicated themselves in one crime while trying to cover up another. But it will be entirely too late for Willie Kimani.
Today is the 8th Annual Day of the Endangered Lawyer, a campaign launched to increase awareness and shine a spotlight on violence and retaliation against lawyers around the world. Willie Kimani’s case represents one of the many cases of lawyers at risk as a result of their work.
Around the world, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and other members of the legal profession are on the frontlines of efforts to hold human rights violators accountable, to combat corruption, to promote the basic rights of individuals and communities, and to ensure access to justice and fair and impartial adjudication of rights for all. As a result, they are at risk of intimidation, threats, and assaults upon their persons and their roles in society. Like human rights defenders around the world, their work becomes exponentially more dangerous when they oppose the interests or goals of zealots, corrupt officials, corporations, private security forces and others who seek to gain from rights violations.
Justice Defenders Program is committed to supporting members of the profession who face threats and retaliation for fulfilling their professional obligations and defending the rights of others. Since its inception in 2011, it has provided pro bono legal assistance, observed trials and disciplinary proceedings, and engaged in both private and public advocacy on behalf of lawyers and other members of the legal profession in every region of the world. To date, approximately half of its beneficiaries have been lawyers, judges, and independent legal associations struggling against various attempts to stifle or punish their ability to advocate on behalf of their clients and communities. Mobilizing the global legal community to support our colleagues around the world fighting for the rule of law and basic rights has never been more important.