Maldives/HRW: Opposition, Media Under Attack

August 16, 2018

Police officers detain an opposition protester demanding the release of political prisoners during a demonstration in Malé, Maldives, February 2, 2018.

The Maldives government’s intimidation of the political opposition and media threatens prospects for free and fair elections in September 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government of this Indian Ocean archipelago has also interfered with the judiciary and the national electoral commission in order to tighten its grip on power.

“The Maldives government has cracked down on any and all dissent, from activists and journalists to Supreme Court judges,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Immediate steps are needed to restore political freedoms and democratic rule to ensure free and fair elections in September.”

The 52-page report, “‘An All-Out Assault on Democracy’: Crushing Dissent in the Maldives,” documents how the government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has used decrees and broad, vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and intimidate, arbitrarily arrest, and imprison critics. These include counterterrorism laws widely used against opposition activists and politicians; anti-defamation laws used against the media and social media activists; and restrictions on assembly that prevent peaceful rallies and protests. Religious extremists and criminal gangs – including many that enjoy political protection – have assaulted and sometimes murdered dissenters with impunity. This has had crippling effects on the Maldives’ nascent democracy and struggling civil society.


The Philippines/Australia: Amnesty International urges gov’t to stop ‘harassment’ of foreign activists

August 17, 2018

Rights group Amnesty International called on the Philippine government to respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of activists, including non-nationals, days after an elderly Australian professor was expelled from the country.

Gill Boehringer, who was expelled Tuesday, was the latest foreigner ordered out of the Philippines following Australian nun Patricia Fox, who has been fighting deportation since April after earning the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The 84-year-old Australian professor and human rights advocate was blacklisted due to his reported participation in a mass demonstration in 2015. He denied the allegation.

READBlacklisted Australian denies joining 2015 rally, communist ties

His expulsion took place a month after three Methodist missionaries from Malawi, the United States and Zimbabwe left the country after they were ordered to leave by the Bureau of Immigration for supposedly engaging in political activities.

AI feared that the denial of entry to and expulsion of human rights activists might create a negative effect on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by foreigners.

“[They] may now decide to reduce their activities in the country for fear of the action the Philippine authorities might take against them,” it said.

The Philippines: Cops detain lawyers monitoring inventory of raided Makati bar

August 16, 2018

Policemen arrest the young lawyers as they were documenting what the cops were doing in the bar

OBSTRUCTION? Cops detain lawyers at the Makati Police Station on August 16, 2018, for taking notes and photos during a police inventory of a raided bar. Photo courtesy of the Southern Police District

For monitoring a police inventory of a drug raid, 3 lawyers were detained at the Makati Police Station on Thursday, August 16, after cops arrested them for alleged obstruction of justice.

Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon are the lawyers for the Times Bar in Makati, which was raided by the Southern Police District (SPD) on Saturday, August 11, for allegedly selling party drugs to customers.

The lawyers were monitoring the inventory of the bar on Thursday, when they were apprehended for taking down notes and photos as the police opened cabinets.

“The police opened the cabinets, took their inventory, and then turned to my three young lawyers and said they had no authority to be there. My lawyers respectfully said they were legal counsels of the owner and were just sent by the firm to take notes and photograph the opening of the cabinets,” said Diane Desierto, a partner of the firm where the lawyers work.

The Desierto & Desierto law firm represents one of the owners of the Times Bar, where police reportedly seized sachets of suspected cocaine, ecstacy capsules and tablets, marijuana and drug paraphernalia when they raided it on Saturday.

17 August 2018

Role of Lawyers in the Rule of Law: We are not the Enemy

The attacks on lawyers assisting or representing clients allegedly involved in drugs have been going on in various forms.

One NUPL lawyer in Bicol continues to dodge actual death threats. An NUPL ally lawyer in Iloilo has been charged with obstruction of justice years back. Rights lawyers who have been critical have been maligned and demonized as villains by drug-crazed authorities.

Now these three (3) Makati young lawyers openly performing their professional duties during a police search are arrested and treated like criminals.

This is not only against the so-called rule of law but against the role of lawyers. Lawyers — the decent and professional ones anyway— are officers of the court and defenders of justice. They are there to ensure rights are protected even if they help bring the guilty to perdition. We are not the enemies.

The UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Philippine Code of Professional Responsibility guarantee that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference or be threatened with sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

When the police arrogantly act as judge, jury and executioner, and with brazen impunity and boorishness at that, then a breakdown in law and a startup in disorder reigns. Then the failing bloody “war on drugs” becomes a drugged war. And we are all none the safer. #


NUPL President
(63) 917 511 3373

(National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Facebook)

Manlaban statement on the arrest of Desierto & Desierto Law Firm lawyers

The arrest of three young lawyers, who were monitoring the service of a search warrant, highlights the complete degradation of law enforcement and the collapse of order in the country.

As counsel of the property owner, the three lawyers were legally entitled to be present during the search. Search by police of private premises, if with color of law, requires witnesses. According to the Desierto & Desierto Law Firm, they were documenting the opening of cabinets, “quiet and passive”, at Times Bar in Makati owned by their client.
Lawyers while in the legitimate exercise of their profession are considered officers of the court and aides to the administration of justice. Hence,they are entitled to due courtesy and respect.

Arresting, detaining, and charging them, ironically, with obstruction of justice shows how police have become brutal and high-handed in their operations, especially in those involving drugs. What more can they be toward people who know nothing about the law?

The Manananggol (Manlaban) sa EJK soundly denounces the arrest of lawyers while in the peformance of their duties. This blatant show of excess and abuse by the police is a clear disregard of the law and independence of the legal profession, a direct and inevitable result of Duterte’s unrelenting anti-drug war. Police high on power have gone wild and senseless, with only the barest regard for law or order.

Manlaban demands the immediate release of the lawyers and the dropping of charges. And not only will we stand by our colleagues in the profession who are at the frontlines, we join them in battle for reason and sanity. Police should expect countersuits as lessons in law and pain of penalty so timely due.

(Facebook, 17/8/18)

China: China Moves Ahead With Subversion Trial of Rights Lawyer in Jiangsu

August 16, 2018

Xu Yan, wife of arrested rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, stands third from left with friends and supporters outside the Xuzhou Detention Center, Aug. 1, 2018.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have indicted human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng on subversion charges, paving the way for a trial, his wife said on Thursday.

Yu, who is being held incommunicado by authorities in Jiangsu’s Xuzhou city, was formally arrested for “incitement to subvert state power”and “obstruction of officials in the course of their duty” in April.

He was indicted last month, but neither his lawyers nor his wife, Xu Yan, were informed about the move.

“His two attorneys enquired about Yu Wensheng’s case with the Xuzhou municipal procuratorate, which checked and found that the indictment was issued on July 19,” Xu told RFA.

She said two lawyers she hired to represent Yu, Chang Boyang and Xie Yang, hadn’t been informed of the indictment.

“They weren’t allowed to see him, nor to read the case files,” she said.

Jiangsu officials issued a statement in April claiming to be penned by Yu, and firing his defense team. However, Xu pointed to an earlier video statement asking her to disregard any such declaration.

China: China’s War on Lawyers

August 16, 2018

Eighty years ago, a beaten and broken man limped into a bathroom of a barracks in the Dachau concentration camp. After five years of torture at the hands of his Nazi captors, fearful that he may finally break and betray his friends, attorney Hans Litten fashioned a noose and hung himself. His “crime” was that as a lawyer in 1931, he put the Nazi party on trial for an attack on a dance hall where a left-wing workers association was meeting. Three people were killed and twenty others injured. During the course of the trial, Litten called Adolf Hitler to the stand and cross-examined him for hours. According to reports, Hitler was so shaken and enraged by the experience that Litten’s name could never be uttered in his presence. As the Nazis ascended to power, Litten turned down opportunities to flee Germany insisting that he needed to stay for his clients. In the hours following the Reichstag fire in 1933, Hitler got his revenge. Litten, at the top of Hitler’s enemies list, was arrested, imprisoned and tortured until his suicide in Dachau in 1938.

Today, it is more important than ever to keep Litten’s memory alive, when governments around the world have declared an unofficial war on lawyers who are fighting for the human rights of their clients. One of the worst offenders is China, who has faced growing international criticism for its actions against human rights attorneys and advocates in the country.

The 709 Crackdown

The repression known as the 709 Crackdown began in July 2015 when 248 human rights lawyers were detained and interrogated for work they had done on behalf of their clients. Charges were filed against a number of those detained for a variety of “crimes” under Chinese law, including “subversion,” which can carry a life sentence, and “subversion of state power,” which can result in up to 15 years in prison. The Chinese government has also suspended law licenses, engaged in enforced disappearances and filed and prosecuted arbitrary criminal cases against human rights defenders in China.

Three years on, according to Amnesty International, of the 248 individuals who were detained, nine were convicted of the “crimes” of “subverting state power,” “inciting subversion of state power” or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Three people were given suspended sentences and one “exempted from criminal punishment” while remaining under surveillance. As of July 2018, four remain imprisoned.

Malaysia: Human rights lawyer, PSM leader freed of sedition charges

August 15, 2018

Eric Paulsen and S Arutchelvan were acquitted of allegedly criticising Jakim and the judiciary.

Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leader S Arutchelvan were today freed from the sedition charges made against them in 2015.

Sessions Court judge Edwin Paramjothy ordered their acquittal after deputy public prosecutor Norinna Bahadun told the court that the prosecution did not wish to continue the cases against them.

Paulsen claimed trial at the Sessions Court in February 2015 to a charge of criticising the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) on his Twitter account.

Arutchelvan meanwhile was charged with sedition in November that year for allegedly criticising the judiciary over the Sodomy 2 judgment.

Speaking to reporters after the acquittal, Paulsen said there was no need for a colonial law on sedition in this age.

USA/Ecuador: Report Shows Chevron Lawyers at Gibson Dunn Falsified Evidence to Target Steven Donziger in Ecuador Pollution Case

August 15, 2018

Image result for steven donziger

The New York bar’s unprecedented attempt to suspend prominent corporate accountability attorney Steven Donziger without a hearing after he helped Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples win a $9.5 billion environmental judgment against Chevron is based on false testimony from a paid company witness coached 53 days by lawyers at the firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, according to a bombshell report produced by one of the world’s leading forensic computer investigators.

Donziger still maintains his law license and is helping his clients in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest enforce their judgment by trying to seize Chevron’s substantial assets in Canada, where three appellate courts have issued unanimous rulings in their favor. (See here.) But behind the scenes, Chevron’s batallion-sized U.S. legal team – it has included 2,000 lawyers from at least 60 firms at a cost of at least $2 billion – has trained its sites on demonizing Donziger as part of a new corporate “playbook” invented by the company’s attorneys at the Gibson Dunn firm and marketed to scandal-plagued clients facing major liabilities.

According to multiple sources, the Gibson Dunn marketing playbook involves what the firm calls the “kill step” to defeat the enforcement in the U.S. of civil money judgements obtained from foreign courts. The “kill step” usually involves accusing opposing counsel of “fraud” and other misconduct to try to intimidate them into withdrawing, thereby leaving the corporation’s victims defenseless and unable to continue with their cases. If actual evidence of fraud does not exist, as in the Ecuador matter, the Gibson Dunn lawyers will hire investigators to bribe foreign witnesses to concoct false stories of “fraud” about opposing counsel to be presented in U.S. courts; the firm’s lawyers are theoretically protected from any downside risk by the general inability of U.S. courts to force foreigners to appear or be deposed. (ESPANOL) (MANDARIN)