Posts Tagged ‘lawyers’

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.

 

 

Turkey, not a good place to be a lawyer or a judge

February 7, 2019

On 6 February 2019 is became known that a public prosecutor has sought the maximum prison sentence of 15 years for each of 33 lawyers on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based civic Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday. On Tuesday the trial of 53 defendants, 52 of whom are lawyers, continued at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court.

[Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.]

According to data compiled by independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1,546 were under prosecution as of January 24, 2019. Two hundred sixteen lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 1,361 years in prison. Some of the arrested lawyers were reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment. Fourteen of the detained or arrested lawyers are presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations.

A report titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018)” previously revealed that lawyers have particularly been targeted simply due to the identity or affiliations of their clients, all this spite of the basic principles of the independence of lawyers. [see e.g. https://lawyersforlawyers.org/en/basic-principles/ and also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/09/independence-of-the-legal-profession-subject-of-side-event-on-16-march-2017/]

Judiciary

And it is not limited to lawyers. A Turkish court sentenced a judge who previously won an award for human rights to 10 years in prison over links to the network Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. Murat Arslan, who has been detained for 22 months, was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organisation, after prosecutors charged him with use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock, Anadolu said. Arslan has denied the charges and said any evidence that he had used the app was “fabricated”, Anadolu said.

The government says the outlawed app was widely used by followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted coup that saw rogue soldiers commandeer tanks and aircraft, attacking parliament and killing some 250 unarmed civilians. The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a decision that prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/turkey-angry-after-pace-havel-prize-is-awarded-to-jailed-judge/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/18/european-commission-states-that-turkey-is-taking-major-steps-away-from-the-eu/

Torture

In the meantime Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the 2018 winner of the Hessian Peace Prize for her work documenting human rights abuses in Turkey, said torture had become systematic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/]

Korur Fincancı was one of more than 1,000 Turkish academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for peace after a two-year ceasefire between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down and security forces used tanks and artillery to crush attempts by the militants to seize towns and cities across the mainly Kurdish southeast. Now the head of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for signing the petition and for her contribution to a report prepared by her foundation on the Turkish military’s activities in the southeastern town of Cizre. 

……The figures show an alarming trend that Korur Fincancı said pointed to systematic rights violations. “In the year 2017, more than 5,000 people across Turkey applied for legal aid from the Human Rights Association on the basis that they’d been tortured. More than 500 applied to representatives of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey to be diagnosed … for torture,” she said.  The number of applicants remained high in 2018, with more than 2,600 people who said they had been tortured applying for legal aid and 558 applying for treatment in the first 11 months of the year.

Fincancı

….Korur Fincancı she said the fight against torture must extend beyong medical treatment to preventative measures, and that means educating the public.

…Meanwhile, security forces have opened 26,000 cases against suspects they say resisted arrest. “After police launch cases against them, people become hesitant to open (torture) cases … or the withdraw them. Thus the judiciary protects the police, the use of torture with legal repercussions becomes more entrenched, and the police believe they are doing their duty under this protection,” said the doctor.

With the introduction of emergency rule after the coup, the purge and arrest of public officials has come to be counted as part of a struggle against terrorism, providing another layer of protection for security officers who commit torture and other infractions. “And this arrangement applies to civilians – it’s the same as telling security officers we are in a state of civil war and their actions will be ignored,” Korur Fincancı said. “And that’s a very dangerous situation.

State of emergency

Anyway, ending the state of emergency in Turkey has not ended repressive rule under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Human Rights Watch observed on 17 January 2019 in its World Report 2019. Prolonged and arbitrary jailing of critics on bogus terrorism charges has become the norm in Turkey. Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2018 took place in a climate of media censorship and with some members of parliament and one presidential candidate jailed. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) retained control of a weakened parliament through a coalition. And with the election, in which Erdoğan was reelected, Turkey’s presidential system of governance, approved in a 2017 constitutional referendum, entered fully into force. “Any hope that the end of the state of emergency six month ago would mark a return to respect for human rights has been dashed,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Erdoğan government’s hounding of its critics and opponents has dismantled Turkey’s rule of law framework and turned justice on its head.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-sentences-detained-judge-who-won-human-rights-award-to-10-years–anadolu-says-11141758
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/turkey-state-emergency-ends-not-repression
https://ahvalnews.com/torture/award-winning-rights-activist-says-torture-systematic-turkey

Prominent UK lawyers: Suspend Saudi Arabia from UN Human Rights Council

February 2, 2018

In July 2016 two major NGOs (HRW and AI) teamed up to try and get Saudi Arabia suspended from the UN Human Rights Council (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/05/amnesty-and-hrw-trying-to-get-saudi-arabia-suspended-from-the-un-human-rights-council/). Now Al-Jazeera reports that British lawyers have called for Saudi Arabia to be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating that the kingdom detains political and free speech activists without charge.

In a report released on Wednesday 31 January 2018 in London, Rodney Dixon QC and Lord Kenneth Donald John Macdonald said more than 60 individuals were detained in September last year, “many of whom are believed to be human rights defenders or political activists”.

“Our main recommendation is that steps should be taken by the General Assembly to suspend the government of Saudi Arabia from the [UN] Human Rights Council,” Dixon told Al Jazeera. It is “completely contradictory and ironic for a government with systemic patterns of abuse – as we have highlighted in the report – to be sitting on the council, and in fact previously to have chaired the council….That suspension will act as a major lever for the government to clean up their act and make a proper new start.”

The report, titled Shrouded in secrecy: the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia following arrests in September 2017, was commissioned by the relatives of detainees and will be forwarded to Saudi authorities. “Those detained have not been charged with any offence, and the information about the reasons for their arrests and circumstances of their imprisonment are very limited,” the report said. “There is cause for serious concern about the treatment of many of those detained, including Mr Salman Al-Awda who has recently been hospitalised and others who are, effectively, disappeared.” Awda is one of Saudi’s most popular Muslim leaders with almost 150 million followers on Twitter. He was recently hospitalised after five months of solitary confinement. It remains unclear why he was arrested..

Saudi Arabia’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council expires in 2019. “The suspension of membership rights is not simply a hypothetical possibility,” the report said.In February 2011, the council called for Libya to be suspended as the government of Muammar Gaddafi was being accused of human rights violations against civilians during the uprising. A month later, the General Assembly voted for the suspension of Libya’s membership – marking the first time it has used its power to revoke a country’s membership.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/uk-lawyers-remove-saudi-human-rights-council-180131114753148.html

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

Letter from legal experts on detained lawyers in China

January 19, 2016

On 18 January 2016 Human Rights Watch published an open Letter from Legal Experts on detained lawyers in China. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]. The letter, reproduced below, tries to link the Chinese leaders to their earlier promises that ‘China is a country ruled by law’ and that ‘every individual Party organisation and Party member must abide by the country’s constitution and laws and must not take the Party’s leadership as a privilege to violate them.’ It concludes that the events described appear entirely contrary to those commitments. The list of signatories is impressive.  Read the rest of this entry »

Persecution of Lawyers and Journalists in Turkey: side event in Geneva on 27 January

January 23, 2015

L4L logo Lawyers for Lawyers, the Law Society of England and Wales,  Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Privacy International, Fair Trial Watch and Media Legal Defence Initiative organise  a panel discussion on the “Persecution of Lawyers and Journalists in Turkey” on Tuesday, 27 January, in Geneva, Immediately after the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Turkey,

 At this event fundamental rights of lawyers and journalists that are regularly being violated will be discussed, including freedom of expression, privacy, confidentiality between lawyers and their clients and the protection of sources by journalists. This event comes at a time when the rule of law in Turkey is under serious threat.

[Turkey has adopted new laws and judicial reform packages, allowing for even more internet censorship, data collection, surveillance and the censoring of critical views on the pretence of protecting national security, which are directly undermining the freedom of expression, but also other fundamental rights such as privacy. In particular, journalists and lawyers are negatively impacted. They are subject to surveillance and legal harassment. The last couple of years large groups of lawyers and journalists have been arrested on the suspicion of terrorism related offences. Lawyers face stigmatisation by being continuously identified with their clients’ causes. Journalists are accused of not being independent. For both groups it is hard, if not impossible, to work freely, independently and securely.]

Speakers:

Ayse Bingol – Lawyer from Turkey

Tayfun Ertan – Journalist from Turkey

Marietje Schaake (by Skype) – Member European Parliament

Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion – Privacy International

Tony Fisher – The Law Society of England and Whales

Moderator:  Irma van den Berg – Turkey expert of Lawyers for Lawyers

The event takes place from 12h45 – 14h30 in Room XXIII, Palais des Nations. Those wishing to attend, send email – before 23 January – to : bp[at]lawyersforlawyers.nl

Turkey 27 January in Geneva; side-event Persecution of Lawyers and Journalists in Turkey Lawyers for Lawyers.

Lawyers for Lawyers raises the alarm: Filipino lawyers at risk

April 24, 2014

 

Cathy Salucon, Philippines via L4L

Cathy Salucon, Philippines via L4L

On 23 April 2014 Amsterdam-based Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) warn in an open letter to President Aquino of the Philippines for the continued labeling of lawyers as enemies of the state by the military. Since March, Atty. Maria Catherine L. Dannug-Salucon has been the subject of death threats, labeling, surveillance and verbal intimidation by military officers. Mrs Dannug-Salucon is reportedly on the Filipino military’s Watch List of so-called ‘Communist Terrorist’ supporters providing legal services.  She has also been under the surveillance of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces. The surveillance is particularly worrisome in view of the killing – reportedly by members of the Intelligence Services – on 25 March 2014 of Mr. William Bugatti, a human rights defender who was also working as a paralegal for Atty. Dannug-Salucon.
Read the rest of this entry »

Due to lack of funding INTERIGHTS ceases to exist

April 4, 2014

After 32 years, the NGO “INTERIGHTS” [International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights] ceases to exist as from 27 May 2014 due to lack of funding. This is bad news but at least there is a clear public statement. Too often human rights NGOs or awards are announced with great pomp but their demise is muffled. The Executive Director John Wadham made the following clear-headed statement: Read the rest of this entry »

THE SILENCED VOICES OF SYRIA: Special campaign aimed at Human Rights Defenders

March 16, 2014

While the whole of the Syrian population suffers terribly, it is important to recognize that human rights defenders, activists, media and humanitarian workers have been particularly targeted for their work since the beginning of the Syrian uprising three years ago. Many have been arrested or abducted by either government forces and pro-government militias or by non-state armed groups. The channels for obtaining reliable information are drying up and that is certainly not a coincidence.

Now several international NGOs such as Amnesty International, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, FIDH, Frontline Defenders, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have come together to work jointly, with other international, regional and Syrian organizations, to campaign for the release of  these Silenced Voices of Syria.  The campaign is starting with the documentation of 37 emblematic cases.

This campaign will use a three-pronged strategy  of 1. Research and Documentation, 2. Information/Sensitisation and 3/ Mobilization.

via FREE SILENCED VOICES OF SYRIA | Civil society activists, media and medical workers targeted for their work.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/one-more-disappearance-in-syria-roshdy-el-sheikh-rasheed/