Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyer’

Eren Keskin in Turkey sentenced to prison and more to come..

May 28, 2019

On 28 May 2019 Euromedrights brought out a press release “Sentencing of Eren Keskin: another blow against freedom of expression in Turkey”.

This extremely courageous human rights defender has received attention in this blog recently [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/12/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured-in-ankara/].

On 21 May, at the final hearing of the Özgür Gündem “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign trial, woman human rights defender and co-chair of the Human Rights Association-Insan Hakları Dernerği (IHD), Eren Keskin, was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months prison term for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “openly inciting to commit crime”

As deeply concerning as this sentencing is, it is far from an isolated case: across Turkey, civil society activists struggling to ensure basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are targeted by the judiciary, acting as an extension of the legislative power, for legitimately and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. EuroMed Rights strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms Keskin and her fellow activists. 

EuroMed Rights calls on the Turkish authorities to respect their obligations under international human rights treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish constitution, end the crackdown on critics and halt the persecution of human rights defenders. and release all those detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Note The Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily began on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. Daily was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency. At the end of March, Ms. Keskin has been sentenced to 7 years and a half on charges of “insulting the President and State institutions” over three reports published in the newspaper in 2015. On 3 July, she will again stand trial in front of 23th High Criminal Court in Istanbul for the “ Özgür Gündem main trial”.

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/sentencing-of-eren-keskin-another-blow-against-freedom-of-expression-in-turkey?e=1209ebd6d8

Even a human rights lawyer working for the government in Colombia is not safe

May 24, 2019

That the problems in Colombia are huge you wil all know. A good, lenghty report by Ted Piccone at Brookings from March 2019 gives an overview of the myriad issues including the continuing killing of human rights defenders: “..While these legal and political skirmishes play out, one critical element of the peace accords is tragically failing—the protection of human rights defenders, leaders of social movements, and political opposition figures. The official protection system, which is central to the non-recurrence features of the accord, is operating but unable to defend these leaders effectively from attacks perpetrated by a collection of armed groups (including remnants of paramilitary units demobilized in an earlier peace agreement), drug traffickers, and other violent actors intent on disrupting the peace process. The numbers are chilling: As of the end of 2018, the United Nations has received reports of the murder of 454 human rights defenders and social leaders since the signing of the peace agreement, and of the 163 murders they have verified, 110 occurred in 2018. The United Nations has also verified the murder of 85 former FARC-EP members. These ongoing attacks, and the relatively high rates of impunity, underscore the fearsome challenge of building peace in the midst of so much conflict and violence.” [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/26/somos-defensores-in-colombia-publishes-annual-report-2018-worst-ever/]

All this is underlined by the recent killing of a human rights lawyer reported on 24 May 2019. Paula Andrea Rosero Ordóñez, 47, was shot dead at close range by two hitmen, according to a police report. What makes it even more shocking is that this has happened to a lawyer working as a representative of the public ministry in Nariño, a department in south-west Colombia, Rosero asked for extra protection from the government in 2016 after receiving death threats.

Is Colombia’s fragile peace breaking apart?

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/human-rights-lawyer-shot-dead-in-colombia-/5070380.article

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage

Lawyers for Lawyers: award to Turkish human rights defender Selçuk Kozağaçlı on 23 May

May 21, 2019

On 23 May 2019, L4L will be presenting the 2019 Lawyers for Lawyers Award to Selçuk Kozağaçlı, a human rights lawyer from Turkey. Selçuk Kozağaçlı is a lawyer, human rights defender and member of the People’s Law Office. He is well known for working on the “Soma Mine” disaster, the worst mine disaster in Turkey’s history, in which 301 miners were killed. He is also the chair of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), an association which focuses on the right to life and advocates for the prevention of all types of attack on fundamental rights and human dignity. The Progressive Lawyers’ Association was closed on 22 November 2016 by Statutory Decree No. 677 issued under the State of Emergency.

Fore more on this award and other awards for human rights lawyers, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lawyers-for-lawyers.

The Award Ceremony will take place in Amsterdam. Prior to this ceremony an interesting seminar will be held in collaboration with the Amsterdam Bar Association and the Justitia Commission of the Young Lawyers Association Amsterdam. The main topic of the seminar will concern the developments surrounding the proposed European Convention on the Profession of Lawyers. Two panel discussions will be organized around this topic. Speakers include François Moyse (Vice-Chair of the CCBE European Convention Working Group), Mikolaj Pietrzak (president of the Warsaw Bar Association) and former Award winners and lawyers Sirikan ‘June’ Charoensiri (Thailand), Magamed Abubakarov (the Russian Federation) and Alec Muchadehama (Zimbabwe).

From 2:30 PM until 5:00 PM CEST L4L will livestream PART I with the seminar ‘Lawyers at risk! Do we need a European Convention?’ It will continue the broadcast with PART II from 5:00 PM until 5:30 PM CEST with the Award CeremonyTo watch online, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/user/LawyersforLawyersL4L/live

 

Invitation Lawyers for Lawyers Award Ceremony 2019

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/selcuk-kozagacli-detained

Profile of Chinese human rights Defender Teng Biao

May 20, 2019

China Digitial Times (CDT) is expanding its wiki to include short biographies of , cartoonists, , and other people pushing for change in China. The wiki is a work in progress. Here the case of Teng Biao, of whom I wrote earlier in 2015: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/17/stop-dancing-with-dictators-says-chinese-human-rights-defender-teng-biao/.

. (Source: Wikipedia)

Teng Biao, born on August 2, 1973 in Jilin Province, is a human rights lawyer, activist, and former professor who is dedicated to exposing China’s human rights abuses and fighting against its use of the death penalty. After being repeatedly detained for his work, Teng moved to the U.S. in 2014, where he has continued his life’s work as a visiting scholar at institutions such as Princeton, Harvard, and New York University.

Teng obtained his Doctor of Law from Beijing University in 2002 before joining the faculty of the China University of Political Science and Law as a lecturer. He later served as a visiting scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Yale University. He swiftly entered the fore of high-profile legal cases, including but certainly not limited to the Sun Zhigang incident in 2003, serving as counsel for activists Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia, and death penalty cases such as the Leping case in Jiangxi Province.

Prior to moving to the U.S. in 2014, Teng was subject to multiple instances of police harassment. In 2008, he was detained for two days before being released following widespread calls from both domestic and foreign advocates; in 2010, he was detained for visiting a human rights lawyer under house arrest; in 2011, as those in China began to call for their own Jasmine Revolution, he was detained for ten weeks; in 2013, he was detained for attending Hu Jia’s birthday dinner.

In 2014, Teng relocated to the U.S., where he has continued observing and criticizing Chinese government practices. These include presenting a sobering view on the true nature of Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown, expressing concern for detained fellow rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, and calling for President Obama to pressure China on human rights at his last G20 summit appearance.

Teng again roused attention in 2016 when the American Bar Association abruptly cancelled publication of his book “Darkness Before Dawn,” a detailing of his 11-year career as a rights defender in China. The cancellation has been one of many cases of foreign entities who have either bowed to Chinese pressure for fear of upsetting the Chinese government or proactively curried favor for the sake of economic gain.

Over the course of his career, Teng has spearheaded multiple initiatives. He has co-founded two NGOs: Beijing’s China Against the Death Penalty, and the Open Constitution Initiative (Gongmeng), an organization composed of lawyers and academics that advocates for the rule of law in China. From the U.S., Teng co-founded the China Human Rights Accountability Center alongside rights defenders such as Zhou Fengsuo and Chen Guangcheng following the passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act under the Obama Administration. The act authorized the president to sanction foreign individuals who commit human rights violations or are engaged in significant levels of corruption. The Center aims to help the U.S. to enforce the Act and introduce similar legislation in other democratic countries.

Teng has been awarded the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic (2007), the NED Democracy Award (2008), Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Grant (2010), Prize for Outstanding Democracy Activist (China Democracy Education Foundation, 2011), and the Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defender Award (2012).

Entry written by Lisbeth.

Person of the Week: Teng Biao

Martin Ennals Award Finalist Eren Keskin honoured in Ankara

May 12, 2019

Today the Martin Ennals Award announced that on 9 May a special ceremony was held in Ankara, Turkey for Ms Eren Keskin who is one of the finalists for the 2019 Martin Ennals Award. Ms Keskin continues to be subject to a travel ban imposed by the Turkish authorities, and so was unable to attend the award ceremony held on 13 February 2019 in Geneva. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/eren-keskin-mea-nominee-2019-speaks-out-fearlessly-turkey-more-oppressive-today-than-ever/]. She has been accused of denigrating the Nation and insulting the Turkish President.

She is free, pending the outcome of her appeal. 143 charges were brought against her, but she decided to remain in Turkey whatever the cost. “Even in jail, I will continue to fight. This is my way of living, I will not change it”, said the laureate, who is also very vocal in denouncing sexual violence and rape in detention and defending victims.

Eren Keskin is honoured for her exceptional and unrelenting commitment to fundamental freedoms and rights in Turkey. “The jury was impressed by the courage and tenacity she has shown, over the past 30 years, in advancing the rights of women, Kurds and LGBTI+ notably”, explained Dick Oosting, Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation. « We add our voice to all those who call on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges on free speech grounds. Turkey must respect and uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens, in all their diversity. »

This award is vital not only for me, but also for all human rights defenders in Turkey and for the people we stand up for. Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are severely punished in Turkey nowadays. The government tolerates no dissenting voices. ..I know that by resisting we can change the world. Thank you for not forgetting us. Your solidarity and support give me the courage to continue the struggle “, she declared.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1905/S00085/martin-ennals-award-finalist-eren-keskin-honoured.htm

Profile of Nayaali Ramirez Espinosa, indigenous rights defender of the Maya

March 31, 2019

Last year ISHR interviewed Nayaali Ramirez Espinosa, a lawyer providing legal assistance to Mayan communities in the region of Holpelchén, in the State of Campeche in Mexico. She expresses her satisfaction with some legal achievements such as the indigenous consultation in the region. It was published on 13 December, 2018.

Turkish human rights defender Veysel Ok receives Thomas Dehler Medal

March 24, 2019

Human rights Lawyer Veysel Ok, who is also the Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, will be awarded the Thomas Dehler Medal 2019 “for his work in advocating for freedom of speech and the rule of law in Turkey.”

For more on this and other awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/thomas-dehler-medal

The medal will be awarded to Ok in a ceremony to be held in Munich on April 5. Ok will receive his medal from Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the former Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany. In an announcement made by the Thomas Dehler Foundation, it has been stated, “Human rights lawyer Veysel Ok fights for the rule of law in Turkey like no other. He became known in Germany above all because he represented Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel in court. He also defends many other lesser known journalists. Veysel Ok fights fearlessly and also faces consequences, now he himself has been indictment.”

About Veysel Ok

Formerly a lawyer for many journalists in Turkey, including imprisoned former Taraf Editor-in Chief Ahmet Altan and columnist Şahin Alpay, Veysel Ok currently faces “denigrating the Turkish judiciary system” charges as per the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for an interview that he gave in 2015. As part of the Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) work, where he is a co-founder and currently co-director, Ok continues to defend 11 imprisoned journalists including Nedim Türfent, Ziya Ataman, Salih Turan, İdris Yılmaz and İdris Sayılgan and many other journalists and academics.

https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/206658-lawyer-veysel-ok-to-be-awarded-thomas-dehler-medal

https://ahvalnews.com/freedom-speech/german-rights-prize-turkish-lawyer-defending-journalists

Film on Human Rights Defender Lea Tsemel wins Thessaloniki International Festival

March 13, 2019

 reports on 11 March, 2019 that a documentary about an Israeli human rights lawyer has won the top prize in its category at the Thessaloniki International Festival. “The Advocate,” a 108-minute film directed and produced by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, focuses on Lea Tsemel, who has defended Palestinians of every stripe, from protesters to known extremists, for more than 50 years. The Canadian-Israeli-Swiss production was given the “Golden Alexander Award” Sunday night.

A special jury award was given to Afghan director Hassan Fazili for the autobiographical “Midnight Traveler” which was actually filmed by his whole family. He, his wife and two daughters were forced to flee the country when the Taliban put a bounty on Fazili’s head. They first went to Tajikistan and, threatened with deportation, journeyed all the way to Europe.

https://www.thenationalherald.com/234482/winning-documentary-in-thessaloniki-portrays-israeli-human-rights-lawyer/

Tang Jitian receives his French Republic Human Rights prize in Beijing

January 31, 2019

On 10 December, 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) has awarded the annual French Republic Human Rights Prize to six personalities or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their country for the defense and promotion of human rights, and Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian was one of them. He was unable to travel to France to receive the prize. On January 14, 2019, the French Ambassador to China, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, presented him the award in Beijing. For more on this another awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/prix-des-droits-de-lhomme-de-la-republique-francaise.

Excerpts from his Acceptance Speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

……Since entering the legal profession, especially after coming to Beijing in 2007, I was determined to use the law to help those who had suffered injustices. In addition to handling human rights cases, I also participated extensively in social actions, one of which was an effort in 2008-09, together with a cohort of lawyers to promote direct elections of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association. This action infuriated the Chinese government, and in April 2010, my license to practice law was revoked. Even though I suffered this blow of losing my normal legal practitioner’s identity, it didn’t stop me from engaging in rights defense work. On the contrary, I threw myself into the work even more actively, including the struggle for lawyers’ own rights and interests. And despite having suffered numerous rounds of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention, accompanied by torture, I nonetheless still had the same intention as before –– to continue to be active in the field of rights defense in China.

Although I’ve been restricted from exiting the country for nearly 10 years, making it impossible for me to fully communicate and work together with the outside world, my view was not completely limited. I still have friends from certain countries who have facilitated my work to varying degrees.

……..Contemporary mainland China has reached a critical juncture: whether to embrace civilization or choose barbarism; whether to practice universal values ​​or push the rules of the jungle; whether to preserve and strengthen the outdated totalitarianism or move toward a new democratic politics –– there is not much time left to waver.  

As a member of civil society, I look forward to China getting on the right track as soon as possible, but those selfish and greedy officials in the government are trying to pull the people back into barbarism. It is difficult to imagine what things would be like to have a China with 1.3 billion people suspended alone for a long period of time outside the civilized world: the deteriorating human rights situation in mainland China is not only a nightmare for the Chinese, but will also be a misfortune for all of humanity.

In the face of this grim situation, groups upon groups of Chinese people eager to live with dignity have fought for their rights and interests in various ways, so that future generations can live in a normal environment, and the Chinese nation will not become a burden to the world. Human rights defenders, including human rights lawyers, are to some extent shouldering a historical responsibility. As one of them, I hope they will receive more understanding, attention, support, and assistance from the international community.

……I will work together with other human rights defenders, from a new starting point, to make a due contribution to the protection of human rights and the advancement of the rule of law...

 

https://chinachange.org/2019/01/30/acceptance-speech-for-the-2018-french-republic-human-rights-prize/