Posts Tagged ‘independence of the judiciary’

Bahrain: human rights protected but on paper only

March 12, 2018

“The use of the judiciary in Bahrain to target human rights defenders and other activists” is a side event organised by CIVICUS and FIDH in co-operation with Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and co-sponsored by ISHR.

It will take place on 13 March 2018 at 11:00 to 12:30 at Room XXIV. The event will address the politicisation of the judiciary to criminalise human rights defenders.

The context in which this event takes place should be well-known by now [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bahrain/], but some recent events can be added:

On 21 February human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to 5 years in prison under trumped-up charges in relation to tweets denouncing the torture against detainees at Jaw prison and exposing the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. “This surrealistic verdict”, writes IFEX,  “after a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice, illustrates once again the current crackdown on any dissenting voice in Bahrain, where scores of critics are currently jailed’.

Also the Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and BCHR reiterate their call to the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him, as well as all detained human rights defenders.

Perhaps the most damning information comes from the Bahraini Government itself (8 March 2018) when it responded to the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights  which had been ‘negative’ in his  written review on the annual report on Bahrain. Dr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said in a statement that the review contained inaccurate information such as harassment of human rights defenders and other deleterious comments on the recent legal actions taken by Bahrain. ..They deliberately and unfairly side with malicious elements who have suspicious political agendas and sectarian tendencies and who want to inflict harm on the Kingdom of Bahrain and demean its achievements in the field of human rights, he said. “This is crystal clear from their support for the discourse of hatred and internal violence groups and for this reason, the Kingdom of Bahrain totally rejects the content of this statement with all the wrong and unacceptable descriptions it has given to the state.
Bucheeri said that Bahrain’s constitution stipulates the right to freedom of opinion and expression in an unquestionable manner and in a way that guarantees everyone’s right to express their opinion and disseminate it by word, writing or otherwise, but within the legal framework and without inciting division or sectarianism or undermining national security.
……
He called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make concerted effort to understand the reality of human rights and the great challenges facing the Kingdom of Bahrain which faces terrorist acts aimed to destabilize its security and stability.
The kingdom, he explained, confronts a phenomenon of violent extremism and it is the duty of the Office of the High Commissioner to do its best to double check the credibility of the information it obtained and to seek such information only from neutral, objective and non-politicized sources…

https://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2018/02/22/nabeel-rajab-sentenced/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/bahrain-fears-for-nabeel-rajab-s-life-inside-his-prison

https://www.ifex.org/middle_east_north_africa/2018/03/05/revolutionary-anniversaries/

http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/829935

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-nabeel-rajab

Turkey angry after PACE Havel prize is awarded to jailed judge

October 18, 2017

Turkish judge Murat Arslan, who was head of the Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV).

The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, named after the dissident playwright who later became Czech president, is given by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). On Monday 16 October the prize awarded to the Turkish judge Murat Arslan, who was head of the Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV). Arslan was arrested in October 2016 on suspicion of links to Gulen who Ankara blames for the failed coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The PACE described Arslan as a “staunch supporter of the independence of the judiciary.” But the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that it “is wrong and unacceptable to award the prize … to a person who is a member of Feto terrorist organisation“. “While the judicial process is underway, presenting a terrorism suspect as a human rights defender is a betrayal of the ideals of democracy and human rights,” it said. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace

In his absence, the prize was received by a representative of the European Magistrates for Democracy and Freedom group (Medel) which had nominated him. In a message from jail, Arslan told the ceremony that Turkey had “learnt nothing” from Europe’s 20th century history but “we will not let ourselves be closed up in a wall of fear”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/31/finalists-for-pace-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-announced/]

Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1950 but relations have frayed after the PACE in April voted to reopen political monitoring of the country.  see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/

http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkish-mp-slams-europe-body-for-rewarding-feto-suspect/939149

Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants

June 11, 2017

An interesting and timely document that deserves more attention than it is getting:

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has published a set of Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants.

The Principles were developed by the ICJ on the basis of consultations with senior judges, lawyers, and legal scholars working in the field of international refugee and migration law (including at the 2016 Geneva Forum of Judges & Lawyers), as well consultations with States and other stakeholders on a draft version during the March 2017 Human Rights Council session, and other feedback.

The Principles seek to help judges and lawyers, as well as legislators and other government officials, better secure human rights and the rule of law in the context of large movements of refugees and migrants. They are intended to complement existing relevant legal and other international instruments, including the New York Declaration, as well as the Principles and practical guidance on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations within large and/or mixed movements being developed by the OHCHR.

The Principles address the role of judges and lawyers in relation to, among other aspects:

  • determinations of entitlement to international protection;
  • deprivation of liberty;
  • removals;
  • effective remedy and access to justice;
  • independence, impartiality, and equality before the law;
  • conflicts between national and international law.

The Principles, together with commentary, can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here: ICJ Refugee Migrant Principles 2017.

The ICJ formally launched the published version of the Principles at a side event to the June 2017 session of the Human Rights Council (click here for details), where their importance and utility were recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, as well as representatives of UNHCR and the OHCHR. The ICJ had earlier released the final text in connection with the Thematic Session on “Human rights of all migrants” for the UN General Assembly Preparatory Process for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to be held in Geneva 8-9 May 2017, where in an oral statementthe ICJ was able to highlight the potential utility of the Principles in the development of the Compact.

More information about the process of development of the Principles, including the list of participants to the 2016 Geneva Forum, is available here. The consultations, preparation and publication of the Principles was made possible with the financial support of the Genève Internationale office of the Republic and Canton of Geneva. For further information, please contact ICJ Senior Legal Adviser Matt Pollard, matt.pollard(a)icj.org

Source: Principles on the Role of Judges and Lawyers in relation to Refugees and Migrants | ICJ

Independence of the Legal Profession subject of side event on 16 March 2017

March 9, 2017

Lawyers for Lawyers and The Law Society of England & Wales organize a UN side event on the “The Independence of the Legal Profession” on Thursday 16 March 2017, 3 – 5 pm in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Keynote speaker: Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

 

Panelists:

·        Khalid Baghirov, lawyer (Azerbaijan)

·        Ayse Bingol Demir, lawyer (Turkey) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/23/persecution-of-lawyers-and-journalists-in-turkey-side-event-in-geneva-on-27-january/]

·         Michel Togué, lawyer (Cameroon) [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/02/13/death-threats-against-human-rights-defenders-alice-nkom-and-michel-togue-in-cameroon/]

The panelists will share their experiences, obstacles faced by members of  the legal profession in their respective countries, and possible ways to improve the safety of lawyers who work in challenging contexts.

The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Australia and Paraguay as well as the following NGOs: – Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC),- Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), – Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), – International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), – Avocats Sans Frontières Suisse (ASF Switzerland), – International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), – Judges for Judges (J4J), – Human Rights House Foundation and- Peace Brigades International (PBI, UK)

To register (for those without passes, until 12 March 2017): S.deGraaf@lawyersforlawyers.nl

For enquiriesRoberta.Taveri@lawsociety.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Parallel Event on Asian Justice Institutions and HRDs on 2 March 2017 in Geneva

February 27, 2017

Parallel event on Asian Justice Institutions and Human Rights Defenders to be held on 2 March 2017 2:00 PM in Room: XXIII, Palais de Nations, Geneva, SwitzerlandModerator/Chair: Mr. Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Centre

Speakers in the Panel:
1. Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Policy and Programme, Asian Human Rights Commission
2. Mr. Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research, CIVICUS
3. Mr. Sharan Srinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation
contact: Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Main Representative, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Cell: +41 (0) 766 38 26 59, Email: zaman@ahrc.asia .
Background: Human rights defenders across the world today have to overcome restrictive and challenging circumstances to undertake their mandate. These challenges could be broadly classified into three categories. They are: (i) restrictions imposed through statutes or regulatory processes; (ii) false accusations and fabricated cases registered by the state against HRDs and their organisations; and (iii) threats presented against HRDs by non-state actors, including fundamentalist religious forces.

Of the above three categories, the first and second could be overcome to a large degree at the national level, had the criminal justice institutions in Asian states been independent, and are able to decide upon cases that these institutions are called upon to engage upon.

Asian states today often enact legislations to restrict the operations of HRDs and the organisations they represent. China for instance, has legislations that directly impede the operation of HRDs . Indeed, the law does not prohibit the operation of ‘foreign’ NGOs, but stipulates obtaining permissions from different state agencies before commencing work, and has cast a broad net that prohibits organisations from engaging in activities otherwise considered to be human rights work, including: advocacy, legal assistance, labour, religion, and ethnic minority affairs. State agencies are given unbridled powers to interpret an activity as one under any of these prohibited criteria. The situation of domestic NGOs, including lawyers is worse in China even before the enactment of the new ‘foreign NGO’ law. The government has imposed heavy scrutiny and restrictions upon domestic NGOs, and often detain HRDs and lawyers on criminal charges.

China however is not an exception in the Asian region. Thailand for instance has legislations in place even prior to the military coup that restricts HRDs and civil society work. Thai state has spared no resources to oppress HRDs, often using the law against defamation that has penal provisions, interpreted at the will of the state by the country’s courts. After the coup, the National Peace and Reconciliation Council has promulgated ordinances that literally restrict all forms of freedom. HRDs who campaigned against the military’s version of the current Thai constitution, and the namesake referendum that was organised by the military, were arrested and imprisoned.

Bangladesh, against all its obligations under domestic and international law detains HRDs, forces closure of civil society organisations by repeatedly raiding their offices and seizing office equipment and documents, and does not allow these organisations to operate their bank accounts. India too engages in similar tactics against civil society organisations that openly criticise the government and its policies. Similar circumstances exist in most other states in the region, including Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the state is engaged in a shadow war against the civil society using right-wing religious forces, including right-wing media, that has systematically targeted HRDs who have advocated for democratic governance, and in particular urged the country\’s military from illegally and arbitrarily intervening in civilian administration.

In all the above circumstances, what is witnessed is the increasing role played by the entire criminal justice apparatus in Asian states that collide with the state in repressing HRDs and civil society work. Asian states liberally use their agencies like the police, prosecutor\’s office and other specialised agencies to obstruct HRDs in their work, often alleging false criminal charges against organisations or the staff members of these organisations. On the other hand, Asian judiciary has repeatedly failed to intervene in these cases despite the civil society reaching out to the courts for justice.

In instances where restrictive legislations are enacted or executive orders issued, restricting civil society freedom, the judiciary has the responsibility to intervene, and if necessary, annul the law or the executive order holding it as one against constitutional rights and the state\’s obligation under international human rights law. Instead, the Asian judiciary often support state actions. Instances where cases are adjourned without a decision being made are common.

Improving Asia’s human rights standards is not possible without radical reforms brought into the region’s justice delivery framework, particularly of the criminal justice procedures. The absence of independence and professionalism of Asia’s justice architecture is the cornerstone upon which impunity is built in the region. Asian states are aware of this and has consciously kept their justice institutions under direct control. Today Asian HRDs and the entire civil society in the region suffers due to this. Effective judicial intervention in instances where the state exceeds its mandate and stifle civil society work is an exception than a norm.

The side event organised by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, along with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is an attempt to expose the dubious role played by Asia’s justice institutions in stifling civil society work in the region. The event is also an attempt to raise awareness about this scenario in the global human rights community and to seek support to address this problem.

www.humanrights.asia.

 

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

 

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Lawyers Disqualified to run for Iran’s Bar Association

February 11, 2016

Not the most egregious of violations but showing how deep the ruling powers’ reach in Iran is: more than two dozen prominent lawyers, including well-known human rights defenders, have been disqualified (again) from running in next month’s election for the Iranian Bar Association’s board of directors. Judge Hosseinali Nayeri, the head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges, issued a statement on 2 February  2016 rejecting 25 of the 141 candidacy applications, according to Kaleme, an opposition website.

The disqualified include human rights lawyers Farideh Gheirat, Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, Ramazan Haji Mashhadi, and former Tehran University law professor, Ghasem Sholeh Sadi. The bar association has only published the names of the approved candidates on its website.

Sholeh Sadi, told the NGO ‘International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran’ that the bar association should operate as an independent body and elections for its board of directors should be conducted without the interference of the judicial system. “Governments want to limit the lawyers’ activities and try to control them,” said the former Member of Parliament who has served time as a political prisoner in Iran.

The independence of lawyers as well as the Iranian Bar Association have been seriously undermined since the passage of a law in 1997 that imposed several limits and controls on the process for testing and licensing new lawyers. In February 2014, some 200 lawyers wrote an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani expressing concern about the Judiciary’s attempts to curb their autonomy. They accused the Judiciary of trying to destroy the independence of the legal profession “established by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh more than 70 years ago.” The Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, denied the charges, claiming that the Judiciary’s supervision over lawyers would not curtail their independence.

For older posts on Iran: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/iran/

Source: Prominent Lawyers Disqualified from Iran’s Bar Association Election

 

India: Human Rights Defenders being silenced by the court?

January 17, 2016

Pushkar Raj (who taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in India and is now based in Melbourne) published a piece entitled “Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?” in Samaj Weekly and reproduced by TwoCircles.net on 17 January 2016.  In this piece he concludes that the Bombay high court judgment cancelling Prof. Sai Baba’s bail and initiating contempt proceedings against the writer Arundhati Roy is a major blow to the human rights defenders in India and a departure from the courts’ support to the cause of human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Bahama Human Rights Association scores in court

November 13, 2015

On 27 March 2015, I posted about the little known Bahamas [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/grand-bahama-human-rights-association/]. So it is with pleasure that I can report that the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association has scored a victory in court re the controversial immigration law.

On 12 November it reported:  the Supreme Court’s decision to open the files on the controversial new immigration policy is a great victory for transparency and human rights in The Bahamas. For far too long in this country, the inner workings of government have been carried on behind a veil of secrecy, their rationale and ultimate ends remaining obscure. The time has now come to shed light on what is done in the public’s name and we applaud the court for leading the way in this regard. While praising this ruling as just, fair and in the service of the public interest, we must pause and lament the fact that the government found itself unable to act in an open and humane manner on its own, without the help of the court. In any event, we feel the decision sets a great precedent for future cases and sends a clear message that government business should be conducted neither in the dark, nor in violation of the fundamental rights and protections enshrined in our constitution. We look forward to the government’s prompt and full compliance with the ruling, and expect that a great deal of information will be presented to the court as a result. At the outset, the GBHRA had been of the view that the new immigration policy was the brainchild of a single minister, however we were told repeatedly that it is a creation of the cabinet as a whole. The court’s order, therefore, should turn up numerous reports, internal memorandums and other correspondence that will shed light on how this policy came to be, and which will be of use to both local and international human rights defenders in this and many similar cases.

Source: thebahamasweekly.com – GBHRA: A great victory for transparency and human rights