Tag Archives: FIDH

Interview: Paying the Price for Defending Human Rights in Burundi

22/09/22

Tony Germain Nkina is a lawyer and one of the last people publicly associated with Burundi’s once thriving human rights movement still in jail today. He was arrested in 2020 and convicted in 2021, despite the lack of any evidence against him. Human rights groups have called his trial a travesty of justice and believe he is serving a five-year sentence in all likelihood because of his past human rights work. Human Rights Watch’s Birgit Schwarz talks to Burundi Researcher Clémentine de Montjoye about why Nkina’s case is emblematic for the state of human rights in Burundi today, and how his release would signal that Burundi’s authorities are serious about democratic reforms and breaking with the country’s repressive past.

How did you meet Nkina?

Tony is a lawyer who used to work with a group advocating for human rights and better prison conditions. We met in 2014 when I was researching abuses against human rights defenders and journalists for a regional organization.

Back then, Burundi had a vibrant civil society and human rights movement. The organization Tony represented in Kayanza province, the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues, APRODH), was one of the most prominent human rights organizations in the country. Tony was a committed and principled human rights defender who cared deeply about helping the most vulnerable, especially in Burundi’s notoriously tough prisons.

When, in April 2015, Burundi’s former president, Pierre Nkurunziza, decided to run for a controversial third term despite a two-term limit set forth in the Arusha Accords – the peace agreement brokered at the end of a brutal civil war that left roughly 300,000 dead – independent nongovernmental organizations were at the forefront of organizing protests. Security forces responded with brutal force. Extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and threats against those perceived to be political opponents became almost daily occurrences and plunged the country into a crisis of escalating violence and repression.

Most of the main independent civil society organizations, including APRODH, were suspended. Their bank accounts were frozen. Several human rights defenders were jailed, among them was one of Tony’s former colleagues who was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment for alleged state security offenses. The president of APRODH, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, almost lost his life in an assassination attempt. Working as a human rights defender became too dangerous. Activists either fled into exile or went underground. After the suspension of APRODH in 2015, Tony ceased his human rights activities and only worked as a lawyer. But the worry that his past would catch up would always be there. Being associated with Burundi’s human rights movement can have severe repercussions.

Why was he arrested?

Tony was arrested in October 2020 while visiting an area in northern Burundi where rebel groups were active at the time. He had gone there to meet a client he was advising on a land dispute. In June 2021, Tony was found guilty by a provincial court of collaboration with armed groups, despite a lack of evidence. This is a common accusation against perceived opponents and critics in Burundi. He was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison.

In September 2021, an appeals court upheld the conviction, even though his lawyers showed he had visited the area for legitimate professional reasons, and despite prosecutors producing zero credible evidence that Tony was supporting a rebel group.

[…]

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/22/interview-paying-price-defending-human-rights-burundi

https://allafrica.com/stories/202209220117.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/08/burundi-lawyers-conviction-travesty-justice

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/18/burundi-suspected-opponents-killed-detained-tortured

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/08/burundis-vicious-crackdown-never-ended

https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2022/09/22/entretien-le-prix-payer-pour-la-defense-des-droits-humains-au-burundi (FRANCAIS)

Azerbaijan: “The arrest of Sadigov is another blow to the independent legal profession” – human rights activists

16/09/22

The Center for Monitoring Political Prisoners issued a statement condemning the arrest of human rights lawyer Elchin Sadigov.

“Azerbaijan is systematically removing from the legal profession  the lawyers specializing in the human rights sphere. In recent years, well-known lawyers who were not afraid to defend the rights of many political prisoners, and in particular Khalid Baghirov, Alaif Hasanov, Yalchin Imanov, Elchin Namazov, were expelled from the Bar for unreasonable reasons. Some, fearing reprisals, were forced to leave the country.

In the case of Elchin Sadigov, one of the last lawyers defending political prisoners, the authorities went even further and arrested him, which is undoubtedly related to his professional activities,” said Elshan Hasanov, head of the Center for Monitoring Political Prisoners.

Thus, the process of depriving citizens of high-quality legal protection is being consistently carried out in the country.

“People are actually deprived of the opportunity to receive legal assistance from a lawyer of their choice. Lawyers loyal to the leadership, controlled by the authorities of the Bar Association, are being imposed on citizens. There is no such radical pressure on lawyers even in “Putin’s Russia,” Hasanov continued.

The Center for Monitoring Political Prisoners demands the release of lawyer Elchin Sadigov from custody,  restoration of his powers, and demands to repressions against independent lawyers.

http://www.turan.az/ext/news/2022/9/free/Social/en/9435.htm/001

https://www.turan.az/ext/news/2022/9/free/Social/en/9456.htm/001

https://www.mediadefence.org/news/statement-elchin-sadykov/

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/view/-/asset_publisher/ugj3i6qSEkhZ/content/azerbaijan-s-authorities-should-immediately-release-human-right-lawyer-elchin-sadykov-and-journalist-avaz-zeynalli-and-stop-intimidating-and-harassing

https://www.turan.az/ext/news/2022/9/free/politics_news/en/9252.htm

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/azerbaijan-arbitrary-detention-and-criminalisation-of-elchin-sadigov

https://www.voanews.com/a/azerbaijan-detains-a-journalist-and-his-lawyer/6746340.html

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/16762-azerbaijan-arrests-lawyer-who-defends-political-opponents

https://www.turan.az/ext/news/2022/-/free/Chetin_sual/en/9262.htm/001

https://www.turan.az/ext/news/2022/9/free/politics_news/az/9252.htm/001 (AZERBAIJANI)

https://www.coe.int/fr/web/commissioner/view/-/asset_publisher/ugj3i6qSEkhZ/content/azerbaijan-s-authorities-should-immediately-release-human-right-lawyer-elchin-sadykov-and-journalist-avaz-zeynalli-and-stop-intimidating-and-harassing (FRANCAIS)

Afghanistan: Lawyers, specifically women lawyers, are in serious danger

06/09/22

The CCBE urges the de facto authorities to reinstate the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association and allow all lawyers to practise law freely and without fear of persecution.

Les avocats, et en particulier les avocates, sont en grand danger. Le CCBE exhorte les autorités à rétablir l’Association indépendante du barreau afghan et à permettre à tous les avocats d’exercer librement et sans crainte de persécution.

Click to access EN_HRL_20220906_Afghanistan_Situation-of-lawyers-in-Afghanistan.pdf

https://www.smh.com.au/national/if-you-give-someone-1000-he-can-kill-anybody-why-judge-nellab-fled-kabul-20220719-p5b2qe.html

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/09/human-rights-council-discusses-situation-human-rights-afghanistan-focus

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/09/human-rights-council-hold-fifty-first-regular-session-12-september-7-october

https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/regular-sessions/session51/list-reports

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220912-we-are-erased-afghan-women-demand-action-at-un

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/12/un-expert-describes-staggering-repression-of-women-and-girls-in-afghanistan

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/afghan-mp-taliban-gender-apartheid-regime-89779095

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/afghanistan/oral-statement-for-the-interactive-dialogue-with-the-special

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/12/international-criminal-court-should-reach-decision-afghanistan

https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/en/reports/rights-freedom/un-human-rights-warns-of-afghanistans-descent-into-authoritarianism/

https://www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-calls-for-creation-of-a-dedicated-accountability-mechanism-for-Afghanistan-in-joint-letter

https://www.dw.com/en/afghanistan-un-warns-taliban-against-harassing-its-female-employees/a-63098371

https://www.law360.com/articles/1523654

https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2022/09/13/afghanistan-la-lutte-pour-le-respect-des-droits-fondamentaux-doit-continuer_6141329_3232.html (FRANCAIS)

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)

‘Waiting for our death’: Afghan military lawyers beg Canada for help to escape

10/08/22

A former Canadian military legal officer says a group of Afghan lawyers and other staff who helped his mission in Afghanistan have been “left in the dark,” and is urging Canada’s Immigration Ministry to act quickly to help them escape the Taliban.

It’s been one year since Canada began accepting fleeing Afghans through its one-year special immigration program for Afghans who helped the Canadian government, set up a few weeks before Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021.

To date, roughly 17,170 Afghans have arrived in Canada. Last month, the Liberal government closed its immigration program to new applicants, less than halfway toward its goal of bringing 40,000 Afghans to Canada.

“If [Canada] would not act upon my request and as soon as possible, I could lose my life,” said Popal, one of the Afghan military prosecutors who applied for this program, and whom CBC has agreed not to identify.

“When Popal called me for help, it was very heart-wrenching,” said retired major Cory Moore, a former military legal officer with the Canadian Armed Forces who was deployed three times to Afghanistan.

Moore is helping 12 applicants and their families apply for this program, and is still waiting for word from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on the fate of these 66 people. Their applications were filed between September and December 2021.

The group includes military prosecutors, criminal investigators, security staff, recruitment video participants, a doctor and a journalist. 

All 12 Afghans were involved in various capacities during Moore’s mission to help bolster the Afghan National Army’s legal branch. He created a project to recruit Afghan law grads, making a recruitment video which aired nationally from 2012 to 2021.

As a result, eight female military lawyers were hired as prosecutors and criminal investigators with the military, in what Moore calls a “historical precedent.”

[…]

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/afghan-lawyers-afghanistan-taliban-canada-special-immigration-program-limbo-1.6540365

https://www.newsweek.com/afghan-refugee-resettlement-falters-us-uk-renege-promises-1731418

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/afghanistan/afghanistan-ensure-justice-one-year-after-taliban-takeover

https://newsheadlinesuk.com/afghan-interpreters-fearing-for-their-lives-after-helping-uk-forces-sue-uk-government-uk-news/56782/

https://news-24.fr/des-traducteurs-afghans-laisses-pour-compte-et-craignant-pour-leur-vie-apres-avoir-aide-les-forces-britanniques-a-poursuivre-le-gouvernement-britannique-nouvelles-du-royaume-uni/ (FRANCAIS)

https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/asie/afghanistan/afghanistan-un-an-prise-pouvoir-talibans

https://www.fidh.org/es/region/asia/afganistan/afganistan-garantizar-la-justicia-a-un-ano-de-la-toma-del-poder-por?var_mode=calcul (PORTUGUES)

Ukraine/Russia: Crimean lawyers associate deprivation of their status in Chechnya with persecution

05/08/22

The Department for Chechnya of the Ministry of Justice has succeeded in pressure on the local bar association to withdraw the status of three of its former members working in Crimea. The disqualified lawyers associated the decision with political persecution and plan to appeal against it, human rights defenders report.

The Chamber of Lawyers of Chechnya has deprived lawyers Lilya Gemedji, Rustem Kyamilev, and Nazim Sheikhmambetov of their professional status. As a result, the lawyers cannot participate in criminal cases and are not eligible to take an exam for re-acquisition of status within a year, the civil rights project “For Human Rights”* reported on its website on August 4.

The lawyers are already preparing complaints that they can send to a court and the Federal Chamber, Nazim Sheikhmambetov reports.

“It is unprecedented when three lawyers are simultaneously deprived of their status. Nothing of that kind has happened during eight years of advocacy activities, including of our colleagues in Crimea,” Nazim Sheikhmambetov noted. The lawyer associates the decision “with political persecution by the law enforcement bodies,” human rights defenders report.

*In February 2019, the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) included the All-Russian public movement “For Human Rights” into the register of NCOs acting as a foreign agent. On November 1 of the same year, the movement “For Human Rights” was liquidated by the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia.

https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/60939/

https://khpg.org/en/1608810989

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/crimea-ukraine-crackdown-crimean-lawyers

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/ukraine-russia-administrative-harassment-of-four-human-rights-lawyers

https://fparf.ru/en/chambers/advokatskaya-palata-chechenskoy-respubliki/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/statement-report/crimea-ukraine-crackdown-crimean-lawyers (FRANCAIS)

NUMEROUS CASES OF PROSECUTION OF LAWYERS IN BELARUS

21/06/22

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee informed the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus about numerous cases of prosecution of lawyers in Belarus.

In particular, the UN special procedures were informed about the detention of Alexander Danilevich, who was arrested on May 20 and is still in detention.

It was revealed that he is charged pursuant art. 361 para. 3 of the Criminal Code (calls for restrictive measures (sanctions) or other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus). He is at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment for a term of four to twelve years. We have a reason to believe, and that was indicated, that A. Danilevich is being prosecuted for publicly expressing his opinion. Alexander Danilevich, PhD in law, associate professor, distinguished sports lawyer, arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Lausanne, Switzerland), was a member of the disciplinary committee of Rugby Europe.

We further informed the Special Rapporteurs of the Andrei Mochalov’s case.

Lawyer Andrei Mochalov (A.Machalau) was dismissed from the Minsk Regional Bar Association on May 31, but he didn’t participate in the meeting of the Bar Council, so he found out about the decision only at the trial.

The cause of dismissal was his media report that his client, Olga Zolotar, has been tortured by GUBOPiK officers during the investigation in order to force her to incriminate herself. Mochalov was charged of using knowingly forged documents (art. 380 para. 1 of the Criminal Code) – lawyer’s certificate and warrant. According to the investigation, he had no right to present these documents in court, because he knew that he had already been dismissed from the Bar Association. On June 16, Andrei Mochalov was sentenced to two years’ of imprisonment with placement in an open institution.

The communication also contains information about the persecution of lawyer Vitaliy Braginets. On May 23, lawyer V. Bragints was detained and on the next day was sentenced to 15 days for disobeying the lawful request of a police officer (art. 24.3 of the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offenses). On June 7, after 15 days, it became known that the lawyer was still not released, and his arrest was extended for another 15 days. Until now, he is in custody.

[…]

https://belhelcom.org/en/news/danilevich-mochalov-lazarenko-braginets-we-informed-special-rapporteurs-about-numerous-cases

https://spring96.org/en/news/108614

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/europe-central-asia/belarus/belarus-a-year-after-the-arbitrary-arrest-of-the-president-and-vice

https://belhelcom.org/en/news/communication-un-special-rapporteurs-defense-belarussian-lawyers-20222021

https://belhelcom.org/en/news/bhc-sent-communication-un-special-procedures-about-violation-right-lawyers-freedom-expression

Mexico: Letter concerning the continued judicial harassment of Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Ana Elizabeth Cabral Pacheco

01/08/22

In a letter, Lawyers for Lawyers expresses concern about the judicial harassment of Mexican lawyers Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Ana Elizabeth Cabral Pacheco.

Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Ana Elizabeth Cabral Pacheco are working as lawyers of the Comité en Defensa del Bosque el Nixticuil – Committee in Defence of the Nixticuil Forest. In this capacity, they have collaborated in the filing of, different judicial amparos, like judicial reviews, against the construction of a planned subdivision in the Nixticuil forest, in a zone adjacent to a protected natural area, located northwest of the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, in the municipality of Zapopán, Jalisco.

Members of the Committee in Defense of the Nixticuil Forest were informed of the existence of investigations against them by personnel from the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic. They did not receive any additional information regarding the persons included in the investigations and the reasons for the complaint.

An official letter, which was later issued by the Attorney General’s Office, made apparent that information was requested from the District Court in relation to the opening of the two investigation folders in relation to the amparo claim (FED/JAL/GDL0003860/ 2021 and FED/JAL/GDL/0001742/2022) against Mr. Flores Solís and Ms. Cabral Pacheco. The complaints were filed by a real estate company called JARHA, S.A. de C.V., one of the developers of the Miralto Residencial real estate project in the municipality of Zapopán, Jalisco. According to the information received, Mr. Floris Solis and Ms. Cabral Pacheco, were being accused of including false information regarding the address of the plaintiffs in the appeal.

It is concerning that both lawyers were not informed by the Mexican authorities about the complaint filed by the real estate company. They only became aware of the accusation against them by luck, after meeting one of their client’s members. Only through monitoring the judicial reviews both lawyers were able to learn more details.

[…]

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/break-and-death-threat-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-juan-carlos-flores-solis-0

https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/mexico-allanamiento-ilegal-del-domicilio-de-juan-carlos-flores-solis (ESPANOL)

https://www.zonadocs.mx/2022/07/06/comite-en-defensa-del-bosque-el-nixticuil/

https://www.informador.mx/ideas/Criminalizacion-vs-defensores-en-Jalisco–20220712-0178.html

Egypt: Rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan released after 4 years pretrial detention

25/07/22

(ARABIC)

https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/egypt-frees-human-rights-lawyer-after-4-years-jail (ENGLISH)

https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/117876/Egyptian-activist-Mohamed-Ramadan-released-from-prison

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/egypt-human-rights-lawyer-mohamed-ramadan-detained-for-a-yellow-vest

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/mohamed-ramadan#:~:text=Mohamed%20Ramadan%20is%20a%20human,rights%20defenders%20and%20political%20prisoners.

https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1306721/un-avocat-libere-apres-4-ans-en-preventive-pour-un-post-sur-les-gilets-jaunes.html (FRANCAIS)

Russia/Ukraine: How independent lawyers are ‘silenced’ in Crimea

22/07/22

At the end of May, yet another wave of detentions and arrests swept through the occupied Crimea. The distinction is that all those detained and arrested this time turned out to be independent Crimean lawyers who regularly work with defendants in politically motivated cases.

This article is about the charges brought against lawyers, the course of their trials, and the consequences these prosecutions will lead to.

Guilty of being a lawyer

Of all four lawyers, only the first detainee, Edem Semedliayev, who has been dealing with dozen criminal cases against Crimean Muslims, was charged with an offense not directly related to his professional activity. On April 16, a user posted a publication criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine on Semedliayev’s Facebook page. The security officers took a screenshot of this publication, waited for another month, and then detained Semedliayev to draw up a report under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation for discrediting the Russian army. Moreover, Part 2 of the Article, which implies some serious consequences, was referred to.

The other three lawyers found themselves in the dock for a much more dubious reason. Half a year ago, Edem Semedliayev worked in one of the police departments after the mass arrests of Muslims near the Crimean Garrison Court. His activity angered greatly Ruslan Shambazov, the head of the Simferopol department of the Center for Combating Extremism, who demanded that the lawyer take off his clothes and demonstrate that there are no extremist tattoos on his body. When Semedliayev refused, a report was drawn up against him for disobeying the lawful demands of police officers and he was detained. At least three of his colleagues – Nazym Sheikhmambetov, Ayder Azamatov, and Emine Avamileva – responded to those actions. At 01:00, when they left the police station, the people who had gathered near asked them to tell them what would happen to Semedliayev and what he was accused of. Half a year later, Shambazov qualified that interview as an administrative offense committed by all three lawyers, namely participation in spontaneous gatherings of citizens that caused violations of sanitary regulations.

[…]

https://crimeahrg.org/en/statement-by-human-rights-organizations-on-arbitrary-detention-of-lawyers-in-occupied-crimea/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/ukraine-russia-administrative-harassment-of-four-human-rights-lawyers