Australia: Lawyer and witness face charges under spy laws, raising questions of openness and accountability

June 29, 2018

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Sarah McNaughton SC, recently filed criminal charges against Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, a former officer of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

The Intelligence Services Act 2001 prevents the identification of his client, who is referred to publicly only as Witness K. Collaery is a former Attorney-General of the ACT. Witness K is reported to be the former head of technical operations for ASIS.

The charges are based on Article 39 of the Intelligence Services Act, which criminalises the unauthorised disclosure of certain information about ASIS. The maximum prison term for this alleged offence is two years. The first directions hearing will occur on July 25 in the ACT Magistrates Court, where Collaery has had a long and distinguished career as an advocate. He is now a defendant in his own court. (ESPANOL) (PORTUGUES) (CHINESE)


China: 709 Crackdown Three Years on: Mother and Lawyer Reveals Brutality Against Her Teenage Son for the First Time

July 1, 2018


Wang Yu (王宇), born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, was a lawyer with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm when she was abducted in the early morning of July 9, 2015. The date of her detention marks the beginning of, and gives name to, the most notorious human rights event over the last two years – the 709 Crackdown. That same evening, her husband and son, en route to Australia for the son to attend school, were also detained. Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun, also a lawyer, were released on bail in August 2016 and the family of three was sequestered in an apartment in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, under severe surveillance. This continued until late 2017, when they were allowed to return to their home in Beijing. Wang Yu has not been able to resume her legal practice because of government obstruction.

Wang recounted her experience in secret detention in the early months of 709 Crackdown, and her forced TV denunciation of the American Bar Association’s inaugural Human Rights Award. Growing up and attending high school in Beijing, Wang Yu’s son Bao Zhuoxuan, 15 years old in July 2015, was briefly detained and then uprooted from home and school and taken to Inner Mongolia to live with his maternal grandparents. In October 2015, a few friends of Wang Yu inside and outside China devised a plan to help the young man by bringing him out of China secretly. It failed; Bao Zhuoxuan and the two adults accompanying him were captured near the Burmese border and brought back. After being held for two and half years, Bao Zhuoxuan was finally allowed to leave China early this year to study in Australia. While he has not spoken about his experiences, his mother Wang Yu spoke out for the first time in a recent interview with The Epoch Times. The following excerpts were translated by China Change and edited for clarity.

709 Crackdown Three Years on: Mother and Lawyer Reveals Brutality Against Her Teenage Son for the First Time




India: Bhima-Koregaon and the fault in our laws

July 2, 2018


The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act must be cleansed of its vast discretionary powers

On December 1, 1948, Professor K.T. Shah rose to make an impassioned speech in the Constituent Assembly. “The autocrat, the despot,” he warned, “has always wished, whenever he was bankrupt of any other argument, just to shut up those who did not agree with him.” Along with many other members of the CA, he was objecting to the wide range of restrictions that had been imposed upon fundamental rights in the draft Constitution. Drawing attention to the multiple “Public Safety Acts” and “Defence of India Acts” that had been the favourite weapons of the colonial regime, speaker after speaker expressed the concern that, despite the best intentions of the Assembly, the Constitution could easily be interpreted to authorise the continuation of these hated laws.

The arrest of five individuals in early June, ostensibly for instigating the riots at Bhima-Koregaon at the beginning of the year, throws the fears expressed in the CA into sharp relief. The accused, who include activists and lawyers, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). An examination of the UAPA shows how, in one overarching “anti-terrorism law”, vast discretionary powers are conferred upon state agencies, judicial oversight is rendered toothless, and personal liberty is set at naught.

Boundless discretion

The UAPA authorises the government to ban “unlawful organisations” and “terrorist organisations” (subject to judicial review), and penalises membership of such organisations.


India: Chief Secretary Suresh Babu’s escort assault High Court Lawyer; YFPHR condemns

July 1, 2018

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The Youth’s Forum for Protection of Human Rights (YFPHR) has condemned the physical assault on an advocate of the Manipur High Court Laimayum Sevananda who is also the legal consultant of YFPHR by the escorts of Chief Secretary Suresh Babu yesterday evening at 5.10 pm near Sanjenthong.

The chief secretary and his escorts were driving towards the Babupara MLA quarter when they asked Sevananda to give way for the chief secretary to overtake.

On Sevananda’s refusal due to lack of space the escorts jumped down from their vehicle and threatened to beat up Sevananda after pushing him out of the way.

The YFPHR suspect Suresh Babu told his escorts to act in the way they did.

Earlier, an incident involving the Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly have also been involved in one such incident, the YFPHR said appealing to the chief minister and Governor of the state to take action against the Chief Secretary and his escorts.

Belarus: Controls on lawyers endangering human rights

June 29, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, in collaboration with the Paris Bar and Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, today released a report documenting restrictions on the independence of lawyers in Belarus. Based on an investigation conducted in January 2018, the report criticises the executive power’s stranglehold on the capacity of lawyers defending cases which the authorities consider to be ‘sensitive’ to practise their profession.


In Belarus, lawyers defending cases considered by the authorities to be ‘troublesome’ are generally exposed to retaliatory measures which can culminate in their expulsion, against a background of changes to the legal framework that have gradually placed Belarusian bars, and lawyers themselves, under the direct authority of the Ministry of Justice. Such retaliatory measures are often initiated following repression by the authorities of large-scale protests, as in 2010 and 2017.

In the course of the past few years, the bars have been stripped of their primary function, which is to guarantee independence and ensure the regulation of the profession. Access to the profession and its organisation now fall under the almost exclusive competence of civil servants in the Ministry of Justice. (FRANCAIS)

Poland: Polish government grilled by EU foreign ministers over judicial reforms

June 28, 2018

EU affairs ministers pressed the Polish government on Tuesday for several hours over its controversial judicial reforms. The hearing, a first in the history of the European Union, was constructive, in the words of European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

In December, the European Commission opened for the first time an Article 7 procedure against Poland, in response to the judicial reform led by the Conservative government, which the EU executive fears will threaten the rule of law and make the judiciary susceptible to political influences. In theory, the full application of article 7 could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the Council; however, Hungary’s right-wing leader Viktor Orban, has said the he will veto any such measures.

Tuesday’s hearing is the first part of the procedure, which may result in a suspension of Polish voting rights in the various councils of the European Union. After a presentation by the Polish executive that Mr Timmermans described as “detailed”, each Member State had the opportunity to ask two questions during a “constructive” and “unprejudiced” interview, added the Vice-President of the Commission.

That does not mean, however, that the European Commission now believes that threats to the rule of law are unfounded, Mr Timmermans warned.

India/Canada: Gurpreet Singh: Surrey chapter of Trinjan celebrates advocate for family of Asifa Bano

June 29, 2018

Lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat has faced threats after speaking up for the family of Asifa Bano, who was raped and killed in Indian-administered Kashmir.

An Indian woman who’s leading a fight for justice for the family of an eight-year-old victim of gang rape and murder in Kashmir was honoured at a community event in Surrey on June 24.

Deepika Singh Rajawat is legal counsel for the family of Asifa Bano, a Muslim nomad girl who was abducted by Hindu extremists in January. The horrific crime was part of a conspiracy to create fear in the minds of Muslims and force them to flee Kathua region in the Indian-administered area.

The body of Asifa, as she’s know by in India, was later found in a forest. The forensic evidence and police investigation established that she was held captive for several days inside a temple, sedated, and raped before being murdered.

The story did not end there. The arrests of the suspects, including a special police officer, sparked angry protests from those with allegiance to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party.

They wanted those arrested to be released. So much so, they hoisted the Indian national flag during a march in support of the alleged perpetrators.


Rajawat has been facing threats on social media for standing up for Asifa, whose brutal rape and murder caused worldwide outrage. There have been angry protests in Canada, too.

In addition, Rajawat has also faced hostility from many male lawyers, including those defending the accused.

She was in Surrey to attend an annual community fair organized by Trinjan, a progressive group of women that’s been active in the South Asian community for many years. Amy Ghuman Sara, who has been instrumental behind Trinjan, is known for raising awareness for gender equality.

The eight-year-old was gang-raped and murdered in what appears to have been an organized attempt to send a message to Muslim nomads.

Deepika Singh Rajawat speaks at about 55:00