Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyer’

Why does MP Tulip Siddiq not want to speak out on Bangladesh?

December 5, 2017

Michael Polak, a human rights lawyer in the UK , wrote in the Guardian of 4 December 2017 “Why will Tulip Siddiq not speak out on Bangladesh’s ‘disappeared’ innocents?”. Behind this title is a serious matter. Ahmad bin Quasem is among the hundreds abducted by state forces in Bangladesh, the country of which this British MP’s  aunt happens to be the prime minister. The author points out that the excuse that the MP has “no sway over Bangladeshi politics” is far from convincing as:.. “And yet earlier this week the Bangladeshi cabinet adopted a resolution “greeting” the Hampstead and Kilburn MP for winning an award in Westminster. Siddiq accompanied the Bangladeshi prime minister during bilateral talks between Russia and Bangladesh in January 2013. Her paternal uncle is Tarique Ahmed Siddique, security adviser to the prime minister. Her mother and brother are both on the ruling party’s council and it is said that her brother is being groomed to be a future leader of Bangladesh. It is clear that Tulip Siddiq has a close relationship with various government figures in Bangladesh, including the prime minister.

Why this MP feels so reluctant to use her influence and to speak out on this and other cases is a mystery. The details of the case of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces, follows below.
tulip siddiq
Tulip Siddiq. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty

Last year the family of one such victim approached me to press their case. Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, is a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces. They knocked on his door and, in front of his wife and young children, dragged him away. This abduction followed the exact modus operandi of other abductions by the security forces in Bangladesh. Since this incident there has been no confirmation of his whereabouts, but we believe that he is still alive.

Mir Ahmad was on the defence team for his father, Quasem Ali, who was prosecuted by Bangladesh’s self-styled “international crimes tribunal”, set up by the ruling party in Bangladesh to try crimes committed during the country’s war of liberation against Pakistan.

The tribunal has been widely criticised internationally, including by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and eminent British lawyers. Along these lines, Mir Ahmad decided to join his father’s defence team but was abducted a month before his father’s execution, while the appeal procedure was still under way.

Mir Ahmad has not been charged with any offence and his abduction and continued detention by the Bangladeshi government is contrary to the Bangladeshi constitution and the country’s obligations under international law. Forced disappearances are common in Bangladesh under the current government: more than 320 people have been disappeared since 2009.

Mir Ahmad is one of three sons of former politicians who were abducted at around the same time, one of whom has been released. In a secret recordingobtained by Swedish radio, it is claimed by a high-ranking government security officer that the fate of those seized is decided by those “high up”. Astonishingly, as reported in these pages, Sheikh Hasina recently claimed that such forced disappearances also occur in Britain and the US, saying “275,000 British citizens disappeared” in the UK each year.

Last week Channel 4 News raised the issue and put the matter to Siddiq. The interaction now has become a matter of public record. Siddiq complained that Mir Ahmad was not her constituent, that she had no sway over Bangladeshi politics and that in any case she was a British MP focusing on Britain…..Even if we are to take Siddiq at her word that she has no sway over Bangladeshi politics, what is preventing her from at least speaking out? My client may not be Siddiq’s constituent, but nor is he the constituent of Shabana Mahmood MP, who raised an official parliamentary question on the matter earlier this year.

Before and since the Channel 4 News report was aired, the family of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem have been visited by state security forces who have reportedly warned them that “if there is any such news, come next time we will not be good like this time and you will not get to see our face like today”.

Since it has come to this, I earnestly hope that Siddiq can speak out to try to help ensure that Mir Ahmad’s mother, sister, wife and two young daughters are not intimidated by the Bangladeshi security services or face enforced disappearance themselves. This is an urgent matter and I ask Tulip Siddiq, as I have done many times before, to speak to me so it can be resolved.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/tulip-siddiq-bangladesh-disappeared-abducted-prime-minister

 

In memoriam human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen in South Africa

November 27, 2017

Human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen has died.
THE legal fraternity is mourning the death of human rights lawyer Rudolph Jansen, who fought against injustice on behalf of the poor and marginalised for more than three decades, including with respect to the abolition of the death penalty, prison reform and land reform in South Africa. He was a long-standing member and former national director of Lawyers for Human Rights.Van Garderen, the head of Lawyers for Human Rights, Pretoria, wrote this obituary (excerpts):

Jansen, who leaves his wife Mariana, and two sons Rudolph and Gustav, died on Saturday in Limpopo, 53 years old. He completed his law studies at the University of Pretoria, and as a young advocate with the Pretoria Bar, quickly turned his attention to combating issues of inequality and injustice that were a hallmark of the apartheid state. His early and extensive pro bono work for Lawyers for Human Rights was representative of his commitment to the realisation of human rights in South Africa, which defined his career.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s Jansen joined other Lawyers for Human Rights to prevent the execution of political activists who were facing the death penalty. In those days Lawyers for Human Rights aimed at delaying executions, hopefully for long enough until the death penalty was eventually abolished. With its abolition in 1995, Jansen assisted Lawyers for Human Rights to expand its focus to unaddressed issues, including the awful conditions in prisons. With fellow human rights lawyers, Jansen challenged overcrowding, abusive practices like indefinite solitary confinement and other violations.

In 2003, Jansen took over as national director of Lawyers for Human Rights. He led the organisation for five years through a challenging period of transition and growth. Throughout, he remained a tireless champion of under-served communities in South Africa, inspiring the same commitment from his colleagues. When his tenure ended, Jansen resumed his practice at the Pretoria Bar, achieving senior status in 2014.

He developed a wide-ranging practice centred on human rights and public interest law, representing landless communities, unlawfully evicted people, and human rights defenders, among many others. Jansen’s work in recent years focused increasingly on the furtherance of South African land reform and restitution, to which he made an immeasurable contribution. His commitment to the successful implementation and achievement of this constitutional project saw him involved in ground-breaking cases addressing issues like post-settlement support and market-related pricing within the government’s willing-seller, willing-buyer policies.

Jansen’s advocacy in many of South Africa’s ground-breaking housing cases helped to ensure fair process and entrenched the right of dignity for many of the country’s marginalised. His latest involvement in legal challenges seeking to ensure the equitable distribution of the country’s mining benefits to affected communities represented the next step in his personal and professional quest for justice on behalf of those whose voices have historically been muted. He was an inspiration to many activists and human rights lawyers over the course of his life, and leaves behind a legion of individuals committed to taking forward his work and vision for a just and equal society.

 

The legacy of his work to quietly push for a more just society will continue to the next generation of human rights lawyers. Hamba kahle, Comrade Jansen.

https://www.iol.co.za/pretoria-news/top-city-human-rights-lawyer-dies-12164274

Jiang Tianyong, Chinese defender of defenders, sentenced to 2 years jail

November 21, 2017

Jiang Tianyong, 46, who had taken on many high-profile cases including those of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters and victims of the 2008 contaminated milk powder scandal, before being disbarred in 2009, received a two year jail sentence. He was convicted on the spurious grounds of “inciting subversion” on Tuesday. Jiang’s sentence is the most high-profile jailing since Xi confirmed his status as China’s most powerful leader in a generation at a Communist Party congress last month. Jiang’s family has been unable to contact him since his sudden disappearance last November en route from Beijing to Changsha, where he had gone to inquire about detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang.

Jiang Tianyong has long been infiltrated and influenced by anti-China forces and gradually formed the idea of overthrowing the existing political system of the country,” the judge said. The court said he had gone abroad for training on how to accomplish the goal and “applied for financial support from foreign anti-China forces”.

German Ambassador to China Michael Clauss expressed “serious concerns about the lawfulness of the legal proceedings”, saying in a statement the trial’s circumstances “certainly called into question the fairness of the verdict”. Germany will “continue to take an active interest in his fate,” he added.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, Michel Forst, has said he feared Jiang’s previous disappearance was in part retaliation for the lawyer’s assistance to UN experts.

Jiang’s sentence was “a textbook example of the Chinese authorities’ systematic persecution of those who are brave enough to defend human rights in China today,” said Amnesty International China researcher William Nee. It was likely to have a “chilling effect” on other activists, since the evidence used against him was so minimal: critical social media comments, attendance of overseas trainings, and showing moral support to other human rights defenders facing trials.

Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, said none of the lawyers she had hired were allowed to see him and she only learned in August that the court had appointed one. “I contacted him continuously, but as soon as he heard I was Jiang Tianyong’s wife, he would immediately hang up the phone,” Jin, who fled to the US in 2013, told AFP by telephone. Four wives of lawyers detained in the 709 crackdown who came to show support were harassed by plainclothes agents and also denied entry in Changsha. “When I heard all the charges they listed against him, I felt my husband was very righteous. They made me greatly admire him,” she said. “I think history will remember what my husband has done.”

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/chinese-human-rights-lawyers-jailed-for-two-years/article/508131

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/22/chinese-activist-jiang-tianyong-subversion-trial-dismissed-as-sham

breaking news: Egyptian defender Mohammed Zaree laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2017

October 10, 2017

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the highest accolade in the international human rights moment, has just announced that Mohamed Zaree, a human rights lawyer from Egypt, has been selected as the 2017 Laureate. The announcement was made on 10 October at 18h30, during the annual ceremony in Geneva. You can still follow it through live streaming at this very moment: via: https://www.facebook.com/villegeneve.ch/.

Mohamed Zaree is a human rights activist and legal scholar whose work focuses on human rights advocacy around freedom of expression and association. He is also known for his role as the Egypt Country Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), which works throughout the Arabic speaking world. He assumed this role after government pressure on CIHRS prompted them to relocate their headquarters to Tunis in 2014.

The Egyptian government has been escalating its pressure on the human rights movement. Human rights NGOs and defenders are confronted with a growing wave of threats, harassment, and intimidation, legal and otherwise. Despite this, Zaree continues to lead CIHRS’ research, human rights education, and national advocacy initiatives in Egypt and is shaping the media debate on human rights issues. During this critical period for civil society, he is also leading the Forum of Independent Egyptian Human Rights NGOs, a network aiming to unify human rights groups in advocacy. Zaree’s initiatives have helped NGOs to develop common approaches to human rights issues in Egypt. Within the context of the renewed crackdown on Egyptian human rights organizations, he has become a leading figure in Egypt’s human rights movement. Zaree is currently facing investigation under the “Foreign Funding Case” and is at high risk of prosecution and life imprisonment. The “Foreign Funding Case” highly restricts NGO activities. Despite this, Zaree continues to engage the authorities in dialogue wherever possible, arguing that respect for human rights will increase stability in Egypt. Zaree has been under a travel ban since May 2016.

Martin Ennals Foundation Chair Dick Oosting stated: “Severe restriction of civil society’s space to express itself is what led Mohamed Zaree to advocate for human rights and fight for the freedom of association. He is still paying the price for his courageous acts, and we urge his government to lift the travel ban.”

The unique composition of the Jury of the MEA [a coöperation by 10 global human rights organizations, see www.martinennalsaward.org for more detail] makes this award the most important prize in the human rights world. It is supported by the City of Geneva.

The two other finalists also received Martin Ennals prizes:

Karla Avelar (El Salvador)

FreeThe5KH (Cambodia)                                                            

For more on the award see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/18/ceremony-of-the-24th-martin-ennals-award-coming-up-on-10-october.  and

http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders

Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz in Kashmir awarded Rafto Prize 2017

September 30, 2017

Several newspapers (here the Indian Express) referred to the announcement of the RAFTO award 2017. On Thursday the Bergen-based group announced that the award has gone to human rights defenders Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz for their campaign “to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir that has inspired new generations across communities.” The Rafto Foundation noted “Parveena Ahangar and Imroz Parvez have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension.” For more on the Rafto award, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

Terming the award an acknowledgement from Europe, Imroz, human rights lawyers and the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said, “This helps to remind us that the international community has taken note of our struggles and our work.” “The state extends its control over every aspect of this conflict…. Speaking truth to power is not easy in these circumstances. This award is a recognition of the civil society in Kashmir” [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/human-rights-defender-khurram-parvez-reluctantly-released-in-india/

Source: J&K activist, lawyer awarded Rafto Prize | The Indian Express

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award 2017 to Venezuela’s Alfredo Romero

August 20, 2017

On 7 August 2017 RFK Human Rights announced that Venezuelan human rights defender and Alfredo Romero has been named the 2017 laureate of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Romero has been fearless in his resistance to the increasing repression of the Venezuelan government. He has dedicated his life to protect all Venezuelans from arbitrary detention and other human rights violations through his work as Executive Director of Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), a non-governmental organization that brings together over 200 pro-bono lawyers and 1,700 volunteers. The NGO won in 2015 already an award from the US State Department.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/23/us-state-department-2014-human-rights-defender-award-to-azimjon-askarov-and-foro-penal/]

I am very grateful for this Award, which I accept in honor of the struggle to achieve freedom for all Venezuelans,” Romero said. “The Award is a tribute to my family at Foro Penal Venezolano, which is united in its enduring commitment, conviction and heart, and above all, I accept it on behalf of the victims of repression by the Venezuelan government”.”

Even as we celebrate Alfredo’s honor, Venezuelans are suffering under a repressive regime that is increasingly eroding all democratic principles,” Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy said. “Alfredo’s work is a testament to the optimism and hope that will ultimately triumph over violence and repression.”

Source: | Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Maria Torres from Peru about ISHR’s Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme.

June 19, 2017

Hi, my name is Maria Torres. I come from Peru and I work as a lawyer for the International Institute on Law and Society. I became a lawyer because I wanted to fight against injustice. As a student, I travelled to the Amazon and I saw how indigenous people were suffering violations of their most basic human rights; and there was a lot of indifference from civil society. At that moment, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to this cause. It was really important that one of us in my organisation learns about UN mechanisms and that’s why I came to Geneva to attend ISHR’s training.”

Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head

June 9, 2017

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday 8 June 2017 called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, who has been under detention since June 6. It is heartening to see the two biggest NGOs coming to each other’ rescue from time to time. In February this year AI Israel co-signed a statement deploring the decision not to allow Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch to take on his post [“We stand in solidarity with him and our colleagues at HRW.”  – see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/]

The anti-terror unit of the Izmir police on Tuesday detained lawyer and human rights defender Kılıç together with 22 other attorneys as part of a witch-hunt targeting people linked to the Gülen movement. “Turkey should release Taner Kılıç, who is a tireless defender of human rights, known for his support for Amnesty International over many years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining Kılıç on suspicion of terrorist offenses looks like a tactic aimed at discrediting his legitimate human rights work.”

Kılıç is a founding member of AI Turkey and has been chairman of its board of directors since 2014. He has also played a strong role in advocating for refugee rights as a lawyer and with domestic nongovernmental groups and others working on these issues. The European Union on Thursday expressed concern about the recent detention of Taner Kılıç.

(According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

Source: Human Rights Watch urges Turkey to release Amnesty’s country head | Turkey Purge

Lawyer wins Front Line’s 2017 human rights award for helping Crimean Tartars

May 26, 2017

On 31 March this year  I announced the 5 nominees for Front Line’s human rights award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/31/finalists-for-the-2017-front-line-defenders-award-come-from-ukraine-nicaragua-vietnam-south-africa-and-kuwait/] and today the organization announced that the winner is Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer who is helping ethnic Tartars in Crimea.

Emil Kurbedinov said 'Winning an acquittal for my clients is almost impossible - but what I can do is show them that, despite the risks, I will not abandon them'

Emil Kurbedinov was at the ceremony in Dublin’s City Hall this morning to receive the Human Rights Defender At Risk award for 2017. According to Front Line Defenders, which has its global headquarters in Blackrock in Dublin, defending human rights activists and political prisoners in Crimea is some of the most dangerous work that any lawyer can undertake. Despite those risks, Mr Kurbedinov has spent years providing emergency legal response for the Crimean Tartar minority, which it maintains has been persecuted by Russian authorities.

In January of this year, Mr Kurbedinov was detained by representatives of Crimea’s Centre for Counteracting Extremism while on his way to represent a client whose house had been raided by police. A district court later sentenced him to ten days in detention on a charge of “propagandising for extremist organisations“.

The Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said: “In the midst of a global crackdown on human rights defenders, the five finalists demonstrate the will to persist in the face of severe, often life-threatening risks.

Source: Lawyer wins human rights award for helping Tartars

Killed Kenyan lawyer, Willie Kimani, named Jurist of the Year 2016

December 12, 2016

 

willie-kimani-killed-hrd-in-kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Kimani, the Kenyan human rights lawyer who was murdered this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/03/body-of-disappeared-human-rights-lawyer-kimani-client-found-kenya-impunity/], was honoured with an award for his bravery in defending the poor and oppressed in Kenya. While receiving the award, Kimani’s widow Hannah Kimani said she had never imagined that his standing up for justice would eventually amount to his death. “No amount of words can explain who Willy was. He was one of a kind… with this award, it shows that his work was not in vain,” she said.
Executive Director Samwel Mohochi of the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists said “We give it to him as recognition for the ultimate price he paid in performing his work as human rights defender and as a reminder to the risks that face all other human rights defenders”…“This will renew our commitment to all human rights defenders. It is an appreciation of the work he did”.

Source: Slain lawyer Willie Kimani honoured with yearly title

https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2016/12/murdered-lawyer-willie-kimani-named-jurist-of-the-year/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-willie-kimani