Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyers’

2020 Award of European Bars Associations (CCBE) goes to seven Egyptian lawyers who are in prison.

November 29, 2020

CCBE awards 2020 prize to Egyptian lawyers Ebru Timtik

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has granted its 2020 Human Rights Award to seven Egyptian lawyers who are currently in prison.

The body, which represents the Bars and Law Societies of 45 countries, has also given an exceptional posthumous award to Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik (pictured), who died in August 2020.

For more on this and other awards for lawyers see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/A3C73F81-6FCB-4DDD-9356-61C422713949

The seven Egyptian lawyers are:

  • Haytham Mohammadein, a human rights lawyer and labour activist,
  • Hoda Abdelmoniem, former member of the National Council for Human Rights, spokesperson for the Revolutionary Coalition of Egyptian Women and consultant for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF),
  • Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, a lawyer, member of the ECRF and co-founder of the Egyptian Association of Families of the Disappeared (EAFD),
  • Mahienour El-Massry, who is often described as a voice of the revolution and is active in the defence of women’s rights and many other citizen’s rights,
  • Mohamed El-Baqer, director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, 
  • Mohamed Ramadan, a lawyer whose work involves legally representing human rights defenders,
  • Zyad El-Eleimy, a lawyer and a former parliamentarian in Egypt.
  • See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/24/egypt-extended-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-protesting-the-protests-law/

Ebru Timtik was a distinguished Turkish lawyer belonging to the Progressive Lawyers Association and the People’s Law Office.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/26/timtik-sisters-in-turkey-share-2020-ludovic-trarieux-prize/

The virtual Award ceremony will be held during the CCBE Plenary Session today (27 November).

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/ccbe-awards-2020-prize-to-egyptian-lawyers/

Philippine lawyer Neri Colmenares wins 2020 IBA award

November 10, 2020

Bulatlat of 10 November 2020 reports that Neri Colmenares, one of the country’s most prominent public interest lawyers, has won the human rights award of the International Bar Association (IBA) for his “extensive contribution to human rights, and his continuing determination and advocacy, in the face of great adversity.”

The presentation was made on Monday, 9 November, during the online Section on Public and Professional Interest Awards ceremony as part of the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference. For more on this and other awards for human rights lawyers, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/AD2B7828-1A5B-4224-B85B-FA2CC0121114

Himself a victim of unrelenting red-baiting by military, police and government officials for his human rights advocacy and activism, Colmenares is a former three-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives and is currently the national chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). He is also a leader of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties and adviser for advocacy of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Colmenares’ human rights advocacy began when he became the Western Visayas regional chairperson of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines during martial law in the 1970s. While campaigning for the return of student councils in schools ordered closed by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Colmenares was arrested and tortured by the military.

He spent four years in jail as one of martial law’s youngest political prisoners at 18. After his release from prison, Colmenares earned his BA Economics degree from San Beda University (SBU), his law degree from the University of the Philippines and his Master of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia on scholarship.

As a human rights lawyer, Colmenares has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court and championed causes in the legislature in support of marginalized sectors, including the following:

* The Party List Election Case in 2000, which led to the High Court ordering that 20 per cent of the seats in Congress be reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented poorer .

* The Pork Barrel Case during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration that led the Supreme Court to declare the Congressional practice as unconstitutional.

* In 2017 Mr Colmenares, alongside fellow human rights lawyers, constitutionalists and several law students, established Manlaban sa EJK that campaigns against the continuing extra judicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.

* Colmenares is also acting as co-counsel in a complaint against President Duterte for crimes against humanity, filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by families of extrajudicial killing victims.

* Colmenares is a counsel-complainant in one of the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

As a parliamentarian, Colmenares advocated for the democratic rights of those with disabilities and the elderly, such as special election precincts to assist them in voting, as well as introducing the Early Voting Law for media personnel who would be covering the election on the day.

He also authored the law mandating the Philippine government to issue early warning to citizens during disasters and calamities as well as an increase of benefits given to social security system pensioners, among many other pieces of legislation.

In 2005, Colmenares helped organize the Counsels for the Defense against Attacks on Lawyers, a group of lawyers and law students advocating against the unlawful killings and arrests of their colleagues under then President Arroyo.

Colmenares (second from left) denouncing extra-judicial killings. (Photo from Neri Colmenares’s Facebook account)

In bestowing him the award, IBA Human Rights Law Committee co-chairperson Federica D’Alessandra said Colmenares has drawn on every tool in the legal toolbox, from legislation, to litigation, to advocacy in order to advance human rights and the rule of law for the protection of the Filipino people.

With this award the IBA recognizes [Colmenares’] incredible accomplishments, and celebrates his great resolve as he continues to fight for media freedom, and stand against extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and unlawful detention in the Philippines,” D’Alessandra said.

“It could not have come at a better time than now that human rights lawyers and defenders in the Philippines are under attack especially in the form of vicious vilification commonly referred to as red-tagging,” the NUPL said.

Colmenares said the award is both an honor and an inspiration to human rights lawyers like them to continue their work with the people despite the threats and difficulties. He said awards from established international institutions like the IBA serves as a mantle of protection to threatened lawyers worldwide.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/duterte-speech-at-general-asembly-tries-to-divert-attention-from-killings-by-discrediting-ngos/

Fifty (50) lawyers and judges have been killed in the Philippines since 2016 and this award will also provide a mantle of protection for human rights lawyers like me,” Colmenares said.

https://www.bulatlat.com/2020/11/10/neri-colmenares-wins-international-human-rights-award/

Timtik sisters in Turkey share 2020 Ludovic Trarieux Prize

September 26, 2020

This year’s Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize has been granted to arrested lawyers Barkın Timtik and her sister lawyer Ebru Timtik, who lost her life on a death fast for a fair trial.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/29/human-rights-defender-ebru-timtik-dies-in-istanbul-hospital-after-238-days-hungerstrike/

For more on this and other awards for human rights lawyers, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/7C413DBA-E6F6-425A-AF9E-E49AE17D7921

For last year, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/22/2019-ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-award-goes-to-rommel-duran-castellanos-of-colombia/

—–

http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/231534-ludovic-trarieux-human-rights-prize-awarded-to-lawyers-barkin-and-ebru-timtik

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/international/posthumous-award-for-turkish-lawyer-who-died-on-hunger-strike-892583.html

Lawyers are the frontline warriors and defenders of the rule of law

September 15, 2020

Thanks to student Amrita Nair in the Leaflet of 14 September 2020 we have a good report of Indira Jaising‘s webinar: “The nature of the Legal Profession: Its role, challenges and limitations

She referred to the courts as the conflict zones and lawyers being people who resolve conflicts.

Quoting Atticus Finch, Jaising stated that the courts are to be great levelers where all men must be treated equally, but alas, this is ideal, but not necessarily the situation. Bias, blind prejudice, and lack of access to legal services have created huge gaps between people, making them less equal from one another. People come to the courts for all sorts of reasons. But the largest litigant in the court of law is the State, being respondent in a plethora of cases relating to fundamental rights violations and enjoying the monopoly for prosecuting crimes, among other things. While the state has the privilege to prosecute crimes, several individuals find themselves arrayed as accused persons in these cases, warranting the help of legal representation to prevent being stripped off of their right to life and liberty. The fight of an individual against the might of the state is unequal in criminal cases, making the system intrinsically unequal and discriminatory. Not every individual has the resources to hire a lawyer who could represent their case to the best of their capabilities. It is during such times that lawyers must come to the rescue of the unfortunate and underprivileged, to help restore balance in the system.

Jaising traced back the history of the evolution of the legal profession, stating that India got it from the British and emphasised how important it is to study the history of courts to understand how and why they function the way they do, today.

She spoke about the concept of the Star Chambers where the proceedings went on in closed chambers with only the judge, the jury, and the executioner present. Emphasis was laid on how there was no legal representation allowed and everything depended on how a person defended his own case, making it highly arbitrary as not everyone possessed the skills to defend themselves.

The emergence of the legal profession came with the modern judges having local experience and the position of the Barrister being created, with wide powers including the power to remove other advocates. The judicial system has come a long way since then, with modern-day High Courts and the Supreme Court making their own rules and the monopoly of Barristers being removed.

The Indian Bar Council Act was enforced with the objective of unifying various practicing advocates under the banner of lawyers or the members of the Bar. The Bar Councils were given more powers with regard to the decisions in matters of education, regulation and appointment. The Advocates Act of 1961 established an All India Bar which had wide powers and duties in regard to the legal profession.

Jaising remarked that the rejection of the Star Chambers and the need to protect the life and liberty of the people is what our system is based on. Lawyers are the frontline warriors and defenders of rule of law, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.

She said it was the duty of the lawyers in defending and upholding the values of the 73-year-old Constitution of India.

While speaking about the Parliamentary form of government, Jaising observed that the government does may claim to represent the will of the people, but their decisions and laws are subject to judicial review and even a majoritarian government cannot violate the basic features of the Constitution. It was the duty of the lawyers to question them when they seemed to deviate from the constitutional principles and mandate.

Addressing the issues surrounding the independence of the judiciary, Jaising stated that there cannot be an independent judiciary without the independence of the legal profession. Just as there exists the separation of powers between the three branches of the government, lawyers must be independent of judges. They must be allowed to make bona fide criticism of judges and the judgements or else the system gets reduced to the archaic Star Chambers, without any voice of opposition.

She explained that being charged with contempt of court charge by the judiciary threatened the independence of the legal profession. Prashant Bhushan’s case being a recent example. In Bhushan’s case, the court exercised powers to convict him dehors the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.  Fundamental rights can only be restricted by law and not by relying on the inherent powers to convict, the court threatened the freedom of speech and the independence of the legal system by bypassing the Act.

“Lawyers need to be respectful of judges, but not sycophants. Lawyers who bend over backward for judges pose a threat to the independence of the legal system,” she said.

According to her, an attack on one lawyer is an attack against the entire profession. The ability of lawyers to speak truth to power must be defended collectively through Bar Associations and Bar Councils. The need of the hour is more Bar Associations that speak out on issues of Human Rights, she said.

Jaising explained how the police were often the biggest lawbreakers, relying on the media to defame the innocent. Press conferences being held by the police while the case is sub judice brings prejudice into the matter and amounts to contempt of court. It is the lawyers that step in to defend the individuals against the might of the State and a prejudiced media, she said.

She pointed out that the right to legal representation itself is under attack. She spoke of how the State had the time and again targeted various lawyers defending the foundations of the Indian Constitution by standing against CAA, defending human rights, criticizing the State among other things. As lawyers and members of the legal community, despite all attacks, the only way to live is to stand up for our rights.

When asked about the pay gap between a corporate job and litigation and whether one would have enough to fend for themselves if they take up the litigation route, Jaising made an observation that the ones who chose the corporate path realised soon that the pursuit of wealth is not giving them any satisfaction. She responded by saying that all law students must come together and demand that all juniors working with a senior advocate must be paid a minimum amount of salary that is pre-decided and equal for all. It must be taken up at an institutional level and the Bar Council must come up with a rule to tackle this problem. Like in the US, ones engaging in pro bono work must have their loans waived and must do a mandatory 2-3 years of pro bono with law firms. She encouraged students to engage in work that they’re passionate about and not be driven by the quest for money. The satisfaction derived out of the work is priceless and one will never feel the lack of money when they engage in the work that they love and are passionate about.

In response to a question regarding the emotional connect of a lawyer with a client and the righteousness of the law and how it might prove to be an impediment, Jaising said that it is always possible to have an emotional connection with the client while also being dispassionate about the case. It is important to not make a conflict out of the two. One must not lie or manipulate the record but make the judge see the law as they see it or how the law ought to be seen.

“Get up, stand up and stand up for your rights!” said Jaising. She urged law students and lawyers to become human rights defenders and fight for principles they believed in.

The ability of lawyers to speak truth to power must be defended collectively by the Bar: Indira Jaising

Human rights defender Ebru Timtik dies in Istanbul hospital after 238 days hungerstrike

August 29, 2020

Ebru Timtik, 42, died in an Istanbul hospital late Thursday 27 August 2020, the Progressive Lawyers’ Association said. She had been fasting for 238 days. The lawyer and 17 of her colleagues were accused of links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP/C, a militant group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. She was convicted in March 2019 and sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison. Her case was under review by an appeals court.

Timtik started the hunger strike in February to protest alleged unfair proceedings during the trial, along with another colleague, Aytac Unsal, who is reported to be in a critical condition. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/06/online-conference-for-ebru-timtik-and-aytac-unsal-on-11-august-2020/]

On Friday, police tried to prevent a crowd of her supporters from gathering outside the Istanbul Bar Association for a memorial, the Evrensel newspaper reported. Later, riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to block a protest march. At least one lawyer was detained, the paper said. “Ebru Timtik is immortal” and “Aytac Unsal is our honor,” some of the mourners chanted, according to Evrensel.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said: “Ebru Timtik’s hunger strike for a fair trial and its tragic outcome painfully illustrate the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country and the serious shortcomings observed in the Turkish judiciary,” Stano said.

Ms. Timtik’s death is a tragic illustration of the human suffering caused by a judicial system in Turkey that has turned into a tool to silence lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists,” said Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but consume liquids and take vitamins that prolong their protests. Timtik’s death comes months after two members of a left-wing popular folk group that is banned in Turkey also died of a hunger strike. They had also been accused of links to the DHKP/C.

https://www.startribune.com/turkish-lawyer-dies-on-hunger-strike-demanding-fair-trial/572249512/

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/08/turkey-ebru-timtik-hunger-strike-dies-lawyer-kurdish-prison.html

Online conference for Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal on 11 August 2020

August 6, 2020

Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) will organise an online press conference on
11 August 2020 at 4.00 – 4.45 pm (CEST) to inform about the situation of human rights lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal from Turkey, who are serving long prison sentences and have been on hunger strike since February 2020.
Speakers are : Irma van den Berg (Lawyers for Lawyers), Tony Fisher (London), Mehmet Durakoğlu (the president of İstanbul Bar Association) and other speakers who will be confirmed later.
From 4.30 – 4.45 pm there will a Q&A, only for journalists.
Background information:
Since 4 August Ebru Timtik is on 215th day of her hunger strike (death fast)
and Aytaç Ünsal is on 184th day of his. They have been under pre-trial detention for almost 3 years. Their lawyers, recently, submitted a request to Istanbul 37th Assize Court before which they have been tried which demanded their release on the basis that their health had deteriorated to such an extent that it was not appropriate that they remain in prison. Upon receipt of this request the Court transferred Ebru and Aytaç to the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute and asked the experts to examine them. The experts at the Institute reported that Ebru and Aytaç’s physical condition made it inappropriate for them to remain in detention. The Court, instead of releasing them pending the outcome of their appeal, ordered their transfer to a hospital following this report. They are currently
held as pre-trial detainees in a special ward of a hospital that is a Covid-19 Pandemic Hospital with no access to the outside world and similar limitations imposed on them as they would have been subject to had they remained in prison.
Ebru and Aytaç have passed several critical stages since the beginning of their protest against their conviction of terrorist offences, together with 16 other progressive lawyers, based on allegations of anonymous witnesses, evidence to which they did not have access and, more generally, the systemic violation of fair trial rights in Turkey in the present day (a full summary of the proceedings against them and against other colleagues is enclosed). The physical condition they are in now is extremely
worrisome, especially for Ebru who is seen as being in a near death situation.
Ebru and Aytaç are two of over 1,500 lawyers arrested and prosecuted for alleged terrorist offences in Turkey since the attempted coup in July 2016. Many Turkish and European bar associations, lawyers’ organisations and NGO’s reported on the serious flaws in the case against them, the
situation of the lawyers in Turkey and the violations which they have suffered.
Technical details:
The event will be held at Zoom. The link and the technical details will be shared with the confirmed participants the same day of the event. Simultaneous translation will be available between Turkish and English.
Please write an email including your full name, profession and the organisation or media outlet you represent (if there is any) by 10 August 2020 at serifecerenuysal@gmail.com, info@lawyersforlawyers.nl or aysebingol@hotmail.com if you are willing to join.

https://lawyersforlawyers.org/en/lawyers-ebru-timtik-and-aytac-unsal-not-released/?fbclid=IwAR2toIN0L9GZn9wj66d3EpagviIbSj_SmS4xUrqDVG44zVLEVqHuFv42k5A

Sri Lanka: Lawyers, Human Rights Defenders, and Journalists Arrested, Threatened, Intimidated

July 30, 2020

In a joint statement published on 29 July 2020 entitled “Sri Lanka: Human Rights Under Attack” by Human Rights Watch and 9 other major NGOs confirms what many have been fearing since the presidential election of November 2019, [See: defenders-in-sri-lanka-fear-return-to-a-state-of-fear/]:

The United Nations, as well Sri Lanka’s partners and foreign donors, should immediately call for full respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all Sri Lankans, and particularly to halt the reversal of fragile gains in the protection of human rights in recent years.

Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, have been placed under the control of the Defence Ministry. Serving and retired military officers have been appointed to a slew of senior government roles previously held by civilians. The authorities have recently  established military-led bodies such as the Presidential Task Force to build “a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society,” which has the power to issue directives to any government official. This represents an alarming trend towards the militarization of the state. Many of those in government, including the president, defense secretary, and army chief, are accused of war crimes during the internal armed conflict that ended in 2009.

Dissident voices and critics of the current government, including lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and victims of past abuses, are being targeted by the police, intelligence agencies and pro-government media.

Since the presidential election in November 2019, anti-human rights rhetoric intended to restrict the space for civil society has been amplified by senior members of government. On 6 July 2020, at an election rally, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that “NGOs will be taken into a special attention under the new government formed after the General Election, specifically, how foreign monies and grants are received to the NGOs from foreign countries and further, activities of the international organisations will be observed.” The government has also announced a probe into NGOs registered under the previous government.

In the months following the November 2019 presidential election, a number of organizations reported visits from intelligence officers who sought details of staff, programs and funding, in particular, organizations in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces of the country. Such visits are blatant attempts to harass and intimidate Sri Lankan civil society.

In February, the acting District Secretary in the Mullaitivu District (Northern Province) issued a directive that only non-governmental organizations with at least 70 percent of their activities focused on development would be allowed to work, effectively enabling arbitrary interference with and prevention of a broad range of human rights work. A Jaffna-based think-tank was visited several times, including soon after the Covid-19 lockdown, and questioned about its work, funding and staff details.

Lawyers taking on human rights cases have been targeted through legal and administrative processes and have faced smear campaigns in the media. Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a human rights lawyer, was a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jaffna. He appeared as counsel on behalf of victims in the case of 24 Tamil youth who were subjected to enforced disappearance while in military custody at Navatkuli in 1996. In November 2019, Guruparan was banned by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from teaching law while also practicing in court. The ban was following a letter sent by the Sri Lankan army to the UGC questioning why Guruparan was permitted to engage in legal practice while being a member of the faculty. Guruparan resigned from the University on 16 July 2020.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/02/sri-lankan-human-rights-defender-barred-from-legal-practice-appeals-to-supreme-court/

On 14 April, Hejaaz Hizbullah, a lawyer who has represented victims of human rights violations, was arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He is being held illegally without charge and without being produced before a magistrate for over 90 days. He has had limited access to his lawyers and family members. The day before his arrest, Hizbullah joined others in submitting a letter addressed to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa criticising the denial of burial rights to the Muslim community under Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 regulations.

Achala Senevirathne, a lawyer who represents families in a case involving the enforced disappearance of 11 youth in 2008, in which senior military commanders are implicated, has been attacked on social media, including with threats of physical violence and sexualized abuse. The police have failed to act on her complaints of threats to her safety.

On 10 June, Swastika Arulingam, a lawyer, was arrested when she inquired about the arrests of people conducting a peaceful Black Lives Matter solidarity protest. Other lawyers, not named here for reasons of security, have also been visited at their homes by security officials, or called in for lengthy interrogations linked to their human rights work.

Journalists and those voicing critical opinions on social media, have been arbitrarily arrested. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the clampdown on freedom of expression, including the 1 April announcement by the police that any person criticizing officials engaged in the response to Covid-19 would be arrested. It is unclear whether there is any legal basis for such arrests. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has cautioned against “an increasing number of such arrests since the issuing of a letter dated 1 April 2020”.

Media rights groups have condemned the targeting of journalists since the presidential election, with threats of arrest, surveillance, and lengthy police interrogations linked to their reporting. Dharisha Bastians, former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper and a contributor to the New York Times, her family, and associates, have been persecuted by Sri Lankan police in retaliation for her work. Since December 2019, authorities have attempted to link Bastians to the disputed abduction of a Swiss Embassy employee in Colombo. The government claims the alleged abduction was fabricated to discredit the government. Since Bastians had reported on the incident as a journalist, the police have obtained and published her phone records, searched her house, and seized her laptop computer.

On 9 April, a social media commentator Ramzy Razeek was arrested under Sri Lanka’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act and the Computer Crimes Act. He approached the Sri Lankan police for protection following online death threats linked to his social media posts condemning all forms of extremism. Instead of receiving protection, he was jailed and denied bail. His hearing has been postponed, despite his failing health and the heightened risk posed by the pandemic in prisons.

The targeting and repression of journalists and human rights defenders is not only an assault on the rights of these individuals, but an attack on the principles of human rights and the rule of law which should protect all Sri Lankans. These policies have a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are crucial for the operation of civil society and fundamental to the advancement of human rights. Those working on ending impunity and ensuring accountability for past crimes, and especially victims, victim’s families, members of minority communities, and networks in the Northern and Eastern provinces, are particularly at risk of intimidation and harassment.

The Sri Lankan authorities must end all forms of harassment, threats, and abuse of legal processes and police powers against lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. Ramzy Razeek and Hejaaz Hizbullah must be released immediately. Human rights defenders living and working in Sri Lanka should be able to carry out their peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisals, which requires a safe and enabling environment in which they can organize, assemble, receive and share information.

While the government of Sri Lanka continues to deny Sri Lankans the ability to promote and defend human rights, particularly targeting members of civil society, we call upon the international community, including states and the United Nations, to demand that Sri Lanka live up to its international human rights obligations.

Sri Lankan human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists need to be protected now.

https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/07/Final%20-%20Joint%20Statement%20on%20Sri%20Lanka%2029%20July.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/29/sri-lanka-human-rights-under-attack

List of Lawyers Imprisoned in Iran for Defending Human Rights

June 24, 2020

On 23 June 2020 the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) published under the title “No Lawyers, No Justice” a list of lawyers imprisoned in Iran for defending Human Rights Defenders. The adagium “utopia is a world without lawyers” clealry does not apply to Iran:

At least nine known cases of attorneys that have been arrested, charged with national security-related crimes, and/or banned from practicing law in the last two years. In addition to the list below, CHRI maintains this regularly updated list of lawyers known to have been imprisoned in Iran for their work defending the law.

Payam Derafshan: Held incommunicado at an unknown location since his arrest in June 2020 on unannounced charges. In May 2020, he was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence for“insulting the supreme leader,” and suspended from practicing law for two years.

Soheila Hejab: Held at Gharchak Prison since May 2020, serving an 18-year prison sentence, five of which she must serve before becoming eligible for parole for “forming a group for women’s rights.”

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Detained in June 2018 and sentenced to 38 years in prison, 12 years of which she must serve before becoming eligible for parole. Among her charges were “encouraging prostitution” for advocating against compulsory hijab. Previously she served three years in prison for “acting against national security” and “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”

Mohammad Najafi: Imprisoned for demanding accountability for deaths in detention and facing new unspecified charges, he was sentenced in 2019 to 13 years in prison for “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “collaborating with enemy states,” in addition to a four-year prison sentence in 2018. He must serve 10 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Amirsalar Davoudi: Behind bars since November 2018, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 11 lashes. He will be eligible for release after serving 15 years under the charge of forming “an illegal group,” which was a news channel for lawyers on the Telegram messaging app.

Arash Keykhosravi, who, along with fellow lawyer Ghasem Sholeh Sa’di, was sentenced to six years in prison but later acquitted, is facing new charges of “publishing falsehoods” for writing an article criticizing the imprisonment of attorney Mohammad Najafi.

Abdolfattah Soltani, who spent more than seven years behind bars for defending political prisoners, and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who was sentenced in 2012 to nine years in prison but released on furlough in 2013, are both banned from practicing law.

The assault on rights lawyers in Iran has been occurring amid a backdrop of two major changes to the legal process that have facilitated the authorities’ ability to convict defendants in politically motivated prosecutions on unsubstantiated charges.

In January 2018, Iranian courts began citing the Note to Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulationsas justification for forcing defendants to choose their legal counsel from a court-approved list. The note also allows a delay in an individual’s access to counsel in cases involving “national security” charges, which are used against perceived critics of the state.

In a second blow to due process, in November 2019, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi ruled that Appeal Courts could issue verdicts without the presence of defendants and their attorneys, rendering the appeal process effectively meaningless.

If the head of the judiciary can stop lawyers from practicing, it’s time to say goodbye to this profession,” Sotoudeh said in 2018. She was arrested two months after making the comments and has been behind bars ever since. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/nasrin-sotoudeh/]

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2020/06/no-lawyers-no-justice-attorneys-imprisoned-in-iran-for-defending-human-rights/

Wang Quanzhang must be granted freedom, not ‘non-release release’ and on 22 April that happened

April 5, 2020

On 3 April 2020 Michael Caster wrote “If you care about human rights in China, April 5 – this Sunday – should be circled on your calendar. On that day, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, my old friend and colleague, after an outrageous series of abuses by the Chinese state, is set to walk free. Wang, a defender of villagers’ rights and religious minorities, has been disappeared into Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), hidden under a false name in pre-trial detention for years, and subjected to a secret trial where he was refused legal representation.

wang quanzhang

An activist holds a sign calling for Wang Quanzhang’s release in Hong Kong. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

…..China law scholar Jerome Cohen coined the term “non-release release” in 2016, then discussing the fake release of human rights lawyer Wang Yu. Like Wang Quanzhang, she had been held in secret for months under RSDL, where she was also tortured….Since Wang was disappeared, his wife Li has also become a fierce defender, despite mounting intimidation from the police. On March 24, Li received a hand-written letter from Wang in prison saying that after release he will likely have to return to his hometown in Jinan. Those of us who know China can read between the lines. Wang risks being forcibly sent away, where he will be kept, apart from his police escorts, away from all others including his family. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/05/li-wenzu-wife-of-wang-quanzhang-wins-2018-edelstam-award/

Responding to the release of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang after four and a half years in prison for “subverting state power”, Amnesty International’s China Researcher Doriane Lau said on 5 April 2020: “There are reasons to fear that Wang Quanzhang’s release from prison offers merely the illusion of freedom. The Chinese government has a history of monitoring and controlling human rights defenders even after they’re released from jail…..Wang Quanzhang was targeted by the government for his work defending human rights and helping to expose corruption. It is an outrage that he was ever jailed in the first place, but now he has served his sentence the authorities must immediately lift all restrictions on him and allow him to return to his family home.

And then on 27 April 2020: ‘Feels Like a Dream’: Teary Reunion for Freed Chinese Human Rights Lawyer and Family

Many activists and lawyers targeted in the 2015 crackdown were subject to heavy surveillance and deprived of freedom of movement after they were released from prison or detention. Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong went missing immediately after finishing a two-year prison sentence. He was subsequently sent back to his hometown, where he and his family were closely monitored and followed by the authorities. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/]

5 june 2020: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/05/chinese-human-rights-lawyer-released-after-4-years-0

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/china-wang-quanzhang-freedom-an-illusion-until-government-lifts-ruthless-restrictions/

UN experts alarmed over China’s missing human rights lawyers: victims of RSDL

March 24, 2020

Ding Jiaxi was disbarred and previously jailed for protesting against official corruption. (Twitter pic/L4L_INT)

A group of UN special rapporteurs said on Monday 23 March 2020 that they were “gravely concerned” about the welfare of three human rights lawyers “forcibly disappeared” by Chinese authorities shortly after their arrests last December. Ding Jiaxi, a prominent Beijing-based disbarred lawyer, previously jailed for protesting against official corruption, and lawyers Zhang Zhongshun and Dai Zhenya have been held since late last year in so-called “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL – see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/). The three were among more than a dozen lawyers and activists who were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019 in what rights groups have said was a crackdown on participants of a private democracy gathering.

Nine other lawyers and activists who attended the informal weekend gathering in the city of Xiamen “have also been summoned for questioning or detained in what has been a cross-provincial operation led by a special taskforce of Yantai City police,” the experts pointed out.

The experts acknowledged that there are provisions in international law that allow exceptional measures to be taken to protect public order and national security. But they insisted that “enforced disappearance is a grave and flagrant violation of human rights and is unacceptable in all circumstances” .“We are dismayed that national security provisions are used to target human rights defenders who meet peacefully and exercise their right to free speech, even if such speech is critical of the state,” they said.The experts also cautioned that the arrest and detention of the three lawyers could have a “chilling effect” on the defence of human rights in China. “When the authorities in any country systemically charge human rights defenders with ‘subversion of state power’ or other terror-related charges without clearly communicating the factual basis for such accusations, we worry that these defenders are just being persecuted for the exercise of their most basic human rights,” they said. Earlier this month, activists revealed that Xu Zhiyong, an outspoken Chinese rights activist who called for President Xi Jinping to step down over the coronavirus outbreak, had been charged with “inciting state subversion” and had been placed in RSDL since mid-February. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/06/2013-turned-into-nightmare-for-human-rights-defenders/]

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/03/23/un-experts-alarmed-over-chinas-missing-human-rights-lawyers/