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Tajikistan: Politically Motivated Trial Of Human Rights Defenders And Journalists Begin Behind Closed Doors
The trials of several human rights defenders and journalists, who have been charged with various criminal offenses in apparent retaliation for their criticism of the government’s repressive policies in the restive Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), recently began in Tajikistan. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) are seriously concerned about the non-transparent and politically motivated nature of these proceedings and call on the Tajikistani authorities to drop the charges against the defenders and journalists and immediately and unconditionally release them.
The trial of human rights lawyer and director of the Pamir’s Lawyers Association Manuchehr Kholiknazarov and other activists, including Faromuz Irgashev, Muzaffar Muborakshoev, Khushom Gulyam (Khushruz Jumaev) and Khursand Mamadshoev, who are members of Commission 44 – a government–civil society commission established in November 2021 to investigate the killing of protester Gulbiddin Ziyobekov and the subsequent crackdown on mass protests in GBAO – began on 20 September 2022 behind closed doors at the Supreme Court in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
The trial in the case of independent journalist Abdullo Gurbati began a day later, on 21 September at the Shohmansur District Court in Tajikistan. On 15 September the investigation into the case of journalist Daler Imomali was also completed and his case will be submitted to court in the near future.
The closed trial against independent journalist and human rights defender Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva is ongoing at a detention facility of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) in Dushanbe.
In its upcoming 136th session, the Human Rights Committee will review the fifth state report submitted by the Philippines and will adopt concluding observations that will assist the Philippines in the implementation of the ICCPR. Lawyers for Lawyers welcomed the opportunity to file a submission to inform the Human Rights Committee about the situation of lawyers in the Philippines.
In this submission, Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) reveals that the Philippines has failed to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and subsequently, has failed to comply with article 14 of the ICCPR. The submission contains case examples from lawyers who have been persecuted, harassed and murdered due to their profession as a lawyer.
The submission addresses three key areas of concern: The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the additional practice of red-tagging and the extrajudicial killings of lawyers. The Anti-Terrorism Act is misused by the Government to unlawfully label lawyers and human rights defenders as terrorists. The practice of red-tagging is a continuous and serious threat to the civil society since individuals or organizations are being publicly labelled as ‘communists’, ‘leftists’ and thus ‘enemies of the state’. The practice of red-tagging has proven to be a grave threat to civil society and freedom of expression. Furthermore, extrajudicial killings of lawyers due to their profession and the violence against them continues to increase. These cases are often not investigated, which creates a culture of impunity.
Given the vital role of lawyers in the protection of the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights, L4L recommends the Committee to address the position of lawyers when reviewing the State Party’s implementation of the ICCPR. More specifically, L4L demands the Committee to include the following recommendations in its review to the Philippines:
More than six months after he was released from a Chinese prison, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng talked about his experience in the Chinese prison for the first time with a foreign media outlet. He is pessimistic about the prospects facing human rights lawyers in China and he thinks support from the international community is critical to the community.
Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was released from prison in March, after being imprisoned for four years under “inciting subversion of state power.” More than six months after his release, the experience in prison remains vivid to him.
“The 82-day detention under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ made me feel like dying might be my way to end all the miseries,” he told DW. “If they fed me poisonous wine during that time, I would drink it without any second thought. It’s really hard to describe the situation I was in.”
Since 2012, China has implemented “residential surveillance at a designated location,” targeting dissidents and activists. According to Yu, the window of the secretive place would be completely covered up, making it hard for him to distinguish whether it was daytime or nighttime. Several police officers would take turns to interrogate him at 6 or 7 a.m. every morning, and the interrogation usually lasts 17 or 18 hours.
“I would be interrogated in a metal chair for 17 or 18 hours every day, and my hands would be handcuffed to the chair,” he said. “The walls and the toilet bowl in the room would be completely covered by foamed plastics, and I later learned that it was to prevent the detainees from committing suicide, as the experience during RSDL would usually make detainees want to die. It was the same for me.”
“When I was sleeping, usually three police would surveil me and when I went to the bathroom, police would be inside and outside the bathroom,” he added.
After spending 82 days under RSDL, Yu was transferred to a detention center in Xuzhou in May 2018, and he spent the next 33 months there. According to him, police used pepper spray against him and the recurring issue with his teeth couldn’t be treated properly, causing him to lose three teeth in the end.
Crackdown on human rights lawyers increased under Xi Jinping
Some experts think Yu’s experience in the prison over the last four years reflects the large-scale persecution of human rights lawyers in China. Teng Biao, a Chinese legal scholar in the United States, says the “709 Mass Arrest” in 2015 affected almost all active human rights lawyers in China, and the mass arrest caused a serious loss in the community.
“These lawyers were either warned, banned to leave China or interrogated, while many of them were arrested or sentenced,” he told DW. “Apart from the imprisoned human rights lawyers, the Chinese government also revoked the licenses of many lawyers or forced them to not take on human rights cases.”
Some 485 lawyers called on the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday to also take action on the social media attacks against their colleagues by former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) Spokesperson Lorraine Marie T. Badoy.
The 485 lawyers who signed the letter lauded the SC for issuing a stern warning against those who incite violence against judges and their families and informing the public that they could be cited in contempt of court.
“We look forward to the specific action that the Honorable Court will finally take on the matter to exact accountability from Ms. Badoy and others,” the 485 lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said in a letter addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
“We also hope that the Court will address Ms. Badoy’s attacks against human rights lawyers, which were part of her attacks against Judge Malagar,” they added.
Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar became the subject of a social media post by Badoy after she dismissed the government’s bid to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a terrorist organization.
In her post, she called Magdoza-Malagar an “idiot judge” who lawyers for the CPP-NPA. She also made a hypothetical situation about her “killing” the judge, but she can beg for leniency because it was done because of her political belief. The post has been deleted and denied.
Since the illegal invasion of Ukraine began, the solicitor profession has stood in solidarity with the country and its people. We brought together over 100 displaced Ukrainian lawyers and 24 major employers to create networking, employment and training opportunities.
Over 170 guests attended the job fair on 26 September, which aimed to support Ukrainian lawyers who have moved to the UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Over 20 major employers, including Shell, Deutsche Bank, Dentons and LexisNexis, had the opportunity to promote a diverse range of roles and initiatives to more than 100 Ukrainian lawyers and collect applications for vacancies.
UK organisations also provided practical advice and guidance, helping lawyers to understand their options for employment and training.
“Today is an example of solidarity in action,” said chief executive of the Law Society, Ian Jeffrey.
“We have brought together law firms, in-house legal teams, legal service providers, recruitment agencies, training providers and English language schools that Ukrainian lawyers will be able to meet with.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, gave a powerful speech condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of his homeland.
He also highlighted the critical role of initiatives that address local problems experienced by Ukrainian refugees, including the search for employment and housing.
Lawyers consider how to respond to the Moscow military officer who threatened them with prosecution for helping people evade enlistment
On Friday, September 23, a copy of a letter appeared online that was written by Viktor Shepilov, Military Commissioner of Moscow, to Igor Polyakov, president of the Moscow Bar Association. Calling attention to offers made on social media for “legal services for the purpose of draft evasion,” the Commissioner warns that under Article 33 of the Russian Criminal Code, “assisting in evading military service, counseling on draft evasion, and mediating evasion” could be considered participation in a criminal act of a conscript, as qualified in Article 328 of the Russian Criminal Code.
On the same day, Rossiiskaya gazeta also published information about the letter, which was circulated online and signed by Shepilov, thus supporting its authenticity. The author of the piece alleges that, in addition to sending the letter to the Moscow Bar Association’s president, the Commissar has sent it to the association’s council and to “leaders of Moscow’s legal community.” The letter requests that they “articulate and circulate the legal community’s public position on the inadmissibility of assisting citizens in evading conscription.”
To date, none of the aforementioned agencies has received Shepilov’s letter, and there has also been no information from bar associations in other regions of Russia regarding similar letters. Nevertheless, the “leaders of the legal community” are alarmed at the threat of being prosecuted on charges of aiding and abetting, as well as at the potential for their colleagues to be mobilized, which also threatens their clients’ rights. They gathered over the weekend to “articulate their position” and outline a response to the commissioner, based on the Ilya Repin painting Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Here is the rough draft of their work:
Your Excellency, distinguished Major General of the Reserve!
Forced mobilization for military service should be regarded as essentially depriving a citizen of their liberty, as well as, in the long run, their life, in the absence of any indication of guilt. The legal community has not found any information in the Criminal Code you referenced that pertains to this, with the exception of Article 39, ‘Extreme Necessity’: ‘It is not a crime to cause harm to the interests protected by criminal law … in order to eliminate a danger directly threatening an individual and their rights, or the rights of others … if this danger cannot be eliminated by other means and the limits of extreme necessity have not been exceeded.’
Stopped at the airport, Vo An Dan and his family had hoped to seek asylum in the US.
Vietnamese human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were stopped by police in Ho Chi Minh City this week from boarding a flight to New York, where they had hoped to apply for political asylum in the US, the well-known rights lawyer told RFA on Wednesday.
Don and other family members were barred from leaving Vietnam by police at Tan Son Nhat Airport at around 9:42 p.m. on Sept. 27, Don said, calling the action taken against him by authorities arbitrary and vindictive.
Don added that airport police told him he would need to contact immigration authorities in his home province of Phu Yen, on Vietnam’s south-central coast, for an explanation of the order barring his travel overseas.
He and his family were now on their way back to Phu Yen, Don said.
“I’ll work with the Phu Yen police tomorrow to find out why my departure was temporarily suspended,” Don said, saying that airport police had cited “security reasons” for blocking his departure in accordance with Article 36 of the Law on Entry and Exit for Vietnamese citizens.
According to Vietnamese law, citizens of the country have the right to travel domestically and overseas, Don said. “I’ll take legal action against them and file a request for compensation if they fail to give legitimate reasons for what they did,” he added.
“In the past, I used to work as a defense lawyer for ordinary, common people,” said Don, whose license to practice law was revoked in 2017 after he successfully defended the right to benefits of the surviving family members of a person who died in police custody.
L’avocat jouit d’une immunité de parole et d’écriture quand il défend la cause de son client. Propos de Maître Gustave Niyonzima, avocat du Dr Christophe Sahabo dans les juridictions internationales, après l’arrestation de Maître Sandra Ndayizeye qui défend Dr Christophe Sahabo dans les cours et tribunaux du Burundi. Me Gustave Niyonzima estime que cet emprisonnement ternit gratuitement la Justice burundaise.
Venezuela: Rights lawyer Engels Wladimir Puertas victim of arbitrary detention, torture, serious threats and criminalisation of his work
Engels Wladimir Puertas Ochoa is a lawyer and human rights defender. He is member of the legal team of the organisation “100% Estrógeno”, where he works defending cases related to gender, gender equality and gender identity. He also leads the organisation “Iniciativa por una Justicia Igualitaria” (Initiative for Equal Justice), together with other lawyers of the organisation. For more than eight years, he has been representing students, human rights activists and victims of arbitrary detention and frame-ups (the falsification and production of incriminating evidence in court against a particular individual).
The Observatory has been informed of several risks and attacks suffered by the lawyer Engels Wladimir Puertas Ochoa from March 2011 until today, with an even higher frequency during the year 2021.
In the period between 2011 and 2016, the lawyer had already been victim of persecution, attacks, threats, harassment and has suffered 6 arbitrary detentions during which he was subjected to torture, isolation, psychological pressure and illegal deprivation of his liberty. According to his own statements, regional and national security bodies (the Intelligence Division of the Mérida State Police and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) were responsible for these arbitrary detentions, which took place in the context of peaceful protests for the rights of imprisoned students.
Since 6 October 2021, he has been threatened with arrest by order of the fourth judge of the criminal judicial circuit of the judicial district of the state of Mérida, following the instructions of the same institution president, lawyer Carla Gardenia Araque. According to the lawyer Gardenia, these threats are due to the multiple complaints he has filed with the competent authorities regarding acts of corruption in the judicial system of this city.
On the same day, during a hearing in the trial in which he is the defence lawyer, the Fourth Public Prosecutor of the Judicial District of the State of Mérida threatened and physically assaulted Engels Puertas and part of his team, ordering his detention in the facilities of the Judicial Criminal Circuit of the State of Mérida.
Engels Puertas is currently out of Venezuela because he has received serious threats of arrest for the legitimate practice of his profession and for denouncing the lack of transparency in the Venezuelan judicial system.