Posts Tagged ‘human rights lawyers’

Israel bars human rights lawyers from the USA

May 4, 2018

Two U.S. human rights lawyers were detained Sunday 29 April 2018 for 14 hours at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport before being deported back to the United States. Columbia University’s professor of law, gender and sexuality studies Katherine Franke and Center for Constitutional Rights’ executive director Vincent Warren were repeatedly questioned about their associations with groups critical of Israel. They were part of a delegation of American human rights defenders heading to Israel and Palestine to learn about the human rights situation and meet with local activists. They arrived back in New York City early Monday. Hear the interview with Vincent Warren and Katherine Franke via:

Update on Turkey: Taner Kılıç released but what about all the others?

January 31, 2018

Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, after nearly eight months in detention, Gauri van Gulik, AI’s Europe Director said: “It is an enormous relief that Taner will soon be back with his wife and daughters, sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost eight months. But we cannot forget that many other innocent people remain behind bars without a shred of evidence in Turkey.” “Today we take a brief moment to celebrate, but tomorrow we will continue our struggle to have all charges dropped against Taner, the Istanbul 10, and all other innocent victims wrongfully caught up in this vicious crackdown.”

NOTE:  1 February update in http://gkmen.com/2018/02/01/turkey-court-reverses-release-of-amnesty-head-taner-kilic/: “Andrew Gardner, a senior Amnesty researcher on Turkey, tweeted that Kılıç was transferred from prison custody to gendarmerie custody late Wednesday. While the Istanbul court rejected the appeal, it nonetheless sent the application to another court for a decision on Kilik’s detention. “This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice”, he added. The group said the next hearing in his trial has been set for June 21.

While Kılıç has now been released, the trial against him, director of Amnesty International Turkey İdil Eser, and the other nine human rights defenders on trumped-up terrorism related charges continues. [Kılıç was detained on June 6, 2017 and sent to jail three days later, where he has been ever since. Ten other activists “the Istanbul 10”, including Eser, were detained a month later. Eight of them were held for almost four months before being released on bail at their first hearing in October. The Istanbul 10 were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization,” a baseless allegation for which the prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence that would stand up to scrutiny. – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/ ]

Over 570 lawyers arrested in Turkey in last 18 months

Turkish police wrestle a lawyer to the ground outside of a courthouse in Turkey. (Photo: Social Media)
 Ari Khalidi (Kurdistan24.net) reported on 30 January 2018 that an opposition lawmaker in Turkey revealed on Tuesday that authorities had arrested 572 lawyers during the one and a half year-long state of emergency in place since a failed military coup to topple the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Senal Sarihan told a press conference at the Turkish Parliament that of the lawyers arrested, 488 faced maltreatment in police custody, as 79 of them were given prison sentences.

..Last week, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urged the Turkish government to stop persecuting lawyers.

This situation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and is a deliberate attack on human rights defenders and legal professionals. We call on the Turkish government to bring an end to this deplorable situation and to adhere to international instruments,” IBAHRI’s Co-Chair Hans Corell said. According to IBAHRI, 1,488 lawyers were prosecuted, and 34 bar associations were shut down in Turkey.

http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/dc830090-68a9-4f8f-a766-d4725d5f9e6a

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/turkish-court-releases-amnesty-chair-after-nearly-8-months-in-jail/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/turkey-media-activists-political-opposition-targeted

https://www.ft.com/content/797ff3d2-f228-11e7-b220-857e26d1aca4

24 January 2018: Day of the Endangered Lawyer – focus on Egypt

January 22, 2018

I did not know about this special Day for Endangered Lawyers which is meant to call for the attention of lawyers all over the world for colleagues who are being harassed, silenced, pressured, threatened, persecuted, tortured, killed and disappeared.  Although relatively unknown, it has the support of several lawyers’ organizations such as:

The Association European Democratic Lawyers www.aeud.org
The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights www.eldh.eu
Vereniging Sociale Advocatuur Nederland www.vsanadvocaten.nl
Lawyers for lawyers www.lawyersforlawyers.nl
Colombia Caravana UK Lawyersgroup www.colombiancaravana.org.uk
European Bar Human Rights Institute www.idhae.org
Avocats sans Frontières www.asf-network.org

The Foundation has devoted its attention to the situation in Iran, Turkey, Basque Country, Columbia and the Philippines in the past. In 2016 the focus was on the situation in Honduras. Detailed information and reports are available at www.aeud.org.

The UK Law Society president Joe Egan said: ‘We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers around the world who uphold justice, often despite considerable risk to themselves, their colleagues and their families.’ The country focus for the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2018 is Egypt, where lawyers and human rights defenders face prosecution and travel bans for carrying out professional duties.

For other posts see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/human-rights-lawyers/

http://dayoftheendangeredlawyer.eu/backgrounds/#EstablishingTheFoundation

RSDL: China’s legalization of disappearances

December 30, 2017

It would nice – for a change – to be able to report improvements in the situation of human rights defenders but as feared at the beginning of this year that has not happened. Here the case of China:

On 15 December 2017 China itself issued a White Paper hailing its ‘remarkable progress’ in the ‘law-based protection of human rights’ over the last five years. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch called it ‘hollow’ and a ‘self-congratulatory report’. Here some recent developments especially linked to the tactic of temporary disappearance RSDL:

There is a very informative blog post by Peter Dalin[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/] about his friend Wang Quanzhang  in the Hong Kong Free Press (30 December) under the title “The last missing lawyer: a victim of China’s new willingness to flout international human rights norms“. The piece details the system of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and points to its increasing use and danger that it may spread. (See below in green.)

One example of this practice came this week when a court sentenced Wu Gan to eight years in prison. Using social media and outlandish performance art, he went by the online handle “Super Vulgar Butcher” and likened himself to a meat cutter who was making short work of those who violate human rights. After the harsh sentence was imposed in Tianjin, Wu delivered an eloquent statement through his lawyers, speaking with clarity and courage. “For those living under a dictatorship,” he declared, “being given the honourable label of one who ‘subverts state power’ is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen. It’s proof that the citizen wasn’t an accomplice or a slave, and that at the very least he went out and defended, and fought for, human rights.” The authorities, he said, attempted to force him to plead guilty and co-operate in propaganda videos in exchange for a suspended sentence. “I rejected it all. My eight-year sentence doesn’t make me indignant or hopeless. This was what I chose for myself: when you oppose the dictatorship, it means you are already walking on the path to jail.”

This in contrast to the decision the same day in the case of human rights lawyer Xie Yang who was not sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Xie was released on bail in May after what critics described as a show trial. He had previously claimed that police used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him. But on Tuesday he denied he had been tortured, according to a video on the court’s official Weibo social media account. “On the question of torture, I produced a negative effect on and misled the public, and I again apologize,” he told judges. The court said he would face no criminal penalties following his full confession. (Xie Yang is one of China’s “709 lawyers”, taken into custody in 2015 during an extensive government crackdown see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/xie-yang). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has also told China that it wrongfully arrested three prominent human rights activists accused of subversion and called on the government to release and compensate them. The panel, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, made up of five independent experts, said the three activists, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang, had been punished for promoting human rights. It said their treatment did not conform with China’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and urged Beijing to consider amending its laws to bring them into conformity with international norms. “The appropriate remedy would be to release Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Xie Yang immediately, and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations,” the working group concluded. (The findings were contained in a 12-page document that was first reported in October by The Guardian)——–

Peter Dalin’s post:

Some five years ago my friend Wang Quanzhang – China’s last missing lawyer – came over to my Beijing apartment for a Swedish-style Christmas. By this time he had learned to tolerate, if not appreciate, the meatballs, as it was his second Christmas at my house. Since then, I’ve been deported from China and banned for ten years under the Espionage Act.

wang quanzhang

Wang Quanzhang. File photo: RFA.

I am unlikely to spend any more Christmases in China. Wang might never be allowed to spend any Christmas anywhere, outside of prison. Wang disappeared on 5 August 2015. For two and a half years his family, wife Li Wenzu and their young son, and the lawyers Wang had chosen for himself should he ever be detained, have not seen nor heard from him. There’s no trial in sight. It may strike anyone reading this that his case is simply another victim’s story. Frankly, there are so many that it’s hard to keep track or become engaged. However, his case represents something far worse, and is a window into the new China envisioned by Xi Jinping and the CCP.

China’s attempts to weaken UN mechanisms put in place to monitor how countries implement or follow basic rules and rights are well documented. What is happening in China now – an unprecedented disappearing of critics, lawyers and human rights defenders – goes far beyond being just another crackdown on civil society. It is another step towards weakening a core part of the international law system. One of the first major changes under Xi Jinping’s rule was to extend the power of the state even further by legalizing the use of Enforced Disappearances. For a Party usually known for its abysmal public relations management, it did so with a stroke of marketing “genius”, referring to it as a procedure known as Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, or RSDL. At first, its use was limited to central government targeting key rights defenders, claiming they threatened national security. People would be secretly detained and placed in hotel rooms and government-run guesthouses. Slowly, they started using special custom-built secret prisons. In 2016, the procedure was adopted by local police. Now it’s being used to target critics of any sort, and for any type of “crime”, and not only those accused of threatening national security. Its use, by any measure, is expanding rapidly.

Rights activist Wu Gan and rights lawyer Xie Yang were sentenced the day after Christmas. Wu Gan will spend the next eight years in prison. Both men were disappeared for significant lengths of time before entering the normal judicial process; they were in RSDL. RSDL allows the state to simply take anyone it wishes, no court approval is needed, and disappear them for up to six months. The victim’s family does not need be notified of the victims’ whereabouts, they are denied access to legal counsel, and even more preposterously the prosecutor’s office is almost always barred from visiting the secret facility or victim – despite its nominal role to make sure rampant torture is not practiced. In fact, despite knowing many victims of RSDL myself, I have never heard of someone having had such a visit, and I myself certainly never met anyone from the Prosecutor’s office during my brief stay in RSDL.

In China, exceptions quickly become norms. The exceptions allowing all this have quickly become the norm. With these “exceptions”, RSDL becomes enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances is not only a crime in international law, but a most severe one. It is even prohibited in war-time. If used systematically, or in a widespread manner, it qualifies as a crime against humanity.

The West’s tepid response to enforced disappearances, even of their own citizens, who have been kidnapped outside of mainland China, such as British citizen Lee Bo in Hong Kong and Swedish citizen Gui Minhai in Thailand, only encourages China to keep expanding its use. Why not, when there are no consequences. My only hope, or wish, for this Christmas season is that the further exposure of RSDL, through the first ever book on the subject, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, edited by my former coworker Michael Caster, will help shed light on what is going on in China.

This should make the West realize that China’s legalization of what may constitute a crime against humanity is a blow to the whole UN system, and a threat to the West itself, and the rules-based system it advocates. Without a response, how long will it be before Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other countries in the Asia-Pacific, all with some history of using Enforced Disappearance themselves, realize the effectiveness of the system in silencing critics, and move to legalize their own versions?….It’s hard to say what 2018 has in store for Wang. His case is testament to the breakdown of any rule of law in China. Despite holding all the cards, China does not have the courage to try him in a court of law. He will, for now and who knows for how long, simply be disappeared.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/12/30/last-missing-lawyer-victim-chinas-new-willingness-flout-international-human-rights-norms/

The People’s Republic of the Disappeared

https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/8028958-the-clarity-and-courage-of-wu-gan/

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=39930&t=1

For China, Christmas is the best time of year to put human-rights activists on trial

New coalition of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines tries to deal with killings

November 4, 2017

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Nominations sought for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize

September 30, 2017

Santa Clara University School of Law is seeking nominations of outstanding lawyers who might be candidates for the Alexander Human Rights Law Prize, given annually by the Law School. Now in its 11th year, the “Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize” is intended to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal knowledge and skills to help alleviate injustice and inequity. For more information see the recently made public Digest of Human Rights Awards: www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest.
Nominees must be lawyers who have used their skill, knowledge and abilities in the field of law to correct injustice. Selection criteria may include factors such as the:
  • Innovative nature of the programs or other activities undertaken
  • Courage and self-sacrifice required
  • Sustainability of the programs the nominee has implemented
  • Number of people benefited

Nominations should be submitted here. The deadline is 1 October 1, 2017 (although this came from an article published on 29 September).

Previous laureates are:

► 2008 Award Winner: Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, where he and his colleagues have helped reduce or overturn death sentences in more than sixty cases.

► 2009 Award Winner: Mario Joseph, one of Haiti’s most influential and respected human rights attorneys and Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which uses prominent human rights cases and a victim-centered approach to force open the doors of Haiti’s justice system for the country’s poor majority.

► 2010 Award Winner: Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer who has risked her life in her efforts to protect the human rights of women, activists, and journalists, and who launched the “End Stoning Forever” campaign and Raahi, a legal center for women which has been forced to close since Ms. Sadr has been in exile.

► 2011 Award Winner: Paul Van Zyl, former Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co‐founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and now the CEO of PeaceVentures.

► 2012 Award Winner: Almudena Bernabeau, formerly of the Center for Justice and Accountability and founder of Guernica37, a new human rights law firm litigating on behalf of victims of human rights abuses.

► 2013 Award Winner: Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese civil rights attorney who, although he is blind and had a broken leg at the time, managed to escape house arrest in China. He was targeted for his human rights campaigns, including against forced abortion while China’s one-child policy was in place.

► 2014 Award Winner: Hossam Bahgat, founder and former Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whom I featured here when he was detained again for advocating on behalf of the freedom of speech and assembly in Tahrir Square.

2015 Award Winner: Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.

2016 Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2016).

2017 Paul Hoffman, partner in Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP and ace litigator under the Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act.

Source: Nominations Sought: Alexander Human Rights Prize (Oct. 1 Deadline) | Just Security

Funders should help HRDs to withstand legal onslaughts by corporations

July 7, 2017

Otto Saki of the Ford Foundation contributed a piece  How companies are using law suits to silence environmental activists—and how philanthropy can help”. On 30 June 2017, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre provided the following summary:

…While extrajudicial killings…[of human rights defenders] attract immediate condemnation, corporate interests are using other, less obviously violent means to undermine the important work of these activists: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are used to intimidate, harass, and silence activists who are working to expose corporate injustices and human rights violations. As intended, such lawsuits have a clear chilling effect on activism, silencing critical voices and stifling accountability…

…While there are strong laws aimed at protecting people’s rights, those laws too often fail to be applied. At the same time, big businesses have amassed great power and influence; they are armed literally and figuratively with high-value law firms, auditors, security experts, and investigators to defend their interests. Facing that kind of arsenal, it is difficult for individuals and organizations to fight back.

The use of SLAPP suits in South Africa is becoming a trend…

…South Africa needs to revise court procedures to make it easier for judges to scrutinize frivolous lawsuits without dragging the defendants into court. Second, civil society must recognize that SLAPP lawsuits are not isolated, but are part of a broad and purposeful strategy to distract and disable environmental activists and empower corporate interests.

…As philanthropy considers how to best support and build resilience for social justice activists and institutions, it is critical to consider their ability to withstand this kind of legal pressure…As funders, we need to have open conversations with our grantees about how they can be prepared before a crisis erupts…

Read the full post here

Source: Commentary: Philanthropy should consider how best to support human rights defenders when companies use lawsuits to silence them | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The Code, a documentary film project, needs support….and soon

July 6, 2017

An ambitious documentary project has 7 days left to find the funding via Kickstarter:

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who took the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to justice, is leading a movement of legal ‘warriors’ from all over the world to guarantee the international punishment of major economic, financial and environmental crimes. The tool to achieve their goal can be summed up in two words: Universal Jurisdiction. The movement composed of judges, prosecutors and lawyers tries to promote the international denouncement of actions such as food speculation, issuing junk bonds, squandering public funds and large-scale contamination. These crimes should, as genocides and war crimes, be designated as Crimes Against Humanity and prosecuted internationally.

History is filled with visionaries who understood before others that practices such as slavery, colonialism and apartheid were not part of the natural order of things: they were immoral actions carried out by a minority and should be considered as crimes. Today, this international movement led by Baltasar Garzón tries to expose that financial fraud is not a systemic problem but a premeditated act, and should be considered as criminal behaviour. The aim of the group is to foster a new Universal Jurisdiction code of principles and fight alongside the civil society to ensure its application.

During the Universal Jurisdiction Congress (Buenos Aires, September 2015), a new list of Crimes Against Humanity was drafted. After countless debates between experts from the six continents, the list now includes economical and environmental infractions. All these efforts must now work their way to national legislations. On a planet with almost 8 billion people, irresponsible economic decisions can be disastrous. With all their effort, the legal warriors work together towards a common goal: cease with the impunity of economic and environmental crimes.

In the Kickstarter post, the Director, states For me it’s an important task to help people understand the juridical language, given the historical isolation of the judicial power and its perverse use by the political and economic powers. Democratize juridical language, understand judicial mechanisms and point out their actors, all this with the support of a hundred of the most prestigious international jurists who have united to fight against impunity in major economic and environmental crimes, is a noble objective.  This documentary is about heroes, brave jurists, classical characters of film noir

Our team has been working on this project for three years now and is very committed to it. We think that if the fight of the legal warriors is made public, citizens will be able to pressure their political powers to include changes in national legislations and international relations.  We are talking about establishing a new code of social conduct, a code of human relationships, consistent with the challenges of living on a planet in constant evolution.  We interviewed tens of professionals and filmed in three countries so far: Argentina, Spain and Senegal, where we attended in May 2016 to the end of Hissène Habré’s trial for crimes against humanity during his dictatorship in Chad.

We now need your support to finish the production and get this film out to the world where it can make a difference! After three years working on this project, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to find the necessary funding to finish the film. All funds we raise will enable our team to finish production, access film footage, and cover the editing and postproduction costs. We are confident that if we meet our goal, we will be able to finish the film before the end of 2017.

This is how we will use the money:

 

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/universal-jurisdiction/

Greece prevents EU criticism of human rights in China

June 20, 2017

The European Union – when criticizing countries by name in the UN Human Rights Council – does so with unanimity. It was the first time that the European Union did not make a statement in the Human Rights Council regarding rights violations in specific countries, including China as it was blocked by one of its member countries: Greece! A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens called it “unproductive criticism.” The NYT reports that a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry (who requested anonymity) said in a telephone interview:  “When the stability of a country is at stake, we need to be more constructive in the way we express our criticism” …“because if the country collapses, there will be no human rights to protect.” It was an odd explanation, commented the NYT, considering that China’s stability does not appear to be at risk. Unless the stability at stake was referring to Greece?!

In its struggle for economic recovery, Greece is indeed increasingly courting Chinese trade and investment. China’s largest shipping company, known as China COSCO Shipping, bought a majority stake last year in the Greek port of Piraeus. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has visited China twice in two years. And China will be the “country of honor” at Greece’s annual international business fair in September in the port of Thessaloniki.

In the previous Human Rights Council session in March, the European Union statement pointed to China’s detention of lawyers and human rights defenders [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/19/letter-from-legal-experts-on-detained-lawyers-in-china/]. Human Rights Watch said it was “shameful that Greece sought to hold the E.U. hostage to prevent much-needed attention to China’s human rights crackdown.”

 

Jailed human rights lawyer in UAE awarded the 2017 Ludovic Trarieux Award

May 28, 2017

The Emirates lawyer was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2013. Mohammed al-Roken was among 69 people jailed on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government following a mass trial criticised by rights groups. A former head of the UAE Jurists’ Association, Roken, 54, was arrested in July 2012, after taking on the defence of several government opponents, including seven islamists. According to Amnesty the trial “was marred by allegations of torture which were blatantly ignored, the rights of defence were flaunted, and independent observers were banned from the court room“.  For more on the Emirates and human rights: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/united-arab-emirates/

In awarding  the Jury said Roken had devoted two decades to defending fundamental freedoms. The jury lamented that Roken’s trial had gone ahead behind closed doors and demanded his immediate release.

Source: Jailed UAE lawyer awarded major human rights prize | Daily Mail Online

http://www.ludovictrarieux.org/uk-index.htm