Russian authorities must immediately withdraw their motion to disbar lawyer Ivan Pavlov and stop their harassment of the lawyer as a result of his professional duties, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said.
“The multiple attempts to disbar Ivan Pavlov send a clear signal to lawyers in Russia that their independence is at serious risk” said Roisin Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.
“The pattern of harassment by authorities is designed to deter lawyers from representing clients in certain high-profile cases. But international standards protect the independence of lawyers and stipulate that lawyers should never be identified with their clients’ causes”.
The ICJ calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation to withdraw the motion against Pavlov to ensure that he does not face adverse consequences for diligently carrying out his professional duties and that he continues to freely exercise his profession.
On 20 September, the St Petersburg Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation submitted a motion to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Pavlov seeking his disbarment. No alternative measures were suggested by the Ministry.
The ICJ is concerned that the grounds of disbarment threaten Ivan Pavlov’s freedom of expression and seek to penalise him for the representation of his client. By way of example, one of the grounds for disbarment cited by the Ministry of Justice is that by giving interviews to the media he carried out “an attempt to put pressure on the investigation and the court by unilaterally submitting information to the media and presenting the public with distorted data on the investigation of a criminal case”.
Among the other grounds for the disbarment sought by the Ministry of Justice are failure to attend investigative actions, an alleged unwarranted transcription of state secret information from a case file, and presidency of an NGO recognised by the authorities as “undesirable”.
Pavlov rejects these allegations as unsubstantiated or factually incorrect.
Previously, in 2020, the Ministry of Justice sought disbarment of Ivan Pavlov and appealed the refusal of the St Petersburg Bar Association to disbar him. On 30 September, the Kuibyshev District Court terminated the proceedings, as the Ministry of Justice withdrew the suit. Yet, the key points from these proceedings were used in the new motion seeking Pavlov’s disbarment submitted on 20 September.
The Belarusian Justice Ministry has launched a disciplinary investigation against the well-known lawyer Natallya Matskevich.
She was suspended from work, Alyaksandr Dzyadok, the father of political prisoner Mikalai Dzyadok, told Radio Svaboda.
Until now, Natallya Matskevich, a member of Minsk City Bar Сouncil, has been a defence lawyer of Mikalai Dzyadok who reported his being tortured by police. She was also involved in political trials, defending Lukashenka’s opponents and might-have-been presidential candidates Viktar Babaryka and Syarhei Tsikhanouski.
According to Alyaksandr Dzyadok, taking such steps is nothing but deliberately depriving people of their right to protection.
“The question of revoking her [Matskevich’s] license is looming. As a result, my son has a legal disaster – it is the second time that he has been left without protection during the judicial investigation: earlier, they stripped [lawyer] Yauhen Maslau of his license, now Natallya Matskevich is facing the same threat. A week ago, she was still allowed to visit the son in the pre-trial detention centre on Valadarski Street; she was about to see him yesterday [on Tuesday], but we have come across the problem,” the man said.
As reported earlier, since the beginning of post-election protests in 2020, the Justice Ministry’s Qualification Commission have terminated the licenses of many Belarusian lawyers who were involved in defending citizens prosecuted on political grounds. Over the past months, political prisoner Maryia Kalesnikava’s defence lawyers Alyaksandr Pylchanka and Lyudmila Kazak have been disbarred. In addition, the Belarusian authorities forced out of the profession Kanstantsin Mikhel, Mikhail Kirilyuk, Maksim Konan, Uladzimir Sazanchuk (the latter defends politician MikalaiStatkevich, blogger Zmitser Kazlou and was one of Katsyaryna Andreyeva’s lawyers), Anton Hashynski, Syarhei Zikratski. The Belarusian State University (BSU) decided not to re-sign the employment contract with Alena Layeuskaya, a civil law teacher at the Faculty of Law and mother of Babaryka’s lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski.
1. The present two applications concern the restrictions imposed on the bank accounts of the applicants and on the freedom of movement of the applicant by the domestic authorities. The applicants raise various complaints under Articles 6, 11, 13, 18 and 34 of the Convention, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.
2. The applicants’ details and the names of their representatives are listed in the Appendix.
3. The Government were represented by their Agent, Mr Ç. Əsgərov.
7. Soon thereafter the bank accounts of numerous non-governmental organisations and civil society activists were frozen by the domestic authorities within the framework of criminal case no. 142006023. The domestic proceedings concerning the freezing of those bank accounts are the subject of the present two and other applications pending before the Court (see, for example the communicated cases, Imranova andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 59462/14 and 4 others; Economic Research Centre andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74254/14 and 5 others; and Abdullayev andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74363/14 and 7 others).
8. Various human rights defenders and civil society activists were also arrested within the framework of the same criminal proceedings in connection with their activities within or with various non-governmental organisations. The domestic proceedings concerning the arrest and pre-trial detention of some of those human rights defenders and civil society activists have already been examined by the Court (see, for example, Rasul Jafarovv. Azerbaijan, no. 69981/14, 17 March 2016; Mammadli v. Azerbaijan, no. 47145/14, 19 April 2018; Aliyev v. Azerbaijan, nos. 68762/14 and 71200/14, 20 September 2018; and Yunusova and Yunusov v.Azerbaijan (no. 2), no. 68817/14, 16 July 2020).
9. In July 2014 the applicant was invited to the Prosecutor General’s Office where he was questioned about the applicant association’s activities. Between July 2014 and 2016 he was again questioned, on several occasions, by the prosecuting authorities about the same activities.
IMPOSITION OF THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE APPLICANTS’ BANK ACCOUNTS
In respect of the applicant association’s bank accounts
11. According to the applicant association, on an unspecified date in July 2014 its chairman, the applicant, went to the local branch of the International Bank of Azerbaijan where he was informed by a bank official of the attachment order.
12. On 14 July 2014 the applicant association asked the Nasimi District Court for a copy of the attachment order and received it on the same day.
13. On 16 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against the Nasimi District Court’s order of 19 May 2014, claiming a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. It submitted that an attachment order could not be taken in respect of its bank accounts within the meaning of Article 248 of the CCrP since neither the applicant association nor its members were accused in any criminal proceedings. It also noted that an attachment order could be taken within the meaning of Article 248.1 of the CCrP only for the purposes of ensuring the payment of a civil claim or the confiscation of property when provided for by criminal law. However, criminal case no. 142006023 was instituted under Articles 308.1 and 313 of the Criminal Code which did not provide for confiscation of property as a sanction. Lastly, it pointed out that the attachment order was disproportionate since, even assuming that there were doubts about the origin of the money received from the United States of America’s National Endowment for Democracy, the attachment order should have concerned only the impugned amount, and not all the bank accounts of the applicant association. Together with its appeal, the applicant association also lodged a request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. In support of its restoration request, it submitted that it had never been informed of the Nasimi District Court’s hearing of 19 May 2014 and had obtained a copy of the impugned order only on 14 July 2014.
14. On 18 July 2014 the Nasimi District Court dismissed the applicant association’s request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. The court found that the applicant association had failed to submit any evidence showing that there was a valid reason for missing the three-day time-limit for lodging an appeal. The decision did not address the applicant association’s arguments concerning the court’s failure to inform it of its hearing of 19 May 2014 or to provide it with a copy of the impugned order of its own initiative.
15. On 21 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against that decision, reiterating its previous arguments.
16. On 24 July 2014 the Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, without examining the applicant association’s arguments in respect of the restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
Decides to join the applications;
Declares the applications admissible;
Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention in respect of both applicants;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 8,000 (eight thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant association in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 15,000 (fifteen thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(iii) EUR 1,900 (one thousand and nine hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses, to be paid directly into the bank account of their representative, Mr R. Mustafazade;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
UN human rights experts* expressed deep concern about the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and woman human rights defender Chow Hang-Tung on charges of “incitement to subversion” and being a foreign agent, and urged authorities to refrain from the use of the National Security Law and reconsider its application.
Ms. Chow, a human rights lawyer, was arrested on 8 September 2021. She was a member of the Hong Kong Alliance, an advocacy group which organised the annual candlelight vigil marking the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. Several other activists have been similarly arrested and charged under the National Security Law.
“Terrorism and sedition charges are being improperly used to stifle the exercise of fundamental rights, which are protected under international law, including freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs,” the experts said.
The experts have communicated in detailed written analysis their concerns to the Government of the People’s Republic of China about the National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region highlighting the law’s fundamental incompatibility with international law and with China’s human rights obligations.
The experts also raised their concerns over the qualification of “foreign agent” under the National Security Law, in which reference is made to funding received from foreign governments and activities benefitting them. The experts called on the Government to ensure that associations can seek, receive and use funding from foreign or international sources, without undue impediments.
On 6 October 2021, a judge and a prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the state of Merida in Venezuela threatened to order the arrest of human rights lawyers Engels Puertas and Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas, accusing them of defamation. The threat was made in the middle of a trial in which Engels Puertas and Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas were acting as legal representatives on the defence team.
Engels Puertas is a lawyer and human rights defender. For more than six years he has been defending people who have been incriminated in unjust criminal proceedings. Engels is also a member of the legal team in the organisation 100% Estrogen, where he works on cases with a gender perspective. He also directs the organisation Iniciativa Para Una Justicia Igualitaria, where he works alongside lawyer and human rights defender Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas, who has been litigating in defence of human rights, specifically in favour of the right to a legitimate defence of victims and the right to due process of their defendants.
Human rights lawyers Engels Puertas and Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas are part of the defence team of the case of 2 individuals who were arbitrarily detained and allegedly tortured in prison. The case has been ongoing for over 5 years. On 6 October 2021, when the case was being heard before the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the state of Merida, Engels Puertas and Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas were threatened by the prosecutor one day after they recused and denounced the judge presiding over the case in the Venezuelan General Inspectorate of Courts for alleged violations of due process. The judge in question declared the accusations by the human rights defenders inadmissible and threatened to file a complaint against them in order to remove them from the case and inhibit their work as defence lawyers. The judge, while deciding to continue the trial and ignoring the complaint against him, has appointed other public lawyers to represent the defendants, ignoring their appeal to continue with their lawyers.
Human rights organizations are gravely concerned by the Lebanese authorities’ recent attempts to silence and discredit Mohammed Sablouh, a human rights lawyer defending victims of torture and Syrian refugees facing deportation. The actions of the Lebanese authorities represent an unacceptable infringement on the work of lawyers and other human rights defenders, in light of Lebanon’s ongoing failure to meet its legal obligations to prevent and punish the use of torture and to abide by the principle of non-refoulement.
Mohammed Sablouh is a Lebanese lawyer and the director of the Prisoners’ Rights Center at the Tripoli Bar Association. For nearly 15 years, he has been documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment in Lebanese detention facilities and advocating on behalf of victims both at the domestic and international levels. Recently, Sablouh’s work exposing the torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners in the Military Police prison in Beirut, at the Fakhr El-Din barrack (Ramla al-Bayda), and his advocacy against the forcible deportation of Syrian refugees garnered significant media coverage in the Lebanese press. As a result, he has been subjected to abusive legal challenges and other forms of intimidation, particularly from the General Security Directorate and the Military Prosecution.
On 23 September 2021, the Government’s Commissioner to the Military Court, Judge Fadi Akiki and the Military Police, pressured one of Sablouh’s clients, a detainee in the Fakhr El-Din facility, to testify that Sablouh’s allegations of torture were fabricated, according to family members. On 28 September, the Military Prosecution sent a letter to the Tripoli Bar Association requesting the authorization to prosecute Sablouh under article 403 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which penalizes false accusations. This request indicates that the Lebanese authorities are initiating retaliatory legal proceedings against Sablouh in an attempt to discredit his legally sanctioned work documenting instances of torture.
By obstructing the work of lawyers, Lebanon is violating its own laws and criminal procedures as well as its international human rights obligations. The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers requires governments to ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” and that they “shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.” On 8 October, Sablouh’s case was submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers and on human rights defenders.
Call to action
We, the undersigned national and international human rights organizations, call on Lebanon to respect the work of lawyers and others advocating on behalf of victims of torture and to adhere to its legal obligations to prevent and punish the use of torture.
We call on the Lebanese authorities, and particularly the Military Prosecution and the General Security Directorate, to:
Your editorial “Impunity gone berserk” (9/22/2021) contains much with which all would agree—the killing of lawyers with impunity is a threat to the rule of law and therefore to a democratic Philippines. However, it seems that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has also gone berserk.
The number of lawyers killed under President Duterte, now 69, is lamentable, but it is nowhere near the 500-percent increase that the IBP proclaims and which, willy nillly, the media continues to trumpet unquestioningly. Unfortunately, the IBP continues to use the inaccurate numbers first produced by the Free Legal Assistance Group.
Here are the numbers recorded by the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers: According to numerous monitoring groups, there were 18 lawyers killed from the Marcos to Estrada presidencies, 83 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and 47 under President Benigno Aquino III. Thus, pre-Duterte there were at least 148 killings.
Your editorial cites the IBP claim that ”the number of lawyers killed since President Duterte came into power in 2016 has skyrocketed by 500 percent.” That is obviously a claim that cannot be justified. What is true is that at 1.1 lawyer killed per month, the rate under Mr. Duterte far exceeds the rates under his two predecessors: Arroyo at 0.74 and Aquino at 0.65.
The IBP would be well advised to seek ways in which the lawyers can protect themselves. Relying on the government, especially when state forces are involved in lawyer killings, is rather like waiting for snow in Manila. They might follow the example being set now in Nigeria where the national Bar has called a temporary boycott of the courts, in similar manner as in France, India, and Pakistan. Governments must be persuaded to act, and not only expected to do so.
Gill H. Boehringer
co-chair, Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers
The high-risk situation suffered by Nicaraguan lawyer José Arnulfo López Cruz has forced him to take refuge in Spain with his family, to avoid arrest for his work as a lawyer defending political prisoners in Nicaragua.
José Arnulfo López Cruz is a lawyer and human rights defender. He belongs to the organisation Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), which specialises in the legal defence of political prisoners in the socio-political context of Nicaragua. José Arnulfo resigned from his position as a prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor’s Office and, from 2018 until today, has dedicated himself to the practice of law as a defender of political prisoners.
The Nicaraguan lawyer has worked for the Nicaraguan Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) and has defended high-profile cases during his career, which has led to his continued harassment by police and vigilante groups.
These persistent attacks have included threats by paramilitaries during court appearances in the cases he has defended, as well as continuous police surveillance and monitoring of his workplace and home. The risk to the lawyer extends to his family members, who are also victims of this repression. In this regard, in May 2021, lawyer José Arnulfo was arbitrarily detained with his son by police officers who beat him and illegally stole their documents and money.
This harassment has become more frequent since the Nicaraguan lawyer took over the defence of pre-presidential candidate Félix Alejandro Maradiaga, who was arrested on 9 June 2021 . This has also affected the work of his wife, Arlen Cristina Muñoz, who was detained and questioned in defence of Félix Maradiaga by police officers on 18 June 2021.
The situation of José Arnulfo and his family became untenable after he received a call warning of his imminent arrest, which precipitated his departure from the country on 3 October 2021 and his exile to Spain, where he will seek political asylum.
A group of detained Iranian lawyers have published an open letter declaring their intent to sue Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former president Hassan Rouhani and ex-health minister Saeed Namaki, as well as all members of the National Coronavirus Taskforce and the Prosecutor-General.
Mustafa Nili, Arash Kaykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian were among six people detained in mid-August as they prepared to file a lawsuit against the Supreme Leader for gross mishandling of Covid-19 in Iran.
The news website Emtedadpublished their letter on Sunday, quoting it as follows: “As a group of Iranian citizens, we wanted to speak out about the unprofessional speeches, the simplifications, the carelessness and arrogance of the country’s officials during the coronavirus pandemic.
“From preventing the timely purchase of a coronavirus vaccine to delaying its import due to political motives; from the extrajudicial establishment of the National Coronavirus Taskforce to the deposit of billions of dollars in non-specialist corporations and selected institutions, instead of reputable ones; from the murder and painful deaths of tens of thousands of our compatriots, to the deaths of hundreds of health workers.”
Nili, Kaykhosravi and Mahmoudian wrote that they had decided to file the complaint against those officials who had “sent millions of our compatriots into mourning” by “recklessness, bigotry, inaction and prioritizing factional, political and economic interests over the health of the people. We file charges against them for involuntary manslaughter, amongst other things.”
Before they had a chance to file it, however, the three said 15 agents of the judiciary had raided their offices in Tehran “violently and without authorization… after three hours of useless quarrelling, they detained us to prevent us from filing a complaint.”
Since then, they said, they had been held in Ward 241 of Evin Prison, blocked from having visits or phone calls, and subjected to 23 days of solitary confinement. This, they said, would be added to their complaint as a “clear example of torture” and a violation of Iran’s own Constitution.