July 28, 2016
Teng Biao is a human rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at New York University’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute.
Two years ago, I was invited by the American Bar Association to prepare a manuscript for a book to be titled “Darkness Before Dawn.” This book was to describe the decade I spent engaged in human rights work in China and what those experiences tell us about the country’s politics, society and future. But the ABA soon rescinded the offer. The reason I was given? The group did not want to anger the Chinese government.
I don’t write this to pick on the ABA. There was nothing uncommon about this episode, but the details are useful in illustrating the corrosive influence of the Chinese Communist Party on the West. Far too many Western organizations and scholars working in China practice self-censorship — and for perfectly understandable reasons. If their conclusions on a sensitive political topic anger the regime, they won’t get a visa, and their work and funding will be jeopardized.
Whenever Chinese politics is mentioned, most think of the factional struggles among Communist Party leaders. But this is only part of the picture. The stories I’ve long sought to tell are otherwise: About activists given heavy prison sentences for forming opposition political parties. About human rights lawyers representing persecuted Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans and Uighurs. About rights defenders whose activism helped end the labor camp system, the one-child policy and forced demolitions.
I am intimately familiar with this work, because I am one of their number. For my activism I’ve been banned from teaching, forced out of a job, disbarred from practicing law, jailed and tortured.
July 14, 2016
“In this society, lawyers who bear witness to injustice and speak the truth get punished.”
Constant pressure and harassment by Iran’s Judiciary and security establishment have forced a human rights lawyer to leave her profession. Giti Pourfazel—who spent nearly 10 years representing political prisoners and their families, usually for free—has submitted her resignation to Iran’s Bar Association.
“I have paid my debt to society and reached a point where I don’t have the mental strength to carry on,” she told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in an interview. “I had to quit and ask for retirement, but I have kept busy. I don’t practice law any more, but I’ve started to do some writing.”
“Most of the cases I took on were political ones,” said Pourfazel. “These individuals were being persecuted for their political beliefs. I would give interviews and talk about these cases and that’s how I got into all kinds of trouble that continue to this day. It got to a point where I couldn’t continue on that path any longer. I was really under a lot of pressure.”
“In this society, lawyers who bear witness to injustice and speak the truth get punished,” she added. “Why? Because they love their country.”
July 27, 2016
Since the attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016, more than 60.000 people have been fired or suspended from their jobs, many of whom were also arrested. Among them are 2.745 judges. Now, lawyers are also targeted.
Prominent human rights lawyer and journalist Orhan Kemal Cengizand his wife Sibel Semira Hurtas were arrested on 21 July 2016 on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, on their way to London to discuss the formation of the Tahir Elci Foundation. Mrs Hurtas was released the same day, mr Cengiz three days later. He is still subject to travel restrictions. It is unclear what the grounds for these measures are.
The same day it was reported that 11 lawyers were arrested in Izmir, and a warrant for the arrest of 14 other lawyers was issued. In this case it is also unclear why the lawyers were arrested. Through various sources we are informed that in Istanbul approximately 50 lawyers are held incommunicado, with no access to lawyers.
L4L President Phon van den Biesen: ‘Although we understand that the Turkish government must respond to the attempted coup, we are worried about their current actions. They seem to undermine the rule of law, which is an essential part in any democracy, even in a state of emergency.’
May 10, 2016
Award winning lawyer and political activist Mahienour El-Massry wrote a letter from prison on Monday, criticising recent political events and demanding the fall of oppressive regimes.
A copy of the letter, published on the Free Mahienour official Facebook page, read: “We have been dreaming of a nation that accommodates our dreams.”
“And we realised the only way to enable this nation to thrive is to fight all those who consider themselves gods, convincing people that the nation will fall if they step down.”
Al-Massry spoke of “those who convince the people that their freedom is a conspiracy”.
(UPDATE: She will be released from jail soon, hopefully by August 9, 2016)
July 28, 2016
Two high-level Turkish generals resigned on Thursday ahead of a Supreme Military Council meeting to restructure the armed forces following the 15 July failed coup attempt. At the same time authorities placed more restrictions on lawyers’ activities, as accusations of torture and rape of detained military personnel have surfaced.
Land Forces Chief of Staff General Ihsan Uyar and Training and Doctrine Command head General Kamil Basoglu stepped down on Thursday, the private Dogan news agency said.
Nearly half the armed forces’ generals and admirals have been dishonourably discharged and about 10,000 soldiers have been taken into custody, with 1,500 lower ranking troops released. Some of those detained have filed complaints of torture and inhuman treatment during their detention, although lawyers in Ankara say that many more have refused to do so.
Detainees have been beaten, deprived of food for up to three days, kept in inhuman conditions and kept in stress positions for three days, according to lawyers.
There have also been accusations of rape.
“One of our colleagues representing a general was in a private meeting with the general and asked him if he’s been tortured and the general told him that he had been sodomised with a police truncheon,” Sercan Aran of the Ankara Bar Association said on Thursday.
July 28, 2016
In mid-July, nine opposition parties, seven human rights organization, and over 100 political figures signed a statement denouncing what they described as a harsh three-year prison sentence, and a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds, issued by a Cairo court against ten demonstrators. They were sentenced on charges relating to a protest against the controversial maritime border agreement signed with Saudi Arabia in early April. Their lawyers have said they will appeal the sentences.
This same charge has been leveled against one of the lawyers who was involved in the successful lawsuit against the Tiran and Sanafir agreements. Malek Adly, a prominent lawyer, along with eight other defendants including Amr Badr and Mahmoud Al-Saqa, the two journalists arrested by police while seeking refuge inside the Press Syndicate on May 1, are charged with seeking to topple the regime and forming an illegal organization. Adly has been in prison since May 6, and according to his wife, has been kept in solitary confinement. His detention has been renewed on a regular basis since his arrest every 15 days. The last renewal was on July 18, with no date in sight for his trial.
Tarek Awadi, one of Adly’s defense lawyers, accuses security agencies of “taking revenge” on Adly for his outspoken opposition to the deal with Saudi Arabia. “This is revenge for Adly and his colleagues, and not administrative detention,” Awadi said. “There have been no new investigations since his arrest in early May, and there is no reason to keep him in prison for more than 70 days,” Awadi told