On June 16, 2023, OIAD’s Annual General Assembly was held in Marseille, attended by almost 80 participants both online and at the Maison des Avocats de Marseille.
The event was marked by the testimonies of lawyers from around the world who agreed to share their experiences within the profession, along with the adoption of the activity, strategic and financial reports. It was also highlighted by the handover of the Presidency and the election of a new member to the Observatory’s Board, the first awarding of the Observatory Human Rights Award, as well as thematic workshops which enabled members to exchange views.
The powerful testimonies of lawyers in danger highlight the work of the Observatory.
The participation of Tunisian lawyer Mounir Baatour and Ukrainian lawyer Tatiana Havryliuk at the Marseille Bar Association contributed to the exchange of ideas between OIAD member lawyers. From the podium, the human rights defenders shared their experiences with their colleagues, who sometimes face particular dangers in their home countries.
|“Persecution is fourfold: from the State, from the Bar Association, which has suspended me, from my colleagues who have refused to represent me, and from my clients who have refused my services,” explains Mounir Baatour about living as a homosexual while practicing his profession.
|“War has completely changed the profession of lawyers in Ukraine, because many lawyers have become soldiers (…) to protect our country. Several dozen lawyers have unfortunately been killed (…)”: alongside Jérôme Gavaudan and Philippe Chaudon, Tatiana Havryliuk describes the situation of lawyers in Ukraine and expresses her thanks to OIAD and the Marseille Bar.
Similarly, Guatemalan lawyer Claudia Gonzalez and Afghan lawyer Hossain Haydari shared their experiences on video of the difficulties they faced as lawyers in their respective countries, demonstrating the key role played by the OIAD in their daily work.
According to Claudia Gonzalez, the OIAD has made it possible for women lawyers to “practice their profession in the difficult situation” in which they find themselves, both as women and as lawyers.
|“My colleagues in Afghanistan and I have been threatened several times and even beaten. In one case, on August 12, 2021, I was forced to flee Herat and leave my home and my life (…)”, recounts Hossain Haydari, lawyer in Afghanistan.
In addition to lawyers’ stories, the presentation of the OIAD’s activity report highlighted the activities carried out by the Observatory, particularly in the highly topical context of the situation of lawyers in danger in Afghanistan and Turkey, where Francesco Caia and Rusen Aytac spoke respectively, but also in Iran and Colombia.
These are in line with the initiative to co-finance the documentary “Desterrados”, about the protection of Colombian lawyer Adil Meléndez.
Finally, the General Assembly was also an opportunity to share OIAD’s progress and role as an observer in the Council of Europe’s draft Convention for the Protection of Lawyers, supported by Alfredo Irujo and Massimo Audisio during the Assembly, which could represent a unique opportunity for the defense of lawyers, on the front line when faced with the risks of the profession.
For more information, read OIAD’s 2022-2023 activity report.
The Observatory’s strategic and financial reports, presented respectively by Julie Couturier, President of the Paris Bar, and Laurence Roques, Treasurer of the OIAD, were unanimously approved and adopted.
Among the highlights of the Annual General Assembly was the first award ceremony for the OIAD award, created in April 2023 to recognize a lawyer or lawyers’ organization working in favor of human rights around the world. For the first time, the Observatory’s former president, Jérôme Gavaudan, presented the prize to the Union of Turkish Bars.
OIAD members had the opportunity to share their individual experiences.
Following this uncontested vote and as usual, the General Assembly was then marked by the handover of the presidency from Jérôme Gavaudan, President of the French National Bar Council, to Vincent Nioré, Vice-President of the Paris Bar, who will carry out the role for the period 2023-2024.
The end of Jérôme Gavaudan’s presidency of the OIAD is, however, accompanied by the election of the Geneva Bar Association as a new member of the Observatory’s Board, alongside the Milan Bar Association and the founding members.
Various means of action for the Observatory were then discussed in thematic workshops. In particular, the issue of digital security was raised, deemed essential to the protection of human rights defenders. In this respect, Philippe Chaudon, member of the Marseille Bar Council, raised the issue of a “dangerous situation”, and considered it necessary to implement means of securing exchanges between lawyers to enable better protection for them and their clients.
The Observatory would like to thank its members for their physical and online presence at this General Assembly, in support of the defense of lawyers at risk around the world.