Monthly Archives: July 2021

Egypt: Renewed Judicial Harassment of Rights Defenders


Human rights activist Gamal Eid is seen at a court in Cairo, March 24, 2016.

 Egyptian authorities have summoned at least five prominent human rights defenders during July 2021 for questioning as part of a decade-old criminal investigation, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have used Case 173 of 2011 to arbitrarily prosecute leading rights defenders and organizations over allegations of receiving foreign funds.

Since 2016, authorities have summoned for interrogation dozens of members of nongovernment groups, mostly human rights organizations, and placed over 30 of them on arbitrary travel ban lists, and frozen the assets of over a dozen organizations and individuals. Three of the five people summoned in July had not been questioned previously. The case has had a chilling impact on civic space in Egypt.

“Egyptian authorities should close Case 173 once and for all, and stop harassing independent rights organizations for doing their work,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The repeated summons, on top of travel bans and asset freezes, is clearly a tactic to stifle civic space in Egypt.”

Those summoned most recently include Mozn Hassan, a women’s rights defender and director of Nazra for Feminist Studies and Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, on July 29. On July 27, the authorities summoned Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, and Negad al-Borie, director of the law firm United Group. On July 15, the authorities summoned Azza Soliman, women’s rights defender and director of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Awareness. The authorities had not previously summoned Bahgat, Eid, or al-Borie despite banning them several years ago from leaving the country.

Based on social media posts and statements by the activists following the latest prosecution sessions, the questions by the investigative judge, Ali Mokhtar, focused on the activists groups’ funding, in some cases as far back as 2005.

Judge Mokhtar allowed them to look at the prosecution file, which consisted mainly of National Security Agency allegations against them and their organizations, such as “tarnishing the image of the government” and in some cases referencing reports these organizations published about human rights abuses. The judge did not allow any of them to take copies of the prosecution files or inform them of the actual charges they are being investigated for.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a statement that Eid’s interrogation lasted about three hours and that the judge ordered him to return for another session on August 1. The statement said that the prosecution file, which Human Rights Watch has not seen, included National Security Agency allegations that Eid and ANHRI had played a role in the country’s 2011 nationwide uprising, and that ANHRI had received funding from Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). CPJ has denied those allegations. Human Rights Watch is typically not a grant-making organization, Human Rights Watch said.


China: Lawyer’s Account of Meeting With Detained Civil Rights Activist Ding Jiaxi


July 13, 2021, a summer day in Beijing. The sun was emerging after a rain shower. I waded through puddles on the road heading for Beijing South Railway Station.

It was getting pretty late when the high-speed train arrived in Linyi. Getting off the train, I ran into a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen for years but had long wanted to meet. Whether by a heartfelt wish or divine coincidence, it is such crossing of paths, accidental or planned, that fill life with richness. On this trip, I was to go to Linshu County Detention Center in Linyi City to meet Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜). Having been accused of subverting state power, he has been detained for more than a year and six months. I know Linyi because of a blind citizen who years ago was imprisoned, and placed under house arrest after being released from prison, for helping victims of China’s violent birth control policy.

On the morning of July 14, I came to the Linshu County Detention Center and was told by the police at reception to “wait for notice” after submitting a request form for interviewing my client.

In the afternoon, I went to the Linyi City Procuratorate, which was responsible for the case, and contacted the prosecutor of the case asking for continuing to review the case file. Ding Jiaxi was placed under residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) from December 26 2019 until June 19 2020, when his arrest was approved. After the end of the two-month investigation period, the Shandong Provincial Procuratorate three times approved the extension of the investigation period for five months. On January 18, 2021, after the completion of the public security investigation, the case was transferred to the Linyi City Procuratorate for review and prosecution, and the latter twice returned the case to the Public SecurityBureau for supplementary investigation. Currently, the case is under a third review by the Linyi City Procuratorate.

Up until then, the Procuratorate had informed the defense lawyers that because the case “involved state secrets,” they were not allowed to take photos or make copies of the case files and were only allowed to review them under the prosecutors’ supervision. The defense lawyers believe that this restriction on copying case files violates Criminal Procedure Law and restricts lawyers’ defense rights. They filed objections requesting to correct errors and to allow lawyers to take photos or copy case files, but the requests were denied. There are more than 40 volumes of files with information on many people, time, places, procedures, and evidence. Not being allowed to copy files has impeded the lawyers from getting all the facts of the case and preparing for the defense.

Just as I finished reviewing the case files in the evening and was walking out of the Linyi Municipality Procuratorate building, the Linshu County Detention Center called and informed me that I was allowed to meet Ding Jiaxi in the afternoon of July 15.

On the morning of July 15, with the half-day spare time before the meeting, I went to the Linyi Municipality Procuratorate again and reviewed some key procedures and evidence, the two supplementary investigation case files submitted by the Public Security Bureau, and other related files.


Nicaragua: Ortega’s Police Arrest Defense Attorney Maria Oviedo


There are now 31 new political prisoners since the end of May and over 140 total.

The Police of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo arrested lawyer Maria Oviedo, coordinator of the special legal team of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), on Thursday July 29th in Leon, confirmed that human rights organization.

The president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Vilma Nunez, said that Oviedo was at her mother’s house when two police vehicles and around thirty policemen arrived to arrest her. She was then taken from Leon to the infamous New El Chipote Police Complex, in Managua.

At first, the reasons for the arrest were unknown. “They took her out of her mother’s house, where she was brushing her teeth. They did not let her take anything with her. They just took her away (…),” assured Nunez.

Later it became known that Oviedo was arrested for the catch-all treason Law 1055, used to imprison opposition leaders, politicians and activists.

The capture occurs in a context of worsening governmental repression against opponents, which has left dozens of new political prisoners, and greater risk for their defense lawyers, who have denounced, under anonymity, being victims of harassment, threats and criminalization of their profession. With Oviedo, there are 31 Nicaraguans, including seven presidential candidates arrested in the latest wave of repression.

Oviedo participated last Sunday in the online Esta Semana program to analyze the violations of the rights of recent political prisoners, some with more than 60 days incommunicado from their relatives and lawyers.

The lawyer questioned the reform of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that a person can be detained for up to 90 days for the purpose of “investigation,” which she considered unconstitutional and totally in violation of human rights, she said on that occasion.



CADAL on Twitter: "Policía de #Nicaragua detuvo a la abogada defensora de  #DerechosHumanos María Oviedo y la trasladó a la Dirección de Auxilio  Judicial El Chipote, ubicada en Managua. Pedimos se respeten

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian Rights Lawyer, Home Temporarily: “We Are Hoping for a Better Future That Can Protect Us”



Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh is temporarily home from prison and speaking about her experiences as a political prisoner.

Nasrin Sotoudeh is home from prison on temporary medical leave. That is a simple thing to write, but there is so much emotion, strength, sacrifice, vision and history involved. And so much at stake in what will come next.

The internationally acclaimed Iranian human rights attorney was arrested in June 2018 because of her work representing opposition activists, religious minorities and women who publicly protested Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Nasrin was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes on charges that included “inciting corruption and prostitution,” “disrupting public order,” “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security.” She had previously been imprisoned from 2010 to 2013 on similar charges—a heavy price to pay for loving one’s country.

Nelson Mandela said, “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” The Iranian government’s persecution of Sotoudeh reflects a systemic disregard for the needs, rights and dignity of its citizens.

In August 2020, Nasrin launched a 46-day hunger strike in Evin Prison that brought global attention to poor health conditions in Iranian prisons. She was punished for her protest by being transferred, despite a serious heart condition, to an overcrowded windowless cell in the notoriously unsanitary Qarchak Women’s Prison.

Unsurprisingly, she quickly caught a severe case of COVID-19. She was briefly released in January for an overdue angioplasty, but on the day she was abruptly forced to return to prison, she was also informed the authorities had frozen her family’s bank accounts.

Now Nasrin is briefly back home with her husband Reza Khandan, their daughter Mehraveh, and their son Nima. They each live with the fear and uncertainty that the judicial system uses to psychologically break prisoners and their families. However, this is a family that will not be broken.

A few days after her homecoming, my wife Marcia Ross and I talked with Nasrin and Reza, translated by our mutual friend, writer Amir Soltani. We produced the documentary Nasrin, streaming on Hulu, and it has been a great life-changing privilege to become long-distance friends with this remarkable couple.


Statement on the Day of profession of lawyers of the Republic of Azerbaijan


Statement on the

On this day – 30 July 2021 – Azerbaijan celebrates the Day of profession of lawyers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a day during which lawyers are placed in the limelight. Lawyers for Lawyers uses this day to reflect on and assess the current situation for human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan.

Current situation in Azerbaijan

Lawyers for Lawyers has long been concerned about the attempts to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers in Azerbaijan. These lawyers often work on cases that engage human rights or represent persons perceived to be critics of the Azerbaijani authorities. As a result of these proceedings, the right of Azerbaijani lawyers to perform their professional activities without hindrance isoften disregarded. Moreover, the corresponding rights of their clients to a fair trial (for example, the right to prepare an adequate defense, the right to a counsel of one’s own choosing, and the right to lawyer-client confidentiality) are frequently disrespected.

Harassment and criminal prosecution of lawyers

The abovementioned concerns are laid down in our recent Universal Period Review (UPR) mid-term report. In the report we furthermore mention cases of harassment and criminal prosecution of lawyers.

One of the lawyers mentioned in the report is Intigam Aliyev, a human rights lawyer who has submitted a great number of applications revolving around the right to fair trial, free speech and election rigging to the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, Ms. Aliyev has been subjected to harassment and criminal prosecution in the past and, more recently, has been sanctioned with a travel ban due to an alleged failure to pay a tax debt from 2011-2014.

Another example of criminal prosecution of lawyers in Azerbaijan is the case of Elchin Mammad, who was arrested on 30 March 2020. Only a few days earlier, Mr. Mammad published a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. On 15 October 2020, Mr. Mammad was sentenced to four years in prison under the charges of “theft causing significant damage” and “illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories”. Consequently, Mr. Mammad is currently unable to carry out his work as a lawyer. It has been reported that Mr. Mammad was transferred to the Main Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice on 12 June 2021, after allegedly not having received adequate medical care while in detention.


UK: Scottish advocates accuse Boris Johnson of undermining rule of law


Boris Johnson has been rebuked for his comments on "left wing" lawyers.

Boris Johnson’s comments on “left-wing criminal justice lawyers” is part of a strategy to undermine the rule of law in the UK, the Faculty of Advocates has claimed.

In an unusually outspoken move, the organisation has rebuked the Prime Minister for “political posturing” and a “baseless mischaracterisation” of lawyers, which it said was “damaging to the rule of law”.

Mr Johnson, who has previously dismissed human rights lawyers also as “lefty”, said on Wednesday that “left-wing criminal justice lawyers act against the public interest”.

Speaking on LBC radio, Mr Johnson was asked to respond to comments by Labour party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, that the Conservatives had become the party of crime and disorder.

He said: “When you look at Labour, you see a party that voted consistently against tougher sentences for serious sexual violent offenders. The Labour opposition has consistently taken the side of, I’m afraid, left-wing criminal justice lawyers against, I believe, the interests of the public.”

His comments came nearly a year after he told the Conservative Party conference the criminal justice system was being hamstrung by “lefty human rights lawyers”.

In a statement on its website, the Faculty of Advocates, which regulates the training and professional practice, conduct and discipline of advocates in Scotland, said it “deplores” Mr Johnson’s comments.

The body said: “These comments go hand-in-hand with recent pronouncements by the home secretary and appear to be part of a strategy to undermine the rule of law.


India: Lawyers on streets for Advocates’ Protection Act


अधिवक्ता मनोज झा की हत्या के विरोध में वकीलों ने सड़क पर मार्च निकाला और नारेबाजी की। - Dainik Bhaskar

Lawyers in State Capital on Tuesday refrained from judicial work protesting against the board day light murder of fellow lawyer at Tamar in rural area of Capital. The lawyers holding placards and banners took out a protest march from Ranchi District Bar Association (RDBA) to Albert Ekka Chowk. The lawyers demanded the implementation of the Advocates Protection Act in the State.

Earlier, on Monday afternoon a middle aged practicing lawyer Manoj Jha was killed by motorcycle-borne assailants in Radgaon area under Tamar police station. Police said that the deceased was in his car with his driver around 500m from the busy National Highway-33 connecting Ranchi and Jamshedpur, when five assailants on two bikes opened fire at the lawyer. Police sources said that it came to light that he was attacked when he was overseeing wall construction on a big plot which was disputed earlier.

As per information, the lawyer was getting the work done on behalf of one of his clients, an educational institution, on the 14-acre plot. The assailants overpowered Jha’s driver at gunpoint and pumped several bullets before escaping.

Reacting strongly over the death of Jha, Jharkhand State Bar Council chairman Rajendra Krishna said, “The board daylight murder of a practicing lawyer is a serious issue. The incident exposes the poor law and order situation in State Capital.” Jharkhand State Bar Council member Sanjay Vidrohi demanded the implementation of Advocates Protection Act in the state. The Advocates Protection Act is for the protection of advocates and their functions in discharge of professional duties. The Act is stated to be the protection of advocates and to remove obstructions in the discharge of their duties.

He said that in recent time incidents like assault and murder against advocates have increased. In view of this, the Protection Act is needed.

This is not the first time that demands for setting up the Advocates Protection Act. The State Bar Council had placed their demands for implementation of Advocates Protection Act during the tenure of Chief Raghubar Das, but the act could not be implemented.  The then Government had asked for a draft copy of the Act. After this, action was started on behalf of the Government. But after the formation of the new Government and given the conditions in Corona, the process regarding the Act slowed down.



Australia: Australian Bar Association calls on the Commonwealth to reconsider the prosecution of Bernard Collaery


The Australian Bar Association shares the concerns of the ACT Bar Association in relation to the prosecution of barrister and former Deputy Chief Minister of the ACT and ACT Attorney-General, Bernard Collaery.

Mr Collaery advised the East Timor Resistance movement and represented Witness K in a legal case brought by the Timor-Leste Government against the Australian Government.

The prosecution relates to events which occurred in 2004. The prosecution was commenced at the end of May 2018 with the consent of the (former) Attorney-General, a consent which his predecessor had not granted.

The prosecution has largely taken place in secret, with much of the evidence suppressed. The basis upon which evidence needs to be suppressed is, itself, the subject of suppression. This impedes the ability of the legal profession and the public to scrutinise the administration of justice in this important case.

Further background can be found in the ACT Bar Association’s media release here.

The Council of the Australian Bar Association this week unanimously passed the following resolution:

The ABA expresses its concerns about the delays in the prosecution of Mr Collaery and the secret nature of the proceedings and suppression of much of the evidence as raising rule of law concerns going to the open and fair administration of justice.


Turkey: 48 bar associations condemn pro-government newspaper for targeting colleagues protesting hate crimes against Kurds


Forty-eight Turkish bar associations on Sunday condemned the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily for targeting 15 bar associations that have protested hate crimes against Kurdish citizens in Turkey.

The statement said bar associations had the duty to uphold democratic principles and stand against hate speech and crimes. It added that Yeni Şafak had not only targeted the bar associations in question but also used discriminatory and hateful language in its piece.

According to the statement the crimes against Kurds were not sporadic incidents but the result of mounting tension against minorities. Nihat Eren of the Diyarbakır Bar Association said the discriminatory language used by the media has also been adding fuel to the fire. “I condemn media outlets that are trying to downplay hate crimes and hate speech,” he added.

The 48 bar associations had recently condemned a series of hate crimes against Kurds in various Turkish cities. In its July 23 edition Yeni Şafak called the associations “Barons of Qandil,” implying that the associations were working for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Yeni Şafak said the attacks on Kurds were not hate crimes but “ordinary disputes and disagreements” and that the bar associations were causing ethnic clashes with their statements.


Cuban Government Preparing a Law Regulating Dissidents’ Defense Lawyers


People hold Cuban, Peruvian and Venezuelan flags during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, at Versailles Restaurant in Miami, on July 18, 2021.

The judges who make up the People’s Supreme Court are elected by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, a one-party legislative body which also elects the country’s president.

Cuba’s communist government has drafted a law that would equate the role of dissidents’ defense lawyers with that of public officials.

In May, the People‘s Supreme Court, Cuba’s highest judicial authority, drew up a series of legislative proposals that it sent to the island’s legislature, the National Assembly of People’s Power, for passage.

Among these proposals is the “Draft Law on Criminal Procedures,” which could equate the role of a defense lawyer for dissidents with that of a “public employee or official,” putting the lawyer at the mercy of pressure and sanctions from the government

A group of Cuban lawyers, who asked to speak with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the government, warned that this bill “would violate impartiality,” because “the Prosecutor’s Office represents the state, it’s a public functionary. Imagine if the defense lawyer also were.”

The lawyers pointed out that “this is something that for many years they have tried to accomplish, but a way wasn’t found to implement it by changing the law.”

“But now, with a new criminal procedural text, an attempt is being made to introduce it in a very underhanded way,” they said.

The most controversial texts of the bill are found in the fifth special provision, which defines what is an employee and a public official.

Subsections E and F state that public employees and officials are part of state agencies “of a public nature” performing “legislative, executive or judicial functions,” among others.

However, subsection G adds that “public employees or officials are also considered those persons who, in the non-state sector, as well as in foreign entities or public international organizations, exercise positions or functions similar to those described in subsections e and f when the criminal acts derive from their relationship with the state or its institutions.”

The Cuban jurists told ACI Prensa that “although the word ‘lawyer’ is not mentioned, the generality of the expression ‘non-state sector’ is the way to allow this interpretation where the judges don’t enjoy authentic judicial independence.”

“What they’re looking for is a way to exert pressure on lawyers and, when necessary, get them out of the way. That’s how they would do it.”

“And getting them out of the way,” they warned, could mean “taking them out of circulation completely” by finding them guilty of a crime, “which also would result in their expulsion from the National Organization of Collective Law Firms, the only institution of its kind on the island for the provision of legal services to native born persons who are defendants in a criminal case.”

The judges who make up the People’s Supreme Court are elected by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, a one-party legislative body which also elects the country’s president.


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