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Jurists under fire worldwide, report says 

Aug 10 2000 , GENEVA (Reuters) - More than 400 judges and lawyers in nearly 50 countries suffered reprisals last year, including death, kidnappings and arrests, an international human rights monitoring group said Friday.

Colombia, which topped the list of dangerous places for legal practitioners, accounted for eight of the 16 jurists' deaths reported worldwide in the year to last February, according to the Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

Another 10 jurists were kidnapped and 14 threatened or assaulted in the South American country, engulfed in a long-running war between government forces and Marxist rebels.

The 10th annual report by the Geneva-based Center, entitled ``Attacks on Justice -- The Harassment and Persecution of Judges and Lawyers,'' paints a bleak picture of lawyers, prosecutors and judges on all continents being attacked by state agents, paramilitaries or rebels.

``From January 1999-February 2000, at least 412 jurists suffered reprisals in 49 countries for carrying out their professional duties,'' it said.

``Of these, 16 were killed, 12 disappeared, 79 were prosecuted, arrested, detained or even tortured, eight physically attacked, 35 verbally threatened and 262 professionally obstructed or sanctioned.''

Lawyers face ``persistent harassment, including through detention and unreasonable government regulation of their activities'' in Belarus, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Azerbaijan and Iran, according to the report.

In Colombia, at least 102 lawyers, judges, prosecutors and other judicial officials were the target of violent acts during 1999 and early 2000, it said. ``Most of the jurists are attacked or harassed for trying to investigate, prosecute or try alleged perpetrators of human rights violations.''


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