The group urges the new government ‘to take all measures necessary to ensure that legal professionals are able to fulfill their professional obligations safely and without impediment’
The New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) has condemned the attempted assassination of Cebu Port Authority lawyer Karen Quiñanola-Gonzales.
“The New York City Bar Association joins the international community in condemning the attempted assassination of Karen Quiñanola-Gonzales and fears that it may be a harbinger of things to come,” the NYCBA said in a statement.
“As the CHR’s reference to ‘the continuing violence against legal professionals’ indicates, the recent attempt on the life of Quiñanola-Gonzales is by no means an isolated instance,” it added, noting the number of killings of members of the legal profession in the country during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte.
Gonzales and her son, Keith Gonzales, were driving near Hernan Cortes Street in Barangay Tipolo when they were ambushed by motorcycle-riding men.
Mandaue City police have identified the gunman behind the attack as 42-year-old swimming instructor Richard Basalo Delibo.
Lieutenant Colonel Franco Rudolf Oriol, deputy city director for operations of the Mandaue City Police Office, said they filed a complaint for two counts of frustrated murder against Delibo with the City Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, September 16.
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.
The chairman of the Attorneys’ Chamber in Russia’s Udmurtia region, Dmitry Talantov, has been accused of committing five crimes and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Pervy Otdel (The First Unit), a group that unites lawyers and right defenders, wrote on Telegram on September 14 that Talantov has been charged with the distribution of fake materials inciting political hatred and discord, and two counts of inciting hatred and discord using an official position.
Talantov was arrested in the Udmurt capital, Izhevsk, and sent to pretrial detention in Moscow in late June after he criticized the Russian government and military forces over a deadly strike on a shopping mall in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk.
He was initially charged with distributing false information about the Russian armed forces.
Earlier in April, Talantov, who has openly condemned Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, also harshly criticized Russia’s military for killing civilians in the Ukrainian towns and cities of Irpin, Bucha, and Mariupol.
Talantov was the lawyer for Ivan Safronov, a prominent former Russian journalist who was sentenced to 22 years in prison last week on a treason charge widely considered to be politically motivated.
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.
Dozens of residents of an autonomous region in Tajikistan detained since May 2022 protests are facing closed, unfair trials, Human Rights Watch said today. Defendants are being tried on serious charges often without access to lawyers or the evidence against them in violation of their due process rights.
The authorities have arrested and detained more than 200 people in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakshan autonomous region (GBAO), including at least 90 activists, on charges related to the protests and ensuing clashes. The residents of the isolated mountainous region are Pamiri, a distinct ethnic and religious minority, whom the government has long discriminated against.
“Dozens of activists and other members of the Pamiri minority in the Gorno-Badakshan autonomous region are facing unfair trials behind closed doors without access to lawyers,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Without lawyers, defendants can’t get a fair trial and are at greater risk of being tortured or otherwise mistreated.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Tajikistan acceded to in 1999, provides that everyone charged with a criminal offense is entitled to a fair and public hearing, has access to counsel and adequate time to prepare a defense, and is able to examine the evidence against them.
The region has only seven lawyers who are officially registered as members of the GBAO Bar Association to cover the population of 250,000. And lawyers from other regions of the country report being warned against taking up the cases of those arrested, while others fear retaliation. Several of those charged are reported to have been forcibly disappeared from Russia and taken to the region to face trial.
Survivors blow the lid off a secret prison operated by the DGFI, Bangladesh’s notorious military intelligence agency.
On May 29th 2016, Shekh Mohammad Salim was waiting at an auto repair shop in Kapashia, Gazipur, as technicians were renovating a bus owned by his family. This was something he took a great interest in coming from a family in the transportation business.
His undivided attention was soon disrupted by a microbus’ sudden arrival. A group of four to five men got out, with one of them holding a strange-looking device with a monitor. The cell phone in Salim’s pocket began to vibrate, indicating an incoming call. He reached into his pocket to pull out his phone, and the men nearby knew they had found their target.
“Are you Shekh Mohammad Salim?” asked one of them.
Not knowing any better, he nodded positively. The men then grabbed his hands and forced him into the microbus, with his hands cuffed behind his back and eyes covered with a blindfold.
Salim had no idea who his captors were, let alone why he was being picked up. But soon, he would be an inmate of an illegal secret prison, known as Aynaghar (House of Mirrors), run by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Bangladesh’s notorious military intelligence agency.
For the first time, two former inmates — including a former military officer — have come forward publicly to describe the features of this secret prison. In addition, two current military officers not only confirmed the prison’s existence but also provided Netra News with photographs of the tiny, cramped cells inside it. We have also obtained satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies to corroborate and even pinpoint the location of the facility.
Since 2009, as the Bangladesh Awami League returned to power, enforced disappearances have become a brutally effective weapon in the government’s arsenal of repression. According to a tally maintained by the rights group Odhikar, at least 605 individuals became victims of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh between 2009 and September 2021. The list includes terrorism suspects, alleged criminals, political opponents, critics of the ruling party as well as ordinary people like Salim. Human Rights Watch has published a list of 86 men whom they claim have been picked up over a ten-year period, and whose whereabouts remain unknown, and are suspected of still being in secret state detention or killed.
Our investigation into Aynaghar suggests that this particular facility is principally used to incarcerate “high-value detainees”. However, Salim was no “high value” captive — but rather an intriguing case of mistaken identity.
The list of names of former and current detainees of Aynaghar that was provided to us includes Mubashar Hasan, formerly a professor with North South University, whose disappearance was reported by The Wire, an Indian news website, to have been orchestrated by the DGFI. Former ambassador Maruf Zaman, himself a former military officer, and businessman Aniruddha Kumar Roy were also detained in Aynaghar.
Current detainees include two men picked up by law enforcement authorities in August 2016. Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, the son of Mir Quasem Ali, the Jamaat-e-Islami leader who had been sentenced to death by the International Crimes Tribunal, and Abdullahil Amaan Azmi, a former military general and the son of Ghulam Azam, former Jamaat-e-Islami chief who had been sentenced to life by the same court.
Two officers who saw these two men in Aynaghar confirmed the sighting to Netra News. On one occasion, Hasinur Rahman, too, saw Azmi at one of the toilets at Aynaghar, due to confusion among the guards who were in charge of taking the detainees for scheduled toilet visits. Hasinur also subsequently confirmed Azmi’s status as an inmate of Aynaghar through one of the civilian guards he cultivated inside the prison.
“Liton of Badda”
While Hasinur, as a former military officer, was treated with respect compared to other inmates, Salim was not. He would often be beaten and tortured.
As August 15 marks one year since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, we again report on the plight of Afghan women. Annette Young talks to Fawzia Aminy, a Supreme Court judge who managed to escape to Britain via Greece within weeks of Kabul falling, and to the woman who helped facilitate her rescue, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. The two are seeking to help those women left behind.
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.
Awaiting the swearing-in of the new Cabinet under newly elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lankan military with violent force chased away all the protesters occupying the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat and the main protest site Gotagogama early hours of Friday.
Military and riot police, who entered the protest site armed with clubs and wires, attacked the protesters taking control of the protest site while arresting at least eight, including protest leaders and a lawyer.
Journalists and lawyers were not allowed to enter the area and at least two journalists who were covering the clearing off were attacked by the military.
Strongly condemning the attack and forcible removal of the protesters, the US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung tweeted: “Deeply concerned about actions taken against protesters at Galle Face in the middle of the night. We urge restraint by authorities and immediate access to medical attention for those injured,” the US Ambassador tweeted.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), comprising all the lawyers and judges too condemned the government’s action to attack peaceful protesters who occupied the area for more than three months and demanded the exit of former government headed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa and now the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“The BASL strongly and unreservedly condemns the use of force and violence last night by the authorities in attacking protesters at Galle Face in the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat.
It is apparent that hundreds of military personnel and police had blocked the access roads to Galle Face and prevented the public from entering the area. Attorneys-at-Law who tried to enter the area have been prevented from doing so by forces personnel. The BASL has been informed that at least two Attorneys-at-Law who sought to intervene in their professional capacity had been assaulted by service personnel. Video footage also shows unarmed civilians being assaulted by the security forces,” BASL President Saliya Peiris stated.
The BASL demanded for an immediate halt to the unjustified and disproportionate actions of the Armed Forces targeting civilians and urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that he and his government respect the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights of the people.
A new report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) makes for very grim reading, confirming many of the concerns Afghan human rights advocates have raised since last August, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
UNAMA catalogues serious human rights abuses that Taliban forces have committed, including summary executions and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan National Security Forces, which have continued months after the Taliban takeover. It chronicles the series of Taliban decrees on the rights of women and girls that have given rise to “severe restrictions on their human rights, resulting in their exclusion from most aspects of everyday and public life.” And UNAMA describes how “arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, human rights defenders, [and] protesters have had a chilling effect on freedom of the media and civic activism.”
The response from the Taliban authorities was predictable. They ignored the many cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances UNAMA documented, and they denied the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had “ever beaten anyone, harmed or forced anyone to do anything … or said anything to women about dress code.” Much of their response was limited to the situation of prisoners, including the peculiar and false assertion that inmates “are satisfied” with prison food. As UNAMA describes, prisoners have been routinely denied food and water as punishment. Taliban officials, who for years denounced torture by the former government and US forces, did not respond to allegations that they have also tortured prisoners, including by using electric shock.
UNAMA also notes that while civilian casualties have declined as the armed conflict has largely ended (with at least 118,443 civilians dead and wounded since UNAMA started counting in December 2008), attacks by Islamic State-linked armed groups continue to take a terrible toll, killing more than 700 civilians and wounding more than 1400 since August.
Eleven months after Afghanistan’s abrupt transition to Taliban rule, the UNAMA report demonstrates the crucial importance of continued monitoring and documentation of the steady erosion of rights in Afghanistan, and acts as an important reminder of the heavy price Afghans are paying.