Posts Tagged ‘lawyers’

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

Turkey: assault on lawyers goes in overdrive

September 14, 2020

The lawyers followed up on “the cases of Gülen-affiliated defendants,” and “tried to manipulate the trials to the benefit of the terrorist organization under the guise of the practice of law,” the prosecutor’s statement read.

Rights groups and lawyers criticized the detention warrants and claimed that the latest move was part of a broader strategy to obliterate the right to a defense for many who are jailed on terror charges.

An assault on lawyers in Turkey was launched after the failed 2016 coup. This assault started with the arrest of the chair of the Konya Bar Association and 20 lawyers and has been ongoing since then,” said Barış Çelik, a lawyer who spoke to Turkish Minute. “Up until the present day, nearly 1,600 lawyers have been detained, more than 600 have been arrested and 441 have been convicted over activities related to the practice of law.”

Another law practitioner, Ömer Turanlı, told Turkish Minute that even though lawyers visited the courthouse regularly, they were rounded up by 1,500 police officers.

Due process was ignored, case files the lawyers had worked on were gathered as evidence and the lawyers were denied the right to choose their legal representatives, restricted instead to a special lawyer assigned by the prosecution,” Turanlı said. “All this unlawfulness aims to silence lawyers.”

The detentions come in the aftermath of the news that Turkey’s governing party has started working on an amendment to the law on lawyers following Erdoğan’s call on September 1 for the suspension of lawyers accused of links to terrorism

We should be discussing whether methods such as expulsion from the profession should be introduced for lawyers,” Erdoğan had told judges and prosecutors at a ceremony in Ankara.

Just as thieves should not be called on to defend burglars, “a lawyer who defends terrorists should not be a terrorist,” he had said.

President Erdoğan’s call had come after protests over the death of lawyer Ebru Timtik last month in an İstanbul hospital after a 238-day hunger strike in support of a fair trial. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/29/human-rights-defender-ebru-timtik-dies-in-istanbul-hospital-after-238-days-hungerstrike/] Timtik was a member of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), a leftist group accused of having close ties to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a militant Marxist group recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Following her death, the İstanbul Bar Association hung a picture of Timtik outside its headquarters, in a protest dismissed by Erdoğan.

In a press statement on Saturday the ÇHD condemned the detentions and stated that the lawyers were being questioned on their legal work.

Turkey issues detention warrants for 60 lawyers following Erdoğan’s call to suspend attorneys accused of terrorist links

China: Five years after major crackdown, international community must support to human rights lawyers

July 12, 2020

On 9 july 2020 the International Service of Human Rights came out with a good overview of what has happened to the Chinese lawyers since the crackdown five year ago [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]. Human rights lawyers are a cornerstone of China’s human rights movement: they represent victims of abuses, promote compliance with international law, and strive for human rights change inside the system.

In the weeks following 9 July 2015, over 300 Chinese weiquan (‘rights defence’) lawyers and legal activists were harassed, detained and disappeared, in a nationwide police sweep that came to be known as the ‘709 Crackdown’. Five years later, these lawyers and their families still face a range of restrictions and rights violations aimed at silencing their efforts for a more just and rights-compliant society.

Disbarment, secret detention, disappearances, harassment of relatives, stigmatisation: the ‘systematic crackdown on lawyers’ denounced by UN experts has changed in form but not in its scale or scope.

Despite the risks, they strive to uphold the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens, guaranteed under China’s Constitution and international treaties. They represent the most vulnerable and unjustly accused: those who have been evicted from their land or are victims of police abuse; minorities criminalised for their religious belief or ethnicity; human rights defenders and those expressing opinions different from the official Party line.

Without independent lawyers, there can be no rule of law,’ says Sarah M Brooks, ISHR Asia Advocate.

And when the rule of law is weaponised – as we saw last week with the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong – lawyers are on the front lines of defending rights and freedoms. The least we can do – as individuals and as a global community – is to stand with them.

In a defiant act of reclaiming, 9 July is now recognised by the human rights movement as ‘China Human Rights Lawyers Day’. To highlight this important day, ISHR has produced a bilingual information flyer on the patterns of repression against Chinese human rights lawyers, and action by the international community. The information flyer is available in English and Chinese.
请点击此处下载中文版
For more information, please contact Raphael Viana David at r.vianadavid@ishr.ch or on Twitter at @vdraphael.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/china-change/

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-32794?e=d1945ebb90

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/

24 January, Day of the Endangered Lawye: ABA focuses on Pakistan

January 17, 2020

Pakistan is the focus of this year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer (January 24) and the American Bar Association is organising a teleconference, in which panelists will provide a report of the current state of attacks on the judiciary, bar and other human rights defenders in Pakistan, as well as offering suggestions for how the ABA and other outside organizations can lend support. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/22/24-january-2018-day-of-the-endangered-lawyer-focus-on-egypt/]

Moderator:

  • Sara Sandford, Immediate Past Co-Chair, International Human Rights Committee

Speakers:

  • Jalila Haider, Founder of We the Humans
  • Farahnaz Ispahani, Senior Fellow, Religious Freedom Institute; Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Hussain Haqqani, Former Ambassador to US
  • Raza Rumi, Director of the Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College; Visiting Faculty at Cornell Institute for Public Affairs; and Editor of Daily Times

What kind of lawyers will attend the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou on Human Rights Day?

December 5, 2019

Lawyer Wang Yu is taken to a studio for TV denunciation of the ABA award. Pictorial rendition is based on Wang Yu’s account. Source: Safeguard Defenders.

The government has invited, according to its official website,more than 600 important international guests from governments, judicial departments, financial circles, international lawyers’ associations, other bar associations and well-known law firms, etc.”………to uphold the rule of law spirit of building a community of shared future for humanity, create an international platform for lawyers from all countries for exchange and cooperation, further consolidate the consensus of the international legal profession, etc…

We know that since July 2015, Chinese human rights lawyers have been suppressed on a large scale [ see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]. To this day, many lawyers, including Wang Quanzhang [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/05/li-wenzu-wife-of-wang-quanzhang-wins-2018-edelstam-award/], Zhou Shifeng, Yu Wensheng, Chen Wuquan, Chen Jiahong, Qin Yongpei, and others are in prison. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng disappeared on August 13, 2017, and his whereabouts still are unknown. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was released from prison earlier this year, has since been under illegal house arrest [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/].

China Change asked a number of Chinese human rights lawyers to express their views on this “Global Lawyers Forum”. Here a selection:

“…..If the purpose of the conference, as the government claims, is to “consolidate the international consensus of the lawyers’ profession,” what then is the consensus of the legal profession? It is the UN’s “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.” Domestic law should be amended on the basis of these principles.  (Liu Shuqing, Jinan, deprived of his lawyer’s license in 2016)

This rhetoric can be deceptive domestically and internationally, giving those who don’t know the true nature of the CCP and the reality on the ground the wrong impression that China has rule of law, so much so that it is a world leader in the area.” (Jiang Tianyong, Beijing, 709 detainee, and still under house arrest since his release at the end of February 2019.)

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong

“I think it is a ridiculous thing for China to host such an event. As everyone knows, the Chinese government has always opposed constitutional democracy and the rule of law. It disregards human rights and blatantly infringes upon every right of the people. Such a conference is only a cover-up for the CCP.”   (A lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous)

“The All China Lawyers’ Association (ACLA) is the same as the Chinese government; it is a part of the government. ACLA contributes little to defending human rights in China, and more often than not it is an accomplice in suppressing human rights. Such a country holding such a conference and urging lawyers from all over the world ‘to jointly promote the rule of law around the world’ –– how could anyone believe this? How could anyone attend and support such a meeting? Are the participants burying their heads in the sand or just being ignorant?” (Liang Xiaojun, Beijing)

“Nearly without exception, any Chinese lawyer who has participated in any international exchange meeting, including meetings with Hong Kong and Taiwanese lawyers, has been interrogated and threatened by China’s national security agents or domestic security police after they returned home to the mainland. In such a ‘police state,’ how can there be normal international exchanges?” (Chen Jiangang, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow 2019, who fled China in the summer after being threatened with “disappearance” by a director of Beijing’s Judicial Bureau)

“The choice to hold the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou is ironic in light of the purpose of the gathering. The retrogression of the legal system in China over the past decade, and the persecution of lawyers who dare to speak out, has reached a shocking point. And the crackdown and persecution of lawyers in Guangzhou is the most severe in the country. Therefore, the selection of Guangzhou for the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ is an affront to the spirit of rule of law.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou, license revoked in 2019)

“I really am not inclined to criticize any lawyers or officials who will attend the conference. I just want them to be clear-headed when they are in China. What they will see is definitely not all of China, or even the most important part. If they aren’t hoodwinked and if they observe the Chinese legal profession with clear eyes, a greater number of ordinary Chinese lawyers may have heartfelt admiration for them.” (Wen Donghai, Changsha)

“I hope attendees from foreign bar associations won’t just listen to the officials’ big empty words and propaganda but pay more attention to the actual human rights situation in China. I hope they learn more about religious groups, ethnic minorities, dissidents and human rights activists. These groups have suffered cruel persecution in China; I hope the foreign attendees will speak on their behalf at the conference and raise questions.” (An anonymous Beijing lawyer)

“I hope the participants can hear the voices of lawyers not sanctioned by the CCP government, and especially look into the real reasons for the revocation of so many lawyers’ licenses.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou)

…….

 

 

China Has Invited 600 International Lawyers and Judicial Officials to its ‘Global Lawyers Forum,’ But These Chinese Lawyers Won’t Be Welcome

In Tajikistan lawyers have to be human rights defenders

September 29, 2019

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.
In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law.

For more than five years now, lawyers’ ranks have been thinned as the Tajik authorities imposed new rules to disbar lawyers and, in some cases, brought criminal cases against lawyers who defended political opponents. According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, there are only around 850 lawyers in Tajikistan, a country of more than 9 million people. Yorov’s situation is one of the best-known. He had taken on clients who were almost surely targeted by the government. In 2015, Tajik authorities withdrew the registration of and then banned the country’s leading opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), then later declared it an extremist group and claimed it was behind what the government said was a coup attempt. There is scant evidence to support the claim of an attempted coup and even less evidence connecting the IRPT to the purported coup’s alleged mastermind, who was killed by Tajik security forces. More than a dozen senior IRPT leaders were detained at the end of September 2015. Yorov said he would defend them in court, meeting with one of them on September 26. Two days later, he said publicly that his client was being tortured; shortly after that, Yorov was himself taken into custody.

In October 2016, Yorov and fellow rights lawyer Nuriddin Makhamov were found guilty of fraud and inciting national, racial, local, or religious hatred. Yorov was sentenced to 23 years in prison, but additional time was added to his sentence in two successive trials. At one of those trials, Yorov was given two extra years for contempt of court for quoting 11th-century poet Ibn Avicenna.*

On September 18, the Association of Central Asian Migrants announced Yorov was being given the first Fayziniso Vohidova award. The prize is named after a rights lawyer who died earlier this year. Yorov’s brother, Jamshed, accepted the award on his behalf. Buzurgmehr Yorov has since been shortlisted for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, whose winner should be announced on September 30. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/]

A September 10 statement by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists expressed concern about the Tajik Anti-Corruption Agency’s “acts of intimidation” against a group of lawyers. The statement mentions Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda, a member of the independent Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

Abdurahmonzoda is being charged with fraud. Prosecutors allege that he demanded a $500 bribe from a man named Saidmurod Saidov, who came seeking Abdurahmonzoda’s legal services.

Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda
Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda

According to the International Commission of Jurists, “Following the initiation of the inquiry of the allegations of ill-treatment, the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Dushanbe allegedly sent requests to a number of district courts of Dushanbe to obtain information about civil and criminal cases in which Saidbek Nuriddinov had participated as a lawyer.” Saidbek Nuriddinov is the chairman of the Lawyers Union of Tajikistan.

In 2013, Yorov, Fakhriddin Zokirov, Ishoq Tabarov, and Shukrat Kudratov were the defense attorneys for Zayd Saidov, a successful and former minister of industry who suddenly faced charges ranging from financial crimes to sexual relations with a minor and polygamy, after he declared earlier in the year that he planned to establish a new political party. In December 2013, Saidov was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison (three more years were added in a later trial).

In June, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Buzurgmehr Yorov a violation of international law. Rights groups including Human Rights Watch, Freedom Now, and Lawyers for Lawyers have repeatedly called for an end to the crackdown on lawyers in Tajikistan and the release of those who have been imprisoned.

https://www.rferl.org/a/finally-a-defense-of-tajikistan-s-lawyers/30185435.html

Call for Applications for Civic Space Litigation Surgery, 25-27 September in Nigeria

August 8, 2019

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Open Society Justice Initiative are calling for applications from lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations based in West Africa to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery on the protection of civic space. The litigation surgery will be held in Abuja, Nigeria from September 25 – 27, 2019. All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case involving the protection of civic space for discussion and workshopping.  The application deadline is 11 August 2019. To apply, please complete the online application form available HERE and send all required documents.
…..
The proposed strategic litigation surgery is aimed at considering key issues implicated in protecting civic space, particularly the protection of freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly and association. This litigation surgery looks to support and strengthen either existing or proposed cases that are focused on defending these rights.

Criteria for participant eligibility: 

  • The litigation surgery is open to lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations working in any member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ivory Coast, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Applicants must possess a demonstrated commitment to addressing threats to civic space in their home country through sub-regional and regional human rights litigation. Lawyers currently employed by a government institution or political party are not eligible.
  • The participants must be involved in, or considering, litigating a case or cases that address the suppression of civic space involving a violation of the rights to freedoms of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly, and/or association. With their application, they must submit a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate before existing human rights protection mechanisms at the sub-regional or regional levels or the national court system, which could be discussed and workshopped during the litigation surgery.
  • The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the types of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Suppression of peaceful protests — e.g. through excessive use of force against protesters; criminalization of protesters and organizers; legal frameworks that either prevent, restrict and/or chill protest rights generally;
    • Burdensome regulatory restrictions on civil society organizations — e.g. constraints on access to foreign funding and foreign partnerships; obstacles in registering or maintaining registration; restrictive tax laws;
  • Suppression of the media and access to information — e.g. misuse of criminal defamation laws; restricted access to the internet and social media; abuse of cyber-crimes laws; other violations that produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression, media freedom, citizen journalism, or access to information;
  • Abuse of laws or policies in the context of countering terrorism — e.g. misuse of broad counter-terrorism laws to criminalize and/or chill legitimate activities of civic actors;
  • Impunity for threats, violence, and arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, activists, journalists, media practitioners, bloggers, social media users and other civic actors.
  • While all civic space cases will be considered, we encourage cases that touch on an intersectionality of issues and/or address untested or developing areas of human rights jurisprudence at the national, sub-regional or regional levels respectively, including:
    • Cases that highlight the role of multinational corporations in the suppression of civic space;
    • Cases that link the suppression of civic space to economic, social, and cultural rights, including in particular environmental rights;
    • Cases that demonstrate how the suppression of civic space uniquely affects women, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, or refugees and internally displaced persons;
    • Cases that address the link between the suppression of civic space and corruption.

Other important details: The working languages for the litigation surgery will be English and French. There will be simultaneous interpretation between the two languages available to all participants. The organizers will cover the cost of airfare, visas, local transportation, accommodation, and a reasonable per diem for expenses not otherwise covered for up to about 8 selected participants.

To apply: HERE. If you have any questions regarding the litigation surgery or the application process, please email advocacy@rfkhumanrights.org.

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/call-for-applications-civic-space-litigation-surgery-1

Lawyers key to the rule of law – even China agrees but only lip service

June 26, 2019

Lawyers have an essential role in upholding the Constitution and realising the rule of law – at the Human Rights Council 41st session this week, even China agreed. So why does the Chinese government continue to harass, intimidate and persecute lawyers who defend human rights ask 4 NGOs on 25 June 2019: Lawyers for Lawyers, International Bar Association, International Service for Human Rights and Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada. In a joint statement the NGOs call on the UN expert on independence of judges and lawyers, and the Council and its members, to press for accountability.

‘The Chinese delegation recognised the need for balance in regulation between lawyers’ and judges’ rights, on the one hand, and their professional responsibilities, on the other hand’, says Sarah M Brooks, Asia Advocate at ISHR. ‘But it is hard to take this claim seriously, as Chinese authorities continue to adopt  abusive laws and measures, using them as a “sledgehammer” to restrict fundamental freedoms’.

This includes in particular lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who – since his nominal release from prison on 28 February 2019 – has been subject to invasive surveillance, restrictions on his freedom of movement, and refusal of independent medical exams. Worse, he is unnecessarily and inhumanely kept from joining his family in the U.S. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/]

The statement draws on research conducted by Chinese Human Rights Defenders and other partners into two ‘administrative measures’ that have had far-reaching consequences for lawyers on the ground.  The Measures on the Administration of Law Firms and Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers of Law Firms call on lawyers, law firms and regional bar associations not only to take measures to ensure that lawyers’ freedom of speech, both online and off, in professional and personal capacities, is not critical of the government. Furthermore, language added to one of the measures in 2018 specifically states that  ‘Law firms shall adhere to guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, adhere to and strengthen the comprehensive leadership of the Party over the work of lawyers, persist in preserving the authority and uniform leadership of the Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, make support for the Party’s leadership and support for socialist rule of law basic requirements for the profession, and increase the conscientiousness and resoluteness with which lawyers as a group walk the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics’.

As a result of making comments that were deemed critical of the Chinese Communist Party, from January 2017 to January 2019, groups have documented cases of at least 26 lawyers and three law firms that have been punished for their opinion or expression, or by association with lawyers. This includes well-known rights lawyers such as Yu Wensheng, Wang Yu, Xie Yanyi and, just last week, Liu Xiaoyuan. 

[for the massive crackdown in 2015, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

 

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Full statement

Joint statement under Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Independent Expert on SOGI

24 June 2019

Mr. Vice President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report. We wish to highlight that many of the trends of restriction he notes also apply to lawyers. For example, across China, repression of human rights lawyers and legal activists continues. They are disappeared, detained, and denied basic rule of law guarantees.

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong is one example. Although he served his sentence for ‘inciting subversion of the State’, he now lives under constant police surveillance and with a serious medical condition.

What was his so-called ‘crime’? Representing fellow lawyers in court, investigating black jails, speaking out for victims of human rights violations and meeting with UN officials.

Mr Special Rapporteur, we are concerned about Chinese government actions to imprison and disbar lawyers who do not adhere to official ideology. The Chinese delegation raised earlier the need to uphold the Constitution – we couldn’t agree more. But problematic regulations passed in 2016 allow authorities to, inter alia, shut down law firms if they refuse to dismiss lawyers who express critical views, or who advocate for clients or causes unpopular with the Communist Party of China.

China’s claims to ‘faithfully uphold the rule of law’ are true only in relation to national laws created to authorize such government action. Chairman Xi has stressed the Communist Party’s control over the legal system, and has used the law to repress and punish those mandated to uphold and protect rights.

Yu Wensheng, Sui Muqing, Zhou Shifeng, Xie Yanyi, Li Heping, Wang Yu, Liu Zhengqing and Liu Xiaoyuan are only 8 out of at least 27 documented cases of human rights lawyers whose licenses have been invalidated or revoked since 2016, simply for fulfilling their professional duties.

In her UPR follow-up letter to the government, the High Commissioner identified key areas for improvement, including ‘guaranteeing an independent judiciary, fair trials, and access to legal counsel, releasing all human rights defenders, including lawyers’.

We call on you, Mr Special Rapporteur, and on this Council, to insist that China immediately stop all forms of harassment and persecution of human rights lawyers, including through administrative means, and unconditionally release those arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

Thank you.

Award for human rights defenders by PBI UK to Kenyan and Colombian defenders

June 23, 2019

Kenyan social justice activist Naomi Barasa and Colombian human rights lawyer Daniel Prado have won the first annual Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, created in 2018 by PBI UK and pro bono legal network the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk.

These awards are in honour of the life and legacy of Sir Henry Brooke – barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, founder of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk and patron of PBI UK – who passed away in January 2018. They are presented annually to defenders who encapsulate the qualities Sir Henry most admired and reflected in his own life: selflessness, courage, and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalised. The award winners were selected by a panel of leading figures from the UK legal and human rights communities. For more on this award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/henry-brooke-awards-for-human-rights-defenders

Naomi Barasa was selected for the award in recognition of her remarkable determination and commitment to grassroots human rights work in the most disadvantaged social circumstances. Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading & Prevention Policy. What motivates her work, she says, is “the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality.

Daniel Prado was selected as an example of a lawyer who has defied huge personal risk in order to pursue justice for the victims of human rights violations, oppose impunity and defend the rights of marginalised communities against powerful interests. He began his career by providing legal support to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance in the early 1990s and currently works with the Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP). Among other emblematic cases, Daniel represents victims of paramilitarism in the case of Los Doce Apóstoles (The Twelve Apostles), in which Santiago Uribe, brother of former President and Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, stands accused of creating paramilitary groups responsible for more than 500 murders. Daniel’s involvement in this and other high-profile cases has seen him exposed to death threats, harassment and a public campaign of defamation and slander. Speaking of his work, he has said: “The risks in Colombia are unstoppable. I have taken many cases that have had consequences for a lot of people… we live in a constant state of anxiety about what can happen to us.

PBI provides security and advocacy support to both Naomi Barasa and Daniel Prado, to help mitigate the risks they face as a result of their human rights work.