Daily Archives: 10/08/2021

Burundi: Release lawyer Tony Germain Nkina


Burundi - Wikipedia

Ex-Member of Civil Society Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

Burundian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release lawyer, Tony Germain Nkina, who was sentenced to five years in prison in June 2021 in all likelihood because of his past human rights work, six international human rights groups said today.

The groups – Amnesty International, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Human Rights Watch, Protection International and TRIAL International – believe that the likely reason for Nkina’s arrest was his former affiliation with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues, APRODH), which was one of the leading human rights groups in Burundi until 2015.

The prosecution and imprisonment of Tony Germain Nkina is a worrying reminder that those who used to be part of Burundi’s once vibrant human rights movement are still at risk. The Burundian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to protecting human rights by immediately releasing Nkina and dropping all the charges against him. Burundi’s international partners should support the calls for his release.

Nkina, a lawyer in Kayanza province in northern Burundi, was arrested on October 13, 2020, in Kabarore commune, where he was visiting a client for his professional work. He was briefly detained by the intelligence service in Kayanza, then transferred to police detention, and finally to Ngozi prison, where he is currently detained.

October 2020 was a tense period in Kayanza following attacks by an armed group in the previous weeks, with several people killed or abducted. Nkina happened to visit Kabarore, one of the areas affected, soon after these attacks. The authorities accused him of collaborating with the armed opposition group RED-Tabara (Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi), which they hold responsible for the attacks, and charged him with endangering internal state security.

On June 15, 2021, the court of Kayanza convicted Nkina of “collaboration with rebels who attacked Burundi,” and sentenced him to five years in prison and a fine of one million Burundian francs (approximately US$ 500). His client, Apollinaire Hitimana, whom he had been advising on a land dispute and was arrested with him, was found guilty of complicity in the same offence and sentenced to two and a half years and a fine of 500,000 Burundian francs. An appeal hearing is scheduled for August 12, at the Ngozi court of appeal.






https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2021/08/10/burundi-liberez-lavocat-tony-germain-nkina (FRANCAIS)



It Is Not Safe To Be A Lawyer In Belarus



In May 2021, the world was shocked when the Belarusian government hijacked a plane from Athens to Vilnius. The plane was forcibly diverted to Minsk, escorted by a fighter jet and under a threat of being shoot down if it failed to do so. On landing, opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega were arrested. While the incident gathered international attention, it is only the tip of the iceberg of human rights violations in Belarus following the 2020 presidential election in the country. The crackdown affects all, and even lawyers are not safe from it.

Indeed, in July 2021, the American Bar Association (ABA) Centre for Human Rights, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and Lawyers for Lawyers, published the findings of their inquiry into the situation of lawyers in Belarus. According to their findings, since the disputed 2020 election in Belarus, which affirmed Alexander Lukashenko for his sixth term in office, the Belarusian government has engaged in a widespread and violent crackdown of its opposition. Peaceful protests around the country have resulted in arrests en masse of journalists, opposition figures, civic activists and human rights defenders (including lawyers).

The authors of the report suggested that Government authorities in Belarus have “engaged in a number of tactics that interfere with the independence of lawyers in contravention of international law and standards.” Indeed, according to one of them, governments are meant to ensure that lawyers neither “suffer [n]or [are] threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic, or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards, and ethics.” This means that they should not be targeted for merely doing their job representing opposition leaders and others arrested for peaceful protests. However, as the report suggests, these are precisely the tactics adopted by the Belarusian government as part of the widespread crackdown against the opposition. Lawyers in Belarus are effectively prevented from “carrying out their professional duties independently.” This has a significant impact on freedoms in Belarus. 

The United Nations has been reporting on this crackdown as well. The U.N. Human Rights Council reported: “According to official sources, between August 9 and November 30, more than 1,000 criminal cases were opened against peaceful protesters, opposition members and supporters, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, peaceful protesters and persons critical of the Government. According to reports, criminal charges would be brought against 231 persons who had participated in a march held on November 1.” 

Many Belarusian lawyers, including those engaged in peaceful protects or expressing their concerns about the state of the rule of law in the country, have faced intimidation, harassment, administrative and criminal changes, and disbarment.



Click to access EN_HRL_20210804_Belarus_Bar_Disbarment-of-lawyers-in-Belarus.pdf