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.”
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.
A prominent Polish lawyer who has represented leading political opposition figures and was treated as a suspect in a politically sensitive case was cleared by a court on Friday.
Roman Giertych was targeted by Pegasus spyware in 2019 when he represented Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and former president of the European Council who today leads Poland’s main opposition party, Civic Platform. Giertych also represented other leading opposition politicians.
In 2020, Giertych was detained by Polish authorities and his home was searched in a manner which a Polish court later considered to be unlawful and unjustified.
Prosecutors ordered his arrest, accusing him of laundering enormous sums of money from a publicly traded company, Polnord.
Giertych vehemently denies the claims, and accuses Poland’s ruling authorities of trying to ruin him politically.
The District Court in Lublin announced Friday that it was dismissing the prosecutor’s request for his arrest, upholding the decision of a lower court. The decision is final.
The court argued there were no grounds for his arrest, and said the prosecutor had failed to show evidence backing up its claims that Giertych was guilty of the alleged crimes.
Giertych welcomed the decision, saying he viewed it as an example of rule of law and independent judges “resisting populist assaults.”
According to reports in Polish media, prosecutors plan to keep investigating Giertych and view the judge who ruled in his case as biased against the country’s conservative ruling party, Law and Justice.
From 2006-2007, Giertych was a deputy prime minister and education minister in a conservative government led by Law and Justice. At the time he was the leader of a far-right party, the League of Polish Families, but has since allied himself politically with Tusk and other centrist politicians.
Ukrainian National Bar Association President Lidiya Izovitova took part in an online meeting of the CCBE Standing Committee in Brussels. The event was joined by European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.
The speech of the UNBA/BCU President was devoted to the situation in Ukraine and the peculiarities of the bar operating under martial law.
“Internal consolidation, reliable support from advocates’ self-government, which we try to provide to every advocate, as well as maintaining public trust in the Bar are extremely important for the Ukrainian legal profession at this time. The issue of human rights is currently one of the most pressing issues on the agenda for our entire country, for thousands of our citizens. The role of advocates in ensuring the entirety of human rights, the role in protecting human rights cannot be exaggerated,” said Lydia Izovitova.
“It is a great responsibility for our entire community to ensure that the parameters of the rule of law in our country do not deteriorate,” said the UNBA President.
Currently, the justice system in Ukraine operates under wartime rules.
“We are entrusted with the constitutional function of protecting the rights of citizens, and the right to protection, according to the Constitution of Ukraine, is not subject to restrictions even during martial law. We understand this responsibility to all citizens of Ukraine, and we understand the responsibility to the entire professional community of advocates, “said Lidiya Izovitova. At the same time, advocates do not refuse to provide free legal aid via Free Legal Aid system, in which the payment of fees began to be delayed due to the status of unprotected budget expenditures.
The UNBA President stressed that the self-governing organization of the bar should work continuously and effectively during martial law.
“The great resources of our organization – financial, organizational, human, logistical – are now used to help citizens, lawyers and their families. For the sake of transparency of this process, we have created the UNBA Board of Trustees of, which collectively decides on the provision of charitable assistance from the account of the UNBA Charitable Foundation. At this time, we feel the great support of our international partners. We are extremely grateful to all those who supported Ukrainian advocates during this difficult time, “said the UNBA/BCU President to representatives of European lawyers and leaders of the CCBE.
UNBA offices representative offices abroad are involved in providing assistance to all victims of hostilities, providing legal assistance to Ukrainians who are now forced to leave Ukraine free of charge.
Together with the Chairs of the Bar Councils of the regions, UNBA supports the western region’s aid chain for advocates and their families traveling from areas under the Russian invasion. Bar Councils of the regions provide free legal aid to displaced persons, the military and volunteers, working pro bono on a round-the-clock basis.
A Ukrainian lawyer described the harrowing scenes she witnessed after the Russian invasion, telling an ABA panel on April 7 that she was forced to flee her country with her three young children and leave behind her husband.
Alesya Pavlynska, an employment lawyer at the Ukrainian firm Arzinger Law, described her shock as the first missiles shook Kyiv in the early hours of Feb. 24.
Her husband, Vitalii Shestak, told her and their three kids—Maria, Ivan and Oles—that they would need to take shelter. Pavlynska showed the panel a picture of her children bundled up in a frigid cellar and huddled around their phones.
“It seemed to be unreal and not possible in the modern world—in modern Europe,” Pavlynska said of the moment it dawned on her the invasion was happening.
ABA President Reginald M. Turner Jr. echoed Pavlynska’s message about the rule of law in remarks prerecorded for the webinar audience, saying the war and crisis had to be viewed through the lens of the “fundamental premise to advance liberty and justice for all.”
“Lawyers believe not in the rule of force, but in the rule of law. We believe that human rights are the bedrock of life and liberty. Our stake in the rule of law compels us to denounce the Russian invasion and rededicate our support of international institutions that promote peace and security,” Turner said.
Advocates urge fast action
Speaking from London, Ukrainian Bar Association President Anna Ogrenchuk said she wants the international community to form a special tribunal to investigate war crimes after documented atrocities in Bucha. Ogrenchuk says it’s likely war crimes have been committed in other parts of the country where the Russian military is present. She urged the American legal community to use its clout to support the tribunal and gather evidence.
“We need your expertise. We need your help in investigating and documenting all war crimes —when the crimes are still been committed,” Ogrenchuk said.
“Every day of war costs Russia about $20 billion, and this money comes from companies who pay taxes in Russia,” Ogrenchuk said. “A full economic embargo is the only alternative to a very long and damaging war in Ukraine.”
There are approximately 60,000 attorneys in Ukraine, and about half of them are women, Ogrenchuk added. She said her bar association estimates that two-thirds of female lawyers have left the country, but women are currently doing the bulk of legal work because many male lawyers have enlisted in the military.
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.”
The profession of lawyer plays a central role in the administration of justice, the defense of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Nowadays, lawyers, both individually and institutionally, are increasingly the target of attacks of all kinds which put in difficulty, even in danger, the independent and secure exercise of their profession.
On the basis of this study, the Committee of Ministers established as of January 2022 a Committee of experts on the protection of lawyers (CJ-AV). The CJ-AV consists of 15 representatives of member States, as well as participants and observers as set out in the adopted Terms of reference. The Committee is tasked with the elaboration of a legal instrument aimed at strengthening the protection of the profession of lawyer and the right to practice the profession without prejudice or restraint, under the authority of the Committee of Ministers and of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ).
The physical pain from human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen’s injuries still lingers a year after he narrowly escaped death when he was repeatedly stabbed with a screwdriver on March 3, 2021 in this city.
“It is still painful when pressure is applied on the area where the screwdriver was embedded,” Guillen told the INQUIRER in an interview on Wednesday.
The scar on his left temple that is covered by hair is barely visible, but those on his shoulder and neck are constant reminders on how he cheated death exactly a year ago.
They sped off on separate motorcycles driven by two accomplices after taking the lawyer’s backpack with personal belongings and a shoulder bag containing his laptop, external disk for backup files and case documents.
His assailants, however, left behind his wallet and smartphone, which were inside his pockets.
Guillen, 34, spent 18 days recuperating in a hospital from at least eight stab wounds. For several months, he experienced numbness on the right side of his body.
“The doctors said I was very lucky because the screw driver struck a hard bone. A few centimeters off and it could have been fatal,” Guillen said.
Investigators initially surmised robbery may be the motive of the attack, but Guillen and his colleagues believe it was related to the human rights cases he handled as vice president for Visayas of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and secretary general of its Panay chapter.
“It is clear that it was part of the continuing pattern of attacks against members of progressive organizations and human rights defenders,” Guillen said.
Me Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi est accusé de détenir les images de propagande sécessionniste dans son téléphone portable.
Me Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi, avocat d’Ayuk Tabe et plusieurs présumés séparatistes ont été inculpés le 10 mars 2022 des faits qualifiés de « sécession ». L’avocat a été inculpé par un juge du tribunal militaire de Yaoundé, en présence de madame le bâtonnier et plusieurs autres avocats venus l’assister. Malgré cette décision du tribunal militaire de Yaoundé, Nicodemus Amungwa Tanyi continue de vaquer sereinement à ses occupations en attendant d’être jugé. L’avocat au barreau du Cameroun a été inculpé sur une affaire qui date depuis le 31 mai 2021.
Ce jour, il avait été interpellé alors qu’il se trouvait au groupement de gendarmerie territoriale de Yaoundé pendant qu’il assistait son client dans une procédure de reprise d’un immeuble et de rébellion. « Pendant l’enquête préliminaire Me Amungwa a fait usage de son téléphone portable pour filmer. L’enquêteur s’en est aperçu et a récupéré son téléphone pour exploitation. Selon les enquêteurs, il s’est avéré après la fouille du téléphone de l’avocat que ce dernier détenait les images de propagande « sécessionnistes » dans son appareil.
L’avocat inculpé le 10 mars dernier a été dénoncé par l’un de ses confrères. Après son interpellation, Me Amungwa a été conduit au Service central des recherches judiciaires pour exploitation. Me Amungwa avait été détenu pendant plus de dix jours au Service central des recherches judiciaires avant d’être libéré.