Tag Archives: Front Line Defenders

Russia: Human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov disbarred


On 16 March 2022, the Ministry of Justice attempted to disbar Ivan Pavlov. However, the Council of the St. Petersburg Bar Association instead decided to disbar the human rights lawyer on the same day, and has therefore been forbidden by the St. Petersburg Bar Association to provide any type of legal assitance. It is believed that the decision was made based on the fact that Ivan Pavlov has been outside of Russia for more than six months, and allegedly not fulfillling his professional duties as a lawyer. It was reported that this decision is in the interests of the State prosecutor in the case of Ivan Safronov, whom Ivan Pavlov was representing. His disbarment means that Ivan Pavlov can no longer provide legal assistance to anyone, including Ivan Safronov.

This situation arose from three complaints sent by the Minstry of Justice and one by the Vice President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association to the Qualification Commission. According to the complaints, Ivan Pavlov breached several provisions concerning his work as a lawyer, although the alleged breaches were not specified. The complaints were examined by the Qualification Commission, which found that Ivan Pavlov could not properly perform his duties as a lawyer. Upon receiving the complaints and also carrying out an examination, the Council of the St. Petersburg Bar Association did not agree with the opinion of the Qualification Commission concerning the number of alleged breaches. As a result of their examination of the complaints, the Council disbarred Ivan Pavlov based on the “inability of a lawyer to perform his professional duties for more than six months,” as per Article 16 §2 of the Russian Federal Law on the Bar Association and Bar Activities. However, the evidence based on this Article has not yet been provided to Ivan Pavlov or his lawyer. His disbarment bans Ivan Pavlov from providing anyone with legal assistance.

Since April 2021, Ivan Pavlov has been under criminal investigation, accused of disclosing data of a preliminary investigation concerning one of his clients, former journalist Ivan Safronov. On 19 July 2021, Ivan Pavlov’s lawyer’s appeals were rejected by the Moscow City Court regarding the restriction measures forbidding him to use any form of communication, except for calling the emergency services, the investigator for the case, or his relatives, leaving them unchanged.

Ivan Pavlov is a prominent human rights lawyer and director of Team 29, an association of lawyers and journalists. His legal work focuses on defending those wrongly accused by the security services of disclosing state secrets, high treason, or espionage. He has also been working to ensure public access to government information, and with this aim founded the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information which was designated as a “foreign agent” by the Russian authorities in 2014. In 2015, Team 29 was established to provide consultation and legal aid to individuals asserting their right to receive and distribute information, defend victims abused by law enforcement and security agencies, provide recommendations on how to respond to searches, interrogations, arrests, etc. Ivan Pavlov has also contributed to the development of Russian legislation on the right to freedom of information. He received the Moscow Helsinki Group Award for defending human rights in court in 2015 and the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism in 2018, awarded by Human Rights Watch to activists who put themselves at great risk to protect the dignity and rights of others.






https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/ru/case/judicial-harassment-human-rights-lawyer-ivan-pavlov (RUSSIAN)

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/judicial-harassment-human-rights-lawyer-ivan-pavlov (FRANCAIS)

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


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.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)


Iran: Rights lawyers on trial for lawsuit against Supreme Leader over vaccine ban


The trial of five activists who had filed a lawsuit against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for “Covid mismanagement” was held behind closed doors Saturday.

The group of five, who were put on trial at Branch 29 of Tehran Revolutionary Court, has come to be called ‘Defenders of Right to Health’ by the media. They are: Mehdi Mahmoudian, Mostafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi, Mohammadreza Faghihi and Maryam Fara-Afraz

Khamenei ruled out importing United States- and British-made Covid-19 vaccines in January 2021, arguing that the US and Uk cannot be trusted. At the time, the US-German Pfizer, US-made Moderna and the British-made AstraZeneca were the only vaccines approved internationally and available in early 2021.

The group’s litigation apparently sought to establish that decisions by Khamenei, former President Hassan Rouhani, and others led to thousands of unnecessary deaths when a severe wave of infections hit Iran from June to August 2021.

The members of the group were arrested on August 15 last year while holding a meeting to prepare legal action against authorities for mismanagement of the pandemic and delay in in mass vaccination. All, except Mahmoudain, were released after spending more than a month in solitary confinement.

In an unexpected move in early March, Iran’s Judiciary accepted to register the group’s lawsuit against the authorities, including Khamenei.

While Khamenei banned the Western vaccines, hundreds of millions of dollars were distributed among government-run companies with no experience in vaccine development to produce a homegrown variant.

The five activists have been charged with “acting against national security”, an often-used vague charge often brought against dissidents and critics of the Islamic Republic. They are accused of forming a “hostile group aiming to harm the country’s security and make propaganda against the state”.











https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/human-rights-defender-arash-keykhosravi-released-bail (FRANCAIS)

Chinese New Year: Looking back on another year of crackdowns on China’s legal profession


Chinese New Year: Looking back on another year of crackdowns on China’s legal profession

Today, 1 February, marks the start of the Chinese New Year and the start of the Spring Festival. Hopefully, the start of the Year of the Tiger will bring a better tide for China’s human rights lawyers compared to the ongoing crackdown on lawyers in the previous years. However, the outlook is grim. Even though the Year of the Tiger is associated with bravery, confidence and strength, lawyers in China are punished for exhibiting those very traits in defending human rights and the rule of law in their country.

As millions of Chinese return home to celebrate the New Year, many human rights lawyers remain in state custody. They are held and questioned in conditions that are questionable at best: it is alleged that the detainees’ health issues are scarcely dealt with and that their legal representation is barred from attending pre-trial questioning and trials. Those lawyers that are eventually freed from prison are frequently placed under house arrests.

Over the last year, Lawyers for Lawyers has handed in a mid-term report and a submission to the Special Rapporteur to the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, detailing the issues that Chinese lawyers face. Furthermore, two members from Lawyers for Lawyers’ Focus Group China have participated in a session for China’s mid-term review in Geneva.

Criminal prosecution

Over the last year, Lawyers for Lawyers has followed the cases of a large number of lawyers who faced criminal prosecution and arbitrary arrests. Within this group, Lawyers for Lawyers has also seen that the practice of ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL), which is effectively a form of enforced disappearance, has continued to be used against lawyers.

An example of this is the continued enforced disappearance of Chang Weiping. In May 2021, Lawyers for Lawyers issued a joint statement to draw attention to Mr. Chang’s case. Chang Weiping is a human rights lawyer known for his public interest litigation in the defense of the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. According to our information, on 22 October 2020, Mr. Chang was taken into custody and was held at an undisclosed location under RSDL. Mr. Chang was able to meet his father shortly on 25 November 2020, but his family and lawyers have not been able to contact him since then. Mr. Chang spent six months in RSDL. He was first able to meet with his lawyer on 14 September 2021 and recounted being subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane punishment during his time in RSDL.




NSO ‘found on phones of Jordanian and Bahraini women’s rights activists’


Two female activists for women’s rights in the Arab world have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware belonging to the Israeli NSO group, a new investigation revealed on Monday.

The investigation, carried out by Ireland-based human rights group Front Line Defenders, said that the phones of a Jordanian and a Bahraini women’s rights activist were hacked multiple times using the Pegasus spyware, which has been purchased by several repressive governments in the world.

“We cannot directly comment on a report we haven’t seen, nor investigate based on names received in a press inquiry,” the NSO told Israeli daily Haaretz following the investigation.

The two targets are Bahraini human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who has been arrested in Bahrain for her activism in the past, and Jordanian human rights lawyer Hala Ahed Deeb, who represents the country’s biggest union and served as the head of the legal committee of the Jordanian Women’s Union.

The report stressed the gendered impact of NSO’s surveillance: “[Women targets] live in fear of how their personal information, including private photos, videos, and conversations, could be used against them at any given point, opening the door for harassment and abuse.”

Marketed to governments for use solely against terrorists and criminals, Pegasus has been abused by NSO customers to spy on human rights activists, journalists, and politicians from Saudi Arabia to Mexico.





China: Human rights defender Qin Yongpei tried on New Year’s Eve, verdict pending


Qin Yongpei

After spending more than two years in pre-trial detention, human rights lawyer Qin Yongpei was tried at the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court on 31 December 2021. His family and lawyer were informed of the trial date only on four days before, on 27 December 2021. The presiding judge rejected the request by the human rights defender’s lawyer to call defence witnesses. Apart from his lawyer and his wife, who obtained permission to defend her husband in court, no other family members, including the human rights defender’s daughters, were allowed to attend the trial. The trial ended without a verdict.

In a legal career spanning more than a decade, Qin Yongpei has defended other human rights lawyers facing reprisals from the authorities, provided legal assistance to vulnerable groups, and took up cases involving unlawful administrative detention, industrial pollution, forced demolition of housing, and wrongful convictions. He is the founder and director of the Guangxi Baijuming Law Firm, where several human rights lawyers in Guangxi also worked. In July 2015, he was briefly taken and questioned by police in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown” targeting human rights lawyers and other defenders across China. He has often taken to online platforms to comment on State policies and actions, including incidents of abuse of power by officials and human rights violations. He has had multiple social media accounts shut down because of his online postings critical of the government.

On 30 September 2021, the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court contacted human rights defender Qin Yongpei’s lawyer and his wife, Deng Xiaoyun, and invited them for a pre-trial preparatory meeting on 13 October 2021. In May 2021, the Court approved an application by Deng Xiaoyun to be Qin Yongpei’s defender.



Iran: Human rights lawyer Mustafa Nili released on bail


On 18 December 2021, human rights defender Mustafa Nili was released on eight billion IRR bail after spending more than four months under arbitrary detention in Evin prison, in Tehran.

On 14 August 2021, Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested a group of seven human rights defenders, including Mustafa Nili, four other lawyers and one journalist, as they were preparing to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force Against Coronavirus, the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

Mustafa Nili is a human rights defender and lawyer, who has represented many political prisoners, including student union activists. He was arrested in December 2009 as a result of taking part in peaceful protests against the results of the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. In November 2010, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court convicted the human rights defender to three years on the charge of “gathering and collusion to act against the national security” and an additional six months in prison on the charge of “propaganda against state”, due to him taking part in the protests and publishing critical content against violent crackdowns on the peaceful protests in 2009. Branch 54 of the Court of Appeals confirmed the prison sentences in April 2011 and consequently the defender served his sentence from 18 July 2011 to 18 November 2014.





https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/repression-des-iraniens-emprisonnes-pour-avoir-ose-denoncer-la-politique-anti-covid (FRANCAIS)


Concerns grow for health of rights lawyer, dissident detained in Xiamen crackdown


Concerns grow for health of rights lawyer, dissident detained in Xiamen crackdown

Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong have spent two years in detention amid reports that they have been tortured.

Two years after a Chinese human rights lawyer was detained on suspicion of “subversion” for taking part in a gathering in the southwestern Chinese city of Xiamen, his wife says she has growing concerns for his safety, with no trial date yet made public.

Ding Jiaxi is currently being held under incommunicado criminal detention in the Linshi Detention Center in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong following his initial detention in the wake of a December 2019 gathering of dissidents and rights activists in Xiamen.

He has been denied permission to meet with either family members or a lawyer, with detainees accused of subversion and held under “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) and criminal detention.

Ding’s wife Luo Shengchun told RFA that her husband is in poor health after two years in poor conditions.

“The food is still a steamed bun and a bowl of soup … there is still no hot water or infection control, and hygiene is very poor,” Luo said. “Ding has arthritis, diarrhea and swollen legs.”

“You can file a complaint and make freedom of information requests, but they just ignore all of it,” she said.

Ding’s detention came after he attended a dinner with prominent activists in Xiamen, including the founder of the New Citizens’ Movement, Xu Zhiyong, in early December 2019.

He and several others who had attended that dinner were arrested on Dec. 26, including Zhang Zhongshun, Dai Zhenya and Li Shuai.

“They have designated the New Citizens’ Movement … an ‘illegal organization’, and linked the charges against Xu Zhiyong and Ding to a rights website run by an overseas-based NGO,” Luo said.

She said the evidence being used against the detainees includes participating in a Telegram group chat, articles and online posts, and organizing classes in non-violent resistance.









https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/zh/case/case-history-ding-jiaxi (CHINESE)

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/case-history-ding-jiaxi (FRANCAIS)



Chinese rights lawyer incommunicado after writing to Li Keqiang over travel ban


Chinese rights lawyer incommunicado after writing to Li Keqiang over travel ban

Tang Jitian hasn’t been in contact since texting a warning about ‘safety’ on Human Rights Day.

A prominent Chinese rights attorney is missing, believed detained, after he planned to attend an event linked to Human Rights Day at the EU representative office in Beijing on Dec. 10, RFA has learned.

Tang Jitian has been incommunicado since texting friends a couple of hours before the event was due to start that it was “not safe” to attend, U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao said.

Repeated calls to Tang’s phone rang unanswered on Dec. 16.

“I think it’s definitely more serious,” Teng said. “We have heard nothing from Tang Jitian since Dec. 10, so it looks like an enforced disappearance.”

He said the situation of Chinese dissident and former legal advocate Guo Feixiong, also known as Yang Maodong, appeared to be similar.

Guo has been incommunicado since writing an open letter to Chinese premier Li Keqiang, asking him to lift a travel ban and allow him to visit his critically ill wife Zhang Qing in the United States, Teng said.

“They have both played a prominent role in rights activism in China, and they are almost certainly in the custody of certain departments,” he said.

Tang’s friend Zhao Zhongyuan said the lawyer was at the point of physical and mental collapse when he disappeared, after being prevented from traveling to Japan to visit his 24-year-old daughter Kiki, who was in a coma due to complications from tuberculosis.

“His health had reached the point of collapse, because he had been persecuted for a long time,” Zhao said. “He couldn’t work, couldn’t leave the country and was homeless, forced to stay a couple of days with one friend, and a couple of days with another.”





Brazil: Prison sentence of human rights defender José Vargas Sobrinho Junior upheld


On 13 December 2021, the assistant judge of the Criminal Court of Redenção, in the State of Pará, denied the request presented by the defence of the lawyer and human rights defender José Vargas Sobrinho Junior, deciding for the maintenance of the house arrest. In addition, an evidentiary hearing was scheduled for 25 March 2022.

José Vargas Sobrinho Junior is a human rights defender, university teacher and a human rights lawyer in Redenção, Pará. Vargas is well known for his work on important cases for the defence of human rights in Brazil, such as the victims of the Pau D’Arco massacre, landless workers against JBS and the Kayapó indigenous people against mining companies in Cumaru do Norte.

On 1 January 2021, he was arrested at his home in the municipality of Redenção, Pará, based on a criminal procedure characterized by high level of arbitrariness and weak evidence. It has been more than 11 months since the grassroots lawyer and human rights defender José Vargas Sobrinho Junior was detained. Since 25 January 2021, the human rights defender has been under house arrest.

Between 8 and 10 October 2021, Front Line Defenders conducted a solidarity visit to the lawyer. During the event, it was learned that the situation to which José Vargas Sobrinho Junior is subjected represents an obstacle to his work. By not having access to his telephone and work email, and by not being able to personally follow up on his clients’ cases, the human rights defender has been prevented from continuing his work in defence of human rights defenders. In June 2021, José Vargas Sobrinho Junior had to resign from acting as a lawyer in the Public Civil Action on behalf of the Kayapó indigenous people against the mining companies devastating their territory.



https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/pt/case/human-rights-lawyer-jose-vargas-sobrinho-junior-detained (PORTUGUES)


https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/human-rights-lawyer-jose-vargas-sobrinho-junior-detained (FRANCAIS)