Tag Archives: Canada

Interview: After Fleeing the Taliban, a Women’s Rights Defender Mourns the Loss of Afghanistan, Urges Action to Save the Country’s Lawyers


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.




https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/nouvelle-aquitaine/gironde/bordeaux/temoignage-une-avocate-fuit-le-regime-des-talibans-en-afghanistan-et-se-refugie-en-gironde-2540184.html (FRANCAIS)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine: what the international legal community can do to help


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.








https://fr.zone-secure.net/109394/1553047/?fbclid=IwAR1oWhsLx8eH0i-_wa69MOkDv_KPk55RBVZgl8Ci0KNBDjBiZ_heHyc4i8c#page=3 (FRANCAIS)




Ukrainian lawyer describes his life in the war zone


Taras Tertychnyi, an international business partner at Marushko Law Office in Kyiv, and his fellow Ukrainians have lived in the shadow of war since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. “Even after the fighting was reduced in early 2015 to limited clashes on the frontline with a small number of casualties, it was obvious that the war could escalate at any given moment,” he writes in an email.

While preparing for a potential war in Ukraine, Tertychnyi spent time with his family examining potential risks and the preparation needed for each. Possibilities included an escalation in the far east of the country, an attack from Crimea in the south, or a full-scale invasion involving the bombing of the whole country.

His family did not have the resources to relocate abroad comfortably, so they focused on how to survive the war in Ukraine. They thought about moving to their summer house 60 kilometres to the south of Kyiv. “It was not very comfortable for winter living, but at least there was a choice. I also spoke with my friends living in the west of Ukraine so that we could spend a few days in their home in case we were going to flee Kyiv. 


Thousands of Ukrainians immediately shifted to war mode in response to the invasion. Some joined territorial defence units and others, including Tertychnyi, began helping with military and civilian supplies and logistics. 

Lawyers are among the Ukrainians killed and wounded during this war. Many lawyers have volunteered to do civilian work, such as logistics or procurement, or have become members of the army or the territorial defence units. Their stories are recounted in the legal community blog Dead Lawyers Society. “As lawyers, we all understand that Russia has violated – and keeps violating – the basic principles of international law, as well as the laws of war. We all know that there are no international courts or international police to stop this violation now, except for the members of the international community – other countries and their governments.” 







https://unba.org.ua/news/7372-rodini-zagibloi-kolegi-z-dnipra-alini-molchanovij-opikuns-ka-rada-vidilila-100-tis-grn.html (UKRAINIAN)


Ukraine: At least 3 lawyers killed in combat


On behalf of the Legal Community of Ukraine, on behalf of more than 65,000 Ukrainian advocates and personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to appeal to the commonwealth of European advocates and lawyers and speak here at the meeting of the CCBE Standing Committee.

Today, the attention of the whole world is focused on Ukraine. Since 24 February, military operations have been ongoing in our country. Every day people die – both military and volunteers, doctors, civilians, and children.

Dozens of advocates joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Unfortunately, we already have lost at least three of our colleagues – from the Vinnytsia and Kharkiv regions.

In the first hours of the military aggression, we had a scheduled meeting of the Bar Council of Ukraine. Despite the sounds of explosions, we held it. Each regional representative was present, and I, as the President of the Bar Council of Ukraine, was in Kyiv as well.

On that day, we adopted a number of decisions, in particular recommending QDCBs not to consider it as a misconduct where advocates enlisted into military service had not suspended their right to practise, as required by law. Advocates have neither time nor the possibility to file for suspension of practice.

In the first hours of the military aggression, I called on all advocates to maintain trust and rely on state institutions, which jointly determine political, military and diplomatic steps to protect Ukraine and ensure the safety of its citizens.


Click to access EN_20220401_Speech-from-the-UNBA-President-at-CCBE-SC.pdf

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/2022/law-society-webinar-on-war-in-ukraine (LAW SOCIETY OF IRELAND WEBINAR, APRIL 7th, 2:30pm)











https://unba.org.ua/ (UKRAINIAN)

https://www.actu-juridique.fr/international/international-etrangers/jerome-gavaudan-rappeler-la-protection-due-aux-refugies-est-dans-notre-adn/ (FRANCAIS)












It’s been almost six months since the United States packed up and pulled out of Afghanistan, ending the longest war in American history and sending thousands of Afghans into hiding. The Taliban, rebranded as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, initially promised amnesty and understanding to those who had opposed the terror group for more than 20 years.

But as many had feared, the Taliban lied.

A United Nations report released this week and seen by several news organizations claims approximately 100 former Afghan military members and government officials have been killed since the Taliban took over, at least two-thirds of them directly by the Taliban or their affiliates. That figure seemed improbable to one woman reached by Coffee or Die Magazine who is currently hiding in Afghanistan from Taliban retaliation. And it rang “unrealistically low” to a Marine Corps veteran in Mississippi who spends his free hours desperately trying to coordinate the rescue of people still in the country.

In a tweet, an account linked to the Taliban Ministry of Interior Affairs said the government “has not killed anyone since the amnesty.”

Aysha, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a 26-year-old human rights activist in Afghanistan who has spent the last five months hiding in fear for her life. She moves from one safe house to the next every few weeks, a shell-game tactic used to avoid the Taliban’s door-to-door searches.

“They are killing soldiers, activists and lawyers in the cities, villages and surrounding areas by [calling them] thieves, or removing them from their homes to unknown places,” Aysha told Coffee or Die. “No trace of them is left.” 


“The Taliban are actively persecuting those who either worked against the Taliban movement with the government or those who spoke out against the Taliban movement while they were conducting their insurgency,” Espinal said. “Two weeks ago we had an incident where one of the judges left the compound and the Taliban controlling that district recognized [him]. And [he] and his wife were beat in front of the family pretty much and they were taken away to an unknown prison. Luckily for them, they were one of the few that were released.”









https://www.sudouest.fr/justice/bordeaux-une-avocate-afghane-accueillie-le-coeur-ouvert-par-ses-confreres-8135235.php (FRANCAIS)


Famed blind lawyer Joy Luk has fled Hong Kong and wants refugee status in Canada


Joy Luk is a Hong Kong lawyer who fought for disabled people and anti-government protesters. She has recently arrived in Canada and is asking to be allowed to stay.

From her apartment in Toronto, famed Hong Kong lawyer Joy Luk says she wants to apologize to her family — one she doesn’t think she’ll ever visit again in her beloved hometown.

Luk, who is blind, rose to notoriety fighting for people with disabilities and helping pro-democracy protesters on the front lines of demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019 with instant legal counsel. Images of Luk, a bullhorn hanging off her shoulder, grabbed attention around the world during those protests.

But on Dec. 20, after about 10 minutes of questioning by authorities, the 44-year-old took a morning flight out of the city to South Korea and on to Toronto, where she says she intends to stay. Luk has applied for refugee status, pointing to harassment by authorities in Hong Kong over her political activism and fears for her safety there.

Her decision has been kept a secret until today.

“I would like to say sorry to my family members there. I will put them in trouble,” Luk told the Star, “because of my active participation in this campaign for freedom in Hong Kong.”

Luk’s grandfather swam to freedom from mainland China to Hong Kong with his family, including her father who was not yet 10 years old at the time, in the 1950s. Her grandfather told her the Chinese Communist Party is not trustworthy, and she holds the family’s story close with her belief that freedom and democracy are a core value for humanity.

Monday, the day she reveals her intent to stay in Canada, is the first anniversary of her father’s death.

Now, with many of her friends in jail or having been arrested — including Canadian singer Denise Ho — for their involvement in the pro-democracy movement, Luk said she comes to Canada under a shadow of sadness.

In Hong Kong, Luk fought for better accessibility for people with disabilities before unrest in the city grew into massive protests against laws that opponents charged would be used to silence critics of Beijing and breach the autonomy guaranteed to the region by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid out the stipulations of Hong Kong’s handover to mainland China in 1997.

But she said she has no intention of settling into a quiet life and is vowing not only to continue her fight for Hong Kong’s civil rights, but also to expose the Chinese Communist Party’s influence campaigns in Canada.







Interview: Attorney Saeeq Shajjan Entreats ‘We Need to Raise Our Voices for Afghanistan’s Embattled Lawyers’


Interview: Attorney Saeeq Shajjan Entreats ‘We Need to Raise Our Voices for Afghanistan’s Embattled Lawyers’

“Lawyers have the courage to speak up. Lawyers are educated. Lawyers are the people that can object to whatever dark policies [the Taliban] would like to implement. [A violent crackdown] is going to start very soon. It’s going to be really, really terrible, even compared to what we have seen so far,” warns Saeeq Shajjan, a corporate attorney from Kabul.

And he would know; Shajjan’s legal career has spanned the entirety of the 20-year-war and was bookended by the fall and subsequent rise of the Taliban.

Having fled to Toronto amid the chaos of the international military withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, the self-described lawyer in exile has been working tirelessly to help several dozen of his colleagues who remain trapped in Afghanistan, and in many cases, in the Taliban’s crosshairs.

Shajjan earned his law degree from Kabul University in 2003—his education having spanned the end of the old Taliban regime and the start of the war. He then went on to earn LL.M. degrees from Harvard Law School (US) and Savitribail Phule Pune University (India). In 2011, he established his own practice, Shajjan & Associates, a Kabul-based corporate law firm that has received numerous international awards, including several designations as a Band 1 firm by Chambers and Partners. Among the firm’s high-profile international clientele was the Canadian Government, which the firm had represented on a variety of matters for nine years leading up to the Taliban’s resurgence.

JURIST Features Editor Ingrid Burke Friedman interviewed Shajjan about the evolution and devolution of Afghanistan’s legal profession, the plight of his colleagues who remain trapped in Afghanistan, and his hopes that the international community will learn from its mistakes.





https://www.asfcanada.ca/medias/nouvelles/avocat-e-de-droits-humains-une-profession-encore-trop-dangereuse/ (FRANCAIS)


Colombia: Day of the Endangered Lawyer – Wrap up


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Along with the workaday perils of practising law that they share with their male counterparts, such as being gunned down in the street, Colombia’s women lawyers face threats that are particular to them. They could be raped, for example, or suffer another form of sexual assault that aims to intimidate and discourage them from doing their job – which is representing and protecting the vulnerable through the rule of law. Also, women lawyers’ children may be threatened with violence or press ganged into a guerrilla army, where the only subject on the curriculum – Marxist precepts apart – is how to kill.

These are some of the stark truths to emerge from this year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer (24 January) panel discussion chaired by Law Society international human rights adviser Doctor Marina Brilman. Previous discussions have looked at other countries where the rule of law no longer holds sway, such as Azerbajan, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt. This year’s focus is on the South American republic of Colombia, where the 2016 peace agreement was supposed to have ended the 60 year conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the state.

The conflict claimed around 262,000 lives, displaced 6.9m people, saw around 18,000 children forced to join armed groups and many thousands more people ‘disappeared’, raped or tortured. The optimism engendered by the agreement has failed to bear fruit, as the three Colombian lawyers on the panel report.

Dora Lucy Arias Giraldo is a member of Colombia’s leading human rights lawyers’ collective. She begins: ‘The Colombian constitution states that it is the duty of lawyers to promote human rights and represent the vulnerable. And yet the government, working through its own intelligence organisations, has an active strategy of diminishing and weakening our operations through attacks on our children and sexual violence against our (women lawyers’) bodies.’ She concedes: ‘There are protection measures in place regarding gender, but they are under-funded – a particular problem when trying to bring powerful economic players to justice.’

Ana Maria Rodriguez, who is also a human rights lawyer, warns that Colombia’s ‘entire existence as a social justice state’ is under threat. She points to recent ‘reforms’ that were designed specifically to weaken the remit of both public prosecutors and the ombudsman, while increasing the power of the executive to turn a blind eye to government corruption.




https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/auvergne-rhone-alpes/rhone/lyon/journee-internationale-des-avocats-en-danger-le-barreau-de-lyon-denoncent-la-situation-de-leurs-conferes-colombiens-2431921.html (FRANCAIS)


https://www.camerepenali.it/cat/11306/24_gennaio_2022_-_giornata_dell_avvocato_minacciato.html (ITALIANO)

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Colombia: Day of the Endangered Lawyer – select tweets



Interview: Canadian Law Firm Partners Help Afghan Lawyers Flee Taliban


Interview: Canadian Law Firm Partners Help Afghan Lawyers Flee Taliban

Months have passed since the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan amid the chaotic final chapter of the United States’ 20-year war in the country. Yet many thousands of the Afghan citizens who provided critical assistance to Washington and other foreign governments and international organizations over the past two decades now find themselves targeted for this very work, and unable to evacuate. Visa-processing bottlenecks continue to swell as reports of Taliban rights abuses and food shortages proliferate. As many Western governments continue to puzzle over ways to assist, a growing number of private- and public-sector volunteers have risen up in hopes of providing the assistance these Afghan citizens so urgently need.

The Toronto-based firm Cassels, one of Canada’s largest corporate law firms, is taking action by advocating for a group of beleaguered lawyers and legal professionals in Afghanistan—employees of the Kabul-based corporate firm Shajjan & Associates, which had until this month counted the Canadian Government among its clients. The Canadian Government vowed to offer sanctuary to 40,000 Afghan refugees, but progress has been glacial. Cassels and other Canadian firms are endeavoring to offer meaningful assistance where the Government is falling short. To learn more about these efforts, JURIST Features Editor Ingrid Burke Friedman spoke with Kristin Taylor, Managing Partner at Cassels, and Carla Potter, partner and co-chair of the firm’s Corporate Responsibility Committee. 

JURIST: How did Cassels get involved in efforts to help Afghanistan’s lawyers after the Taliban regained power? 

Taylor: This issue struck a chord with me personally because, like a lot of Canadians, I sponsored a family of refugees from Syria to come here five years ago and they have become a part of my family. 

Kristin Taylor // Cassels

A couple of months ago, I was listening one morning to a news program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and the guest was Saeeq Shajjan, a corporate lawyer from Afghanistan. He had recently fled Afghanistan and was discussing his plight. He described having gone through hell to get to Canada, and said he was still very worried for his colleagues. 

Given that I had some experience with refugees who have successfully settled in Canada, and the fact that Saeeq is a peer of mine, I thought perhaps I could offer some help. I found him on Twitter and sent him a direct message, making sure to explain who I was and send him a link to the Cassels website so he wouldn’t think I was just some random person. He reached out to me within a couple of hours, and we spoke that afternoon. 

Initially, I had intended to offer him advice about settling in Canada—advice on getting accredited to practice law here, getting his kids into school, the sort of things I knew how to do. But it quickly became clear that he wasn’t looking for help himself; he was solely focused on finding help for the people of his firm that he had left behind in Kabul.