LRWC releases its 2020 Annual Report | News

Full Annual Report 2020 (pdf)

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada has released its 2020 Annual Report featuring highlights of 2020 as well as summaries of countries of concern, publications and educational events in 2020. Below is review of 2020 by LRWC Executive Director, Catherine Morris, excerpted from the Report.

An excerpt from the 2020 Annual Report:
Executive Director’s Message

The year 2020 tested the resolve of human rights advocates around the world. Public health measures to suppress the spread of COVID-19 led to globalized donning of masks, physical distancing, and other restrictions. There was far less effort to protect international human rights. In 2020 a parallel pandemic of international human rights violations was revealed along with obvious and grave effects of historic, systemic racism, injustices, and inequalities faced by marginalized peoples and individuals. In too many cases, COVID-19 measures have neglected human rights or have been used as a pretence to curtail rights and freedoms.

While positive developments in human rights protection by States and corporations were few and far between in 2020, popular resistance to injustice was dramatic. Examples include Hong Kong protests against China’s violations, protests against Canadian government crackdowns against Indigenous land rights defenders, protests against racist police violence throughout the United States (US), and protests against election fraud in Belarus.

The gap between international human rights law and practices on the ground seems wider than ever, with fewer resources to address violations. Dedicated human rights advocates, including LRWC volunteers, continued to step into these breaches to defend human rights through documentation, legal research, educational seminars, letters, and statements, seeking compliance with international human rights law and standards. LRWC’s interventions throughout 2020 addressed threats to human rights defenders, independence of the legal profession, integrity of legal systems, and the rule of law. LRWC interventions are summarized in the section below under “Countries of Concern.”

LRWC intervened to address violations against those upholding Indigenous Peoples’ rights, land rights or environmental rights (e.g. Canada, Colombia, Thailand). LRWC volunteers resisted the continued shrinkage of space for dissent as governments created or abused laws to delegitimize or criminalize human rights advocacy and to threaten freedoms or even the lives of those who engage in peaceful dissent (Cambodia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand, US). LRWC spoke out about violations by corporations (e.g. Thailand; Zoom Inc. [see China]). LRWC joined global advocacy against draconian COVID-19 emergency laws or discriminatory application of public health measures (e.g. Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia). In some cases, LRWC addressed COVID-19 prisoner releases that excluded human rights advocates (e.g. Iran, Turkey).

LRWC also worked to stem impunity as powerful States and corporations either engaged in or remained silent in the face of atrocity crimes against religious and ethnic minorities, along with those advocating for their protection (e.g. China, Myanmar). LRWC noted active attempts to weaken international human rights law and bodies (e.g. China).

The year 2020 has posed an urgent challenge to human rights defenders and those who support their efforts. Without our members and support from donors, LRWC cannot do the work we do. LRWC thanks you sincerely for being part of our human rights community.