Tag Archives: European Union

Afghanistan: One year after Taliban takeover, human rights defenders at greater risk than ever

12/08/22

One year since the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan, conditions for human rights defenders, especially women, have further deteriorated, the undersigned members of Protect Defenders.eu – said today. A year ago, when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, they promised to respect human rights – including the rights of women and girls and media freedom. However, over the past year, they have carried out serious human rights violations and abuses, and sought to suppress civil society, media freedom, and any form of dissent with complete impunity.

Since 15 August 2021, we have witnessed the steady erosion of human rights gains in Afghanistan and attacks, reprisals, and a failure of any effective protection for human rights defenders in the country. Women and girls, religious and ethnic minorities, those speaking out against violations and for the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable, have been deliberately targeted. This is a pattern of violence that has been met with insufficient action from the international community. Human rights defenders who continue to work for their communities have been effectively abandoned and left without adequate support, access to resources, protection, and pathways to safety.   

Human rights defenders have faced near-daily attacks and violent reprisals including arrest, torture, threats and killings since the Taliban takeover. Escalating violence in the provinces has forced a large number of defenders to leave their homes and relocate and/or resettle. Human rights defenders, in particular women human rights defenders have been facing multiple risks and threats by the Taliban, including: kidnapping; arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; torture; physical and psychological harm; house searches; death and physical threats; intimidation and harassment; and violence against their family members. Women human rights defenders have also faced systematic oppression and segregation from public life. They have been stripped of their rights to work, freedom of movement, access to education, and to participate in public affairs. For those seeking to leave Afghanistan due to severe risk, safe and dignified pathways out of the country remain extremely difficult and challenging.

There has also been serious curtailment of freedom of expression and assembly. These freedoms are no longer legally and institutionally protected, and any form of dissent is met with arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearance. Enforced disappearances of women, and arbitrary arrest of journalists and civil society activists are tactics adopted by the Taliban to silence voices that speak out.

[…]

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/joint-statement-afghanistan-one-year-after-taliban-takeover

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/afghanistan/afghanistan-one-year-taliban-human-rights-defenders

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/14/world/afghanistan-women-judges-taliban-intl-cmd/index.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/08/11/afghanistan-talibans-catastrophic-year-rule

https://civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications/5957-afghanistan-the-taliban-s-assault-on-rights-a-year-on-from-its-takeover

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/08/afghanistan-un-human-rights-experts-warn-bleak-future-without-massive-turnaround

https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/eu-afghanistan-relations_en

https://thediplomat.com/2022/08/under-taliban-rule-afghanistan-will-never-have-an-inclusive-government/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/13/female-protesters-beaten-by-taliban-fighters-during-rare-kabul-rally-afghanistan

https://www.hrw.org/ps/news/2022/08/11/afghanistan-talibans-catastrophic-year-rule (PASHTO)

https://www.hrw.org/gbz/news/2022/08/11/afghanistan-talibans-catastrophic-year-rule (DARI)

https://www.lemondedudroit.fr/institutions/83102-observatoire-international-avocats-danger-oiad-lance-campagne-soutien-plaidoyer-barreau-independant-afghanistan.html (FRANCAIS)

https://www.hrw.org/es/news/2022/08/11/afghanistan-talibans-catastrophic-year-rule (ESPANOL)

Europe: European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) 98th Plenary meeting

01/06/22

The European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) held its 98th plenary meeting in Strasbourg from 1-3 June 2022.

During these three intensive and fruitfuil days, the CDCJ approved several reports and studies, notably the review of the implementation of the Sofia Action Plan on judicial independence and impartiality, and a comparative study on rights of donor-conceived persons to know their origins. The CDCJ also discussed 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 and provided the orientations to the subordinate Committee of Experts on the Protection of Lawyers (CJ-AV) with this regard. The CDCJ assessed the implementation by member states of the Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)7 on the protection of whistleblowers and Recommendation CM/Rec(2015)4 on preventing and resolving disputes on child relocation.

The CDCJ also reviewed the progress of the implementation of its activities envisaged in 2022, and planned activities for 2023, positively assessing the work done within the first 6 months in relation to the implementation of the decisions made at its last plenary meeting in December 2021 and the work of its two subordinate bodies. The CDCJ also decided to further pursue new activities in 2023 and 2024 – to provide guidance for the member states on issues related to the rights of donor conceived persons to know their origins, and to promote and assist the member States in the implementation of the European Convention on Information on Foreign Law (ETS No. 62) and its additional protocol (ETS No. 97).

https://www.coe.int/en/web/cdcj/home/newsroom/-/asset_publisher/ixJBBhK1QgzB/content/cdcj-98th-plenary-meeting

https://www.coe.int/fr/web/cdcj/home/newsroom/-/asset_publisher/ixJBBhK1QgzB/content/cdcj-98th-plenary-meeting (FRANCAIS)

https://www.lemondedudroit.fr/institutions/82129-les-avocats-de-21-pays-europeens-plaident-pour-la-preservation-de-l-etat-de-droit.html

https://www.cnb.avocat.fr/fr/actualites/la-presidence-de-loiad-une-nouvelle-ambition-pour-les-avocats-en-danger

Vietnamese attorneys face abuse from police when defending their clients

19/05/22

Attorneys in Vietnam say their ability to defend their clients in court is being undercut by threats and physical abuse the lawyers themselves face, often at the hands of state authorities.

Defense lawyers in civil cases and politically charged ones said they not only encounter the usual obstacles to their work in a country with a long history of corruption — long pre-trial detentions of clients, witness intimidation, and politically motivated charges — but they also have been threatened and, in some cases, beaten by police and investigators who want defendants to be found guilty.

Attorney Le Hoang Tung from Everest Law Firm filed a complaint after he was assaulted this month by an investigator while meeting with police officers in Ho Chi Minh City.

City police denied the accusation on Wednesday, saying that the investigator did not assault Tung and that the lawyer was injured when he slipped and fell. They failed to explain why there were shoe marks on Tung’s shirt — evidence supporting the accusation that the investigator kicked the lawyer.

In response, the Vietnam Bar Federation (VBF), which protects the rights of lawyers, submitted a request to police to investigate the incident, and to act against people who abuse attorneys or otherwise interfere with their ability to practice law.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/police-abuse-05192022165852.html

https://thoibao0101.xyz/blog/2022/05/20/ho-chi-minh-citys-police-officer-accused-of-assaulting-lawyer-at-the-criminal-police-department-1/

https://newsfounded.com/vietnameng/ho-chi-minh-city-police-lawyer-le-hoang-tung-slipped-and-fell-no-investigation-hit/

https://www.dw.com/en/eu-under-pressure-to-get-tough-on-vietnam-rights-record/a-61595403

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/y-wo-nie-sentence-05202022165050.html

Hong Kong police file complaints to lawyer groups over national security case

12/05/22

Hong Kong police said on Thursday they had filed complaints to the city’s main professional legal bodies over a national security case involving a fund that had assisted pro-democracy protesters to pay for legal services.

Five trustees of the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund were arrested by police this week, including Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia; and leading senior barrister Margaret Ng, 74.

The five were arrested for suspected “conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under a China-imposed national security law, and released on bail.

The police said its investigations had “revealed that a number of solicitors and barristers were suspected of professional misconduct when providing legal services” without giving names or specifics.

Complaints were lodged to the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Hong Kong Law Society, police added.

Neither body replied to a Reuters request for comment.

The others arrested are pop singer Denise Ho, former academic Hui Po-keung and former lawmaker Cyd Ho. The national security law, enacted in June 2020, punishes crimes such as subversion, terrorism, secession and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life imprisonment. nL2N2X31EL]

Zen, Ng and the others have been forceful advocates of fundamental rights in Hong Kong. Critics of the security law say it erodes the freedoms promised by China under a “one country, two systems” arrangement when Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

[…]

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/hong-kong-police-file-complaints-to-lawyer-groups-over-national-security-case/47588614

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/hong-kong-police-file-complaints-lawyer-groups-over-national-security-case-2022-05-12/

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/2022/hong-kongs-cardinal-zen-90-arrested-with-three-others

https://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/

Cambodian dissident dresses up as ‘Lady Justice’ for trial

03/05/22

An outspoken critic of Cambodia’s government dressed up as “Lady Justice,” complete with scale and blindfold, to bring attention to her case as lawyers in her trial for treason presented their final arguments Tuesday.

Theary Seng, a Cambodian American lawyer, is charged with conspiracy to commit treason and incitement to commit a felony, which together carry a maximum jail sentence of 12 years. The charges arose from a failed attempt by leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia in November 2019, after a period of self-exile. Cambodian authorities, who opposed his return, alleged Theary Seng was involved in organizing the trip, which she denies.

Four other defendants being tried on the same charges are former members and activists of the dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, of which Sam Rainsy was co-founder. Theary Seng denies belonging to the party.

“I am not afraid of prison. I am ready. I am prepared to go to prison if this dictatorial, autocratic regime continues with its injustice against justice itself. So I am not afraid of prison,” Theary Seng told journalists outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court in 2017 ordered the Cambodia National Rescue Party to be dissolved for allegedly plotting to seize power, but it is widely believed the action was taken to help ensure that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party would win the 2018 general election. His ruling party made a clean sweep of the National Assembly seats.

Opponents of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 37 years, criticize him for acting in an autocratic manner and keeping the opposition on a tight leash. He has said he intends to stay in office until 2028 and has endorsed one of his sons to be his successor.

To publicize her case, Theary Seng dressed on Tuesday as Lady Justice, a symbol of law who is traditionally depicted as a Roman goddess bearing a sword and a balancing scale and wearing a blindfold and flowers in her hair. On previous trial days, she had dressed up in a prison-style orange outfit with ankle shackles and as a classical Cambodian Apsara dancer, telling reporters she was expressing her belief that the trial was “political theater.”

[…]

https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-election-2020-cambodia-phnom-penh-sam-rainsy-29caf41e807e622bbcc937d154478b5b

https://www.ucanews.com/news/eu-condemns-political-persecution-in-cambodia/97205

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theary_Seng

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theary_Seng (FRANCAIS)

Turkey: Rights lawyer Can Atalay sentenced to 18 years in jail for “attempting to overthrow the government”

25/04/22

Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala was jailed for life without parole on Monday in a long-running case that sparked a diplomatic crisis and highlighted fears for the rule of law. 

The 64-year-old, who has been held in prison for 4½ years, was found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government in connection with mass protests that broke out in 2013 and a failed coup three years later. 

In a verdict greeted with boos and jeers, seven other defendants were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment at Istanbul’s Caglayan courthouse. The seven other defendants were civil rights activists Mucella Yapici, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Ali Hakan Altinay, Yigit Ali Ekmekci, Cigdem Mater and Mine Ozerden

The trial of Henri Barkey, a US-based professor at Lehigh University, and seven other defendants will be continued in a separate case, the court ruled.

Many raised their fists in salute in a show of defiance and promised to continue their struggle. “We will not bow to persecution. We will resist persecution,” said defendant Can Atalay. 

Rights groups condemned the outcome of a case they had already criticized as unfounded and unjust. 

“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions,” said Nils Muiznieks, Europe director at Amnesty International, of the “politically motivated charade.” 

He added, “The court’s decision defies all logic. The prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that substantiates the baseless charges of attempting to overthrow the government. 

“This unjust verdict shows that the Gezi trial was only an attempt to silence independent voices.” 

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Europe director at Human Rights Watch, described the conclusion of the “show trial” as “horrifying, cruel and evil.” 

[…]

https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/04/turkish-court-jails-philanthropist-osman-kavala-life-widely-condemned-trial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/25/philanthropist-sentenced-to-life-in-turkey-in-travesty-trial-over-gezi-park-protests

https://m.bianet.org/english/law/260956-gezi-trial-aggravated-life-sentence-for-kavala-18-years-in-prison-for-seven-others

https://m.bianet.org/english/law/260956-judgment-day-in-gezi-trial-court-recesses-hearing-before-announcing-verdict

https://m.bianet.org/english/law/260956-judgment-day-in-gezi-trial-kavala-can-t-be-seen-due-to-problem-in-videoconference-system

https://www.ibanet.org/article/eec314ee-ab8f-4019-8ea5-117a8fce5802

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/delegations/fr/product/product-details/20220421DPU32664

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/can-atalay

https://www.gercekgundem.com/guncel/338243/portre-i-can-atalay-magdurlarin-doganin-avukati (TURKCE)

https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2022/04/26/en-turquie-osman-kavala-condamne-a-perpetuite-au-terme-d-une-parodie-de-justice_6123664_3210.html (FRANCAIS)

(ITALIANO)
(ESPANOL)

China: Interview: ‘They have been wiping out the whole profession’

18/03/22

Yaxue Cao of China Change talks about her recent documentary about China’s human rights attorneys.

Yaxue Cao, editor-in-chief of the U.S.-based website China Change, has been tracking human rights issues in China for years. With the help of human rights attorneys in China, dissident artist Ai Weiwei, professor and film-maker Ai Xiaoming and overseas-based rights activist, she recently released an hour-long film about the crucial role played by Chinese lawyers in defending people’s basic rights. The documentary, titled “The Defenders — 20 Years of Human Rights Lawyers in China,” offers rarely-seen footage of top rights attorneys including Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong and Pu Zhiqiang to an overseas audience. Cao spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service about the project:

RFA: How long did the film take to make?

Yaxue Cao: There were only two of us [making the documentary]. I wrote the script and collected and selected the material, while video editor cut it all together and added subtitles. Production started last year, and it took us three months in all.

RFA: This documentary spans a long period of time. How did you find all of the footage and the interviewees?

Yaxue Cao: The main point about this film is that it is based on existing footage. Half of the footage we use comes from interviews carried out for China Change, while we also collected a lot of footage, still photos and audio from news organizations and other films, including [two] made by Ai Xiaoming and Ai Weiwei’s long interview with lawyers Li Heping and Jiang Tianyong in 2011. There were also some images of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in [another] documentary. The fact that they were willing to share this material with us was a huge help.

RFA: According to my calculations, at least 33 lawyers appear in this film in some form. What kind of people are they?

Yaxue Cao: Well first of all, there should be more than 300,000 lawyers in China, but even at the peak [of legal representation], when human rights lawyers were most active, there were only about 300 of them. But people have quit or stopped speaking out under successive rounds of repression, while others do the work but don’t want to be referred to as a human rights attorney. For example, more than 20 lawyers defended [pro-democracy agribusiness mogul] Sun Dawu, but none of them were in contact with us, or with the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. Nonetheless, to me, they were still human rights lawyers.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/documentary-03182022132837.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3171042/chinese-legal-activists-girlfriend-charged-inciting-subversion

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/18/joint-ngo-letter-ahead-eu-china-summit

US grants asylum to son of Chinese language 709 rights lawyer – NEWPAPER24

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/lawyer-arrest-02232022141944.html

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/lawyer-yu-wensheng-the-man-who-never-yields/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/a-brief-overview-of-principles-on-the-role-of-lawyers-in-china/

https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/renquanfazhi/jt-03172022101927.html#.YjPJt4ObEAE.twitter (CHINESE)

Belarus: ICJ deplores the continuing reprisals against independent lawyers

01/02/22

Reprisals against independent lawyers in Belarus must end, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

The ICJ calls on the Bar Association of Belarus, the Bar Association of Minsk, and the Ministry of Justice to cease the practice of the use of “re-certification” procedures, disciplinary proceedings, and disbarments as an effective means of reprisals against lawyers for defending the rights and interests of their clients.

“The multiple cases of disbarments or disqualifications of lawyers in Belarus, which have continued since the contested Presidential elections in 2020, are clearly intended to silence independent lawyers who act in accordance with their professional duties”, said Temur Shakirov, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme. “Such attacks on the legal profession have a chilling effect and deprive the profession of those lawyers who defend their clients’ human rights guaranteed under international human rights law”, he added.

In the latest case of apparent reprisal, on 27 January 2022, the Ministry of Justice declared Alexander Filanovich to be “incapable” of performing his duties as a lawyer due to “insufficient qualifications.” This decision comes after Alexander Filanovich did not pass certification by the Qualification Commission on 26 January 2022. He later announced via his Facebook page that his license would be revoked within a month. Alexander Filanovich previously served as a lawyer for Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen detained along with blogger Roman Protasevich in Minsk, after the Belarusian authorities forcibly landed a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania.

The ICJ has previously expressed concern over the growing number of disciplinary cases in Belarus, including disbarments of lawyers, particularly those who have represented opposition members, activists, and political opposition. This included the decision to disbar lawyer Natalia Matskevich, who previously represented former presidential candidate Victor Babariko. The ICJ also spoke out regarding the disbarments of Dmitry Layevsky, Aleksey Telegin, Valery Zvyagintsev, Yekaterina Zheltonoga, Andrey Gashinsky, Andrey Mochalov, Mikhail Bondrachuk.

[…]

https://motolko.help/en-news/two-lawyers-did-not-pass-certification-in-the-ministry-of-justice/

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/110195/belarus-statement-spokesperson-political-prisoners_en

Political Prisoners in Belarus

https://www.ibanet.org/Belarus-the-human-cost-of-the-crackdown-on-dissent

Taliban proceed with plans to strip independence of Afghanistan lawyers

03/01/22

Image

Afghanistan’s Justice Ministry reiterated Monday that the country’s independent lawyers will need to re-certify under a new qualification process ser by the Ministry, signaling the intent of the Taliban authorities to plough ahead with plans to strip the country’s legal profession of its independence.

According to the statement, the country’s lawyers will be authorized to continue practicing with their previous licenses until the new certification process has been finalized.

This was the latest step in a series of efforts by the new regime to crack down on the activities of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA), an organization established in 2008 to oversee the licensing of new lawyers, and to champion the rule of law and social justice.

On November 14, the Taliban Cabinet decreed that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) would gain jurisdiction over AIBA affairs. On November 23, the AIBA offices in Kabul were taken over by armed Taliban who threatened the staff and lawyers who were present with violence before ordering them to leave and installing a new president with questionable professional qualifications. “The person appointed as the new AIBA head is said to be part of the Ministry of Justice but has no relevant experience,” according to a Kabul-based JURIST correspondent. These armed forces had apparently interpreted the Cabinet decree to indicate that the MOJ should have sole authority over licensing, as well as control of the AIBA’s extensive member database and bank account.

A group of AIBA members hoping to raise awareness of the importance of the profession’s independence organized a press conference for December 5, but their plans were halted when, as they prepared to go live, their plans were thwarted by two carloads of armed Taliban. Many have remained in hiding ever since.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/01/taliban-moves-forward-with-plans-to-strip-independence-of-afghanistan-lawyers/

https://www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/713777/limerick-solicitors-come-to-aid-of-colleagues-in-afghanistan.html

https://www.jurist.org/features/2021/12/21/the-lives-of-afghanistans-lawyers-are-still-in-danger-international-bar-association-director-mark-ellis-urges-in-jurist-interview/

https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/37579/more-than-11900-pushbacks-at-eu-internal-and-external-borders-in-2021

https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/it-is-back-to-the-dark-ages-for-women-in-taliban-ruled-afghanistan-4619249.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/taliban-afghanistan-mannequins-behead-b1985979.html

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China: ‘Disappeared’ rights lawyer Tang Jitian ‘tortured’ in incommunicado detention: friend

21/12/21

'Disappeared' rights lawyer Tang Jitian 'tortured' in incommunicado detention: friend

Police are putting pressure on Tang’s friends and family not to speak out about his treatment.

A prominent Chinese rights attorney believed detained after he planned to attend an event on Human Rights Day is once more being subjected to torture and mistreatment in detention, according to one of his friends.

Tang Jitian has been incommunicado since texting friends a couple of hours before the Dec. 10 event was due to start that it was “not safe” to attend, with friends and fellow attorneys saying he has been subjected to a forced disappearance.

Tang’s friend Zhao Zhongyuan, a U.S.-based traditional Chinese medicine doctor, said he is being forcibly deprived of sleep, as well as beatings.

“They won’t let him sleep at all, and they are hanging him up and beating him, very similar to [the way he was treated] 10 years ago,” Zhao told RFA on Tuesday. “Judging from the photo, it looks similar to the torture he suffered [in 2014].”

“And his state of health is a whole lot worse than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

RFA was unable to verify Zhao’s report independently.

Zhao has previously said Tang was already at the point of physical and mental collapse when he disappeared, which came after he was prevented from traveling to Japan to visit his 24-year-old daughter Qiqi, who is in a coma due to complications from tuberculosis.

“[The authorities] have said that if there is ongoing attention on his case, they will send him back to his birth city [of Jilin],” Zhao said. “A source told me that I should stop speaking out for him.”

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/tortured-12212021124026.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_Jitian