The federal government has successfully blocked Bernard Collaery from obtaining key documents about the lawfulness of the notorious spy operation against Timor-Leste, arguing that questions about its legality are irrelevant.
To aid his defence, Collaery attempted to subpoena documents from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Office of National Intelligence, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which he hoped would show whether the mission was conducted unlawfully and outside of the proper functions of Asis.
He argued he would be entitled to be acquitted if a jury had any reasonable doubt about the lawfulness of Asis’s activities, making the documents relevant to his case.
But the commonwealth resisted the subpoenas, saying the material and questions about the legality of Asis’s mission – the existence of which it has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny – were irrelevant to the case.
On Monday, Justice David Mossop agreed with the federal government and set aside Collaery’s subpoenas.
He said the burden on the prosecution was only to prove that an offence had been committed by Collaery’s alleged disclosure of protected Asis information. That “does not extend to a requirement to prove compliance with every provision of the [Intelligence Services] Act relevant to the activity of Asis which gives rise to the information or matter disclosed”, Mossop said.
Libyan Crimes Watch (LCW) has condemned the kidnapping of lawyer Adnan Al-Arfi in Benghazi.
Al-Arfi was abducted by a militia affiliated with Khalifa Haftar for filing corruption cases against the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Libya, Ali Al-Hibri, backed by Haftar.
LCW said Al-Arfi was subjected to wrongful detention three times between 2017 and 2022.
It considered his arrest an abuse of the immunities enjoyed by lawyers according to Article No. 27 of Law No. 3 of 2014.
The organization held the Government of National Unity and the Libyan Presidential Council responsible for his safety, and demanded his release unconditionally, the opening of an investigation into such violations, and to hold those responsible for his abduction accountable.
Meanwhile, the General Bar Association has said that Al -Arfi was arrested outside the law and vowed to take legal action against those behind his detention.
The General Bar Association “is in the process of taking legal measures against those behind his arrest and enforced disappearance and had submitted complaints to the competent authorities and the Attorney General, the bloc confirmed.
It disclosed that it has reached out to the lawyers in the Benghazi Syndicate and all the subsidiary unions to take the necessary measures regarding “this crime.”
On May 16, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “Last week PBI accompanied @Ccajar during the public hearing held in @CorteIDH [the Inter-American Court of Human Rights] in the case Members of the “José Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers Corporation v. Colombia. See more information about the audience here.”
The hearing took place on May 12-13 in San Jose, Costa Rica.
On May 11, PBI-Colombia also tweeted:
“@CorteIDH [the Inter-American Court of Human Rights] calls #Colombia to judge surveillance and illegal intelligence against human rights defenders @Ccajar whom we have accompanied since 1995. We express our deep admiration and solidarity for their tireless work in defense of human rights and search for justice so that #NoSeRepita [there is no repetition].”
“For the first time, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) will try a case involving illegal surveillance and intelligence on human rights defenders.
This is the case brought by the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Cajar), which has denounced being a victim of persecution practices for more than 30 years, in which its members have been the focus of illegal intelligence activities by different State agencies, stigmatizing speeches, threats, attacks, exiles, smear campaigns, psychological torture and harassment.”
On the first day of the hearing, CCAJAR tweeted:
“In the worst years of persecution we felt that the organization was going to end. Half of the lawyers of @Ccajar had to go into exile. We always appeared on lists of threats from paramilitary groups.”
The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Egypt on 17 March 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public. The Government did not respond within this period. Replies, if received, will be published on the UN Special Procedures’ database
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer is a lawyer and human rights defender who has actively used social and other media outlets to publish and write about human rights issues, including on cases of enforced disappearances and torture allegedly involving the National Security Agency. Following his arrest in September 2019, he was detained arbitrarily for an extended period. He was also placed on Egypt’s domestic terrorist entities and terrorist list (hereinafter “terrorism watch list”) under Case No. 1781/2019.
We previously raised our human rights concerns with the Egyptian Government about the arrest and detention of Mr. El-Baqer and the inclusion of his name on Egypt’s terrorism watch list in communications EGY 11/2019, EGY 10/2020 and EGY 8/2021.. We regret that no reply has been received to any of these communications.
The case of Mr. El-Baqer was also included in the 2020 report of the Secretary-general (A/HRC/45/36, Annex I paras. 45-46) on cooperation with the UN on allegations that he had been targeted in relation to his engagement with the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt.
On 16 October 2021, Mr. El-Baqer was referred to the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) by the Supreme State Security Prosecution under a new case without the knowledge of his lawyers who were prevented from presenting their defence, and who were not allowed to access his case file.
Mr. El-Baqer was accused under case No. 1228/2021 of “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses.” These charges were among four accusations brought against him under an earlier case in 2019, case No. 1356/2019, which included accusations of “belonging to a terrorist group”, and “funding a terrorist group”, both of which remain in place and for which Mr. El-Baqer is held in pre-trial detention.
Although the state of emergency in Egypt was lifted on 26 October 2021, the ESSC remains in place for cases referred to it beforehand. Emergency Court verdicts are not subject to appeal and can only be commuted or overturned by the President of the republic.
On 11 November 2021, the ESSC rescheduled Mr. El-Baqer’s trial to 20 December 2021. His lawyers were not allowed to meet him or to have access to his case file, in violation of due process.
On 23 November 2021, the Court of Cassa tion rejected Mr. El-Baqer’s appeal to remove his name from the terrorism watch list issued a year earlier under Case No. 1781/2019, despite a lack of evidence or verdict justifying its decision.
On 20 December 2021, the ESSC Misdemeanor Court in New Cairo sentenced Mr. El-Baqer to four years in prison in case 1228/2021. In addition to his four-year sentence, Mr. El-Baqer continues to be held in pre- trial detention under Case No. 1356/2019 and, if tried and convicted by a Supreme State Security Court, he could face long-term imprisonment.
Without prejudging the accuracy of the information received, we express serious concern regarding the allegations that Mr. El-Baqer was denied the right to due process and fair trial throughout his arbitrary detention and trial, his continued arbitrary detention, and the continued inclusion of his name on the terrorism watch list without apparent evidence, in what appears to be a misuse of this listing procedure against human rights defenders. We express further concerns regarding the reported lack of adequate sanitary conditions and adequate medical care to Mr. El-Baqer, as well as the alleged lack of regular access to and contact with his family and legal representatives.
Tbilisi City Court has sentenced Nika Gvaramia, the director of opposition-leaning TV channel Mtavari and one of the lawyers of Mikheil Saakashvili, to three years and six months in prison for abusing his position.
Gvaramia was on trial for crimes allegedly committed while the director of another TV company, Rustavi 2.
He was charged in 2020 with abuse of power and embezzling property at Rustavi 2, commercial bribery, and forging documents. He was found not guilty on the last three counts.
The prosecution’s case rested on a Porsche Macan S worth €76,700 ($79,900) being given to Rustavi 2 in early 2019 in exchange for advertisements on the channel. Prosecutors argued the car was procured for the use of Gvarami’s family.
‘Stay with Mtavari and achieve freedom with us! Everything will be fine’, Gvaramia wrote on his Facebook page shortly before being led away from the courtroom.
While not a member of the formerly ruling United National Movement (UNM) Party, Gvaramia held a number of senior positions during their rule and has remained one of the party’s most outspoken supporters. He also legally represented former president Mikheil Saakashvili in court.
A UN working group has concluded that Turkmenistan violated international human rights laws when it detained a lawyer who was organizing a pro-democracy rally.
Police in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation arrested Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer at a state oil company, in September 2020 for “hooliganism” after a man attacked him near a grocery store in the western city of Balkanabat.
Officers for Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry immediately took over the case and charged Allaberdyev with having ties with the activists abroad.
He was sentenced later that month to six years in prison after a closed-door, two-hour trial during which he had no legal representation.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last week determined that Allaberdyev was arrested for exercising his freedom of expression and association, according to the human rights group Freedom Now, which is helping Allaberdyev.
“We welcome the Working Group’s recognition that Pygamberdy Allaberdyev is wrongfully detained,” Freedom Now Legal Officer Adam Lhedmat said in a May 13 statemnt.
“Allaberdyev’s imprisonment is indicative of Turkmenistan’s intolerance of dissent and its strategy of using fabricated charges to silence its citizens. We call on the Turkmen government to comply with the United Nations’ decision and immediately and unconditionally release Allaberdyev.”
Pakistan’s first transgender lawyer Nisha Rao sustained injuries after being attacked in Saddar, Karachi by four men.
Trans Pride Society, an NGO founded by Nisha Rao, narrated the incident calling it a ‘heinous crime.’ It said Nisha was attacked during a visit to members of the transgender community in Saddar by four men on two motorbikes as she got off a rickshaw to walk towards her friend’s apartment.
It said the aggressors beat and stole her belongings. One man used a ring to pierce Nisha’s scalp while his accomplices stole her handbag and mobile phone.
Nisha is a strong advocate for the transgender community and spends her time working as a lawyer in the City Court of Karachi where she fights for the rights of transgenders, in addition to attending Karachi University where she is receiving her Masters of Law degree.
“Serving and empowering the transgender community is Nisha’s biggest determination in life and it is crimes like these that make her fear the fragmented society we live in,” the statement said. It cannot be known whether it was a targeted attack and the identity of the perpetrators remains unknown.
The trans community and lawyers have demanded police take immediate action and arrest the culprits. In April 2021, five transgender persons were killed and eight sustained injuries in separate attacks.
Nisha Rao is Pakistan’s first trangender lawyer to be accepted into an MPhil programme to study law at Karachi University.
Before the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan last August, Najla Raheel was a busy lawyer specializing in assisting victims of domestic violence. She dedicated her free time to serving on legislative committees to strengthen protections for women’s rights. She also served in the upper echelons of the country’s nascent independent bar association. But when Washington pulled out and the Taliban swept in, everything changed.
As the Taliban claimed Kabul, it freed thousands of prisoners — including many of the men Raheel had helped put behind bars for spousal abuse. Fearful of revenge, and stifled by the new regime’s rapid imposition of policies aimed curbing the rights of women, Raheel knew she had to leave. After weeks of hiding in Kabul, she faced a harrowing journey to escape the immediate threats that surrounded her, and after months of legal limbo, has arrived in Canada, where she hopes to start a new life.
JURIST Features Editor Ingrid Burke Friedman spoke with Raheel about her professional life before the Taliban’s rise, the obstacles she faced in fleeing her country and establishing a new home, and her hopes for the beleaguered attorneys of Afghanistan.
Do you have faith that the legal profession in Afghanistan will regain its independence?
The Taliban seized control of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association shortly after they took Kabul, so by now the organization has been fully merged into their Justice Ministry. Because of that, I can’t say I have any optimism at all, though I do hold out hope for an independent profession in the future. But for that hope to ever translate into action, we will need the support of other bar associations around the globe. Without strong external support, I’m afraid there’s little room for wishful thinking.
What would you ask of lawyers around the world with respect to supporting the work and safety of those attorneys who were forced to flee Afghanistan, as well as those who stayed but now live in persecution?
I call on the lawyers of the world not to forget their counterparts in and of Afghanistan. We desperately need your support. In particular, I would make the following requests:
First: Advocates inside Afghanistan are under threat and their lives are in imminent danger. Help them leave Afghanistan.
Second: Those attorneys that have made it out of Afghanistan are often left to fester in refugee camps for far too long, which poses a threat to anyone’s mental health. Help them get out of these refugee camps and into destination countries.
Finally: Those attorneys who have made it past all of these obstacles and have arrived in destination countries so often find themselves unemployed, and thus unable to provide for themselves and their families. And ultimately, these attorneys who have devoted their professional lives to defending the rights of others find themselves silenced. Help them find work. In fact, help them find work helping Afghan refugees in order to alleviate this whole dark cycle.
The webinar titled ‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine: How can the legal profession provide support to Ukraine?’ took place on 6 April 2022 and was expertly moderated by Joanna Weller of LexisNexis, who is also the Co-Chair of the IBA Rule of Law Forum.
The IBA Law Firm Management Committee spearheaded the creation of this webinar as part two of the Russian invasion of Ukraine series and the recording is available here. Part one can be viewed here.
Wayne Jordash QC, Managing Partner at Global Rights Compliance, said that in the future, there will be a need for people who can provide on-the-ground support. ‘People who know their way around the battlefield and search for the ugly truth whenever possible will be needed.’ It will be essential for them to study the local laws. He warned audience members not to go at this alone, but to coordinate with local agencies. ‘You don’t want multiple people interviewing multiple witnesses,’ said Jordash. He stressed that this was not a short-term project and that the international community will need to focus on this for the long term.
‘Even in war, international law has its own rules, but not for Russia. They have even managed to create new kinds of crimes,’ said Anna Ogrenchuk, President of the Ukrainian Bar Association, based in Kyiv. She pointed out, ‘this is one of the challenges we as international lawyers have to face.’ Ogrenchuk remarked how grateful her group was for the support of the various bar associations and lawyers worldwide. However, she pointed out the difficulty and intricacies that will still need to be sorted out from a legal standpoint.
Wendy Betts is Director of eyeWitness to Atrocities, an initiative of the IBA. The organisation works with human rights defenders worldwide and has been working in Ukraine since 2017. Their efforts have been made possible through advances in technology, particularly cell phone usage, to record crimes and related volatile situations. As footage and metadata of this type needs to be verified in order to be used for legal purposes, they have developed an app that helps create footage that cannot be edited or deleted, keeping the integrity of the data and saving it in a closed system. The validity is closely maintained through a chain of custody backed by technology donated by LexisNexis.
Jörg Menzer of Noerr leads the firm’s Bucharest office and is Chair of the IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest (SPPI). He asked the group specifically what could be done by private practice lawyers and what they should consider as the next steps.