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.
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.
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.
Three Americans were quietly jailed in Venezuela earlier this year for allegedly trying to enter the country illegally and now face long prison sentences in the politically turbulent nation.
Two of the men — a lawyer from California and a computer programmer from Texas — were arrested in late March, just days after President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government freed two other Americans.
Venezuelan security forces arrested lawyer Eyvin Hernandez, 44, and computer programmer Jerrel Kenemore, 52, in separate incidents in the western state of Tachira, according to a person familiar with investigations into the arrests. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the cases publicly.
Hernandez is from Los Angeles; Kenemore is from the Dallas area, but had lived in Colombia since 2019.
A third American was arrested in January, also for allegedly entering the country illegally along its lengthy border with Colombia. AP is withholding his name at the request of his family, which fears retaliation.
Hernandez, who was arrested March 31, was supposed to appear in court on Monday but the hearing was postponed.
Hernandez migrated to Los Angeles as a toddler with his parents, who were fleeing civil war in El Salvador. After graduating from the University of California Los Angeles law school, he turned down lucrative jobs to instead work as a public defender representing indigent and sometimes homeless defendants, a sign of his charitable spirit, friends and relatives said.
Like Maduro, Hernandez loves salsa music and has a history of labor activism. An avid traveler, Hernandez was taking a short break from work when he traveled to Colombia, where he’s been several times before, his brother said. Right before he was due home, he accompanied a Venezuelan friend to the border. His family said it was never his intention to go to Venezuela, nor would he knowingly break the law.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
Description of the situation
The Observatory has been informed about the criminal prosecution and limitation of freedom of Andrei Machalau, a human rights lawyer known for providing legal assistance to torture survivors, independent journalists, human rights defenders, and civil and political activists in Belarus.
On June 16, 2022, the Leninsky District Court in Minsk sentenced Andrei Machalau to two years of restriction of freedom with the transfer to an open-type penal institution for “using a false document” under Article 380, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Mr. Machalau will appeal this decision, and the correctional facility will be determined after the decision on the appeal. During the judicial proceedings, Mr. Machalau’s right to due process was violated. He was denied his right to legal assistance, as his lawyer Vitaliy Braginets was under administrative arrest, and the court refused to reschedule the process to enable participation Mr. Braginets’ participation or to let Machalau to choose a new lawyer. Andrei Machalau was represented by a lawyer appointed by the court, whom he did not know and did not have chance to communicate in advance.
Andrei Machalau has been accused of using an invalid lawyer’s certificate and authorisation to participate in trial as a lawyer while representing a client in court on June 17 and June 18, 2021. Andrei Machalau was deprived of his licence by the disciplinary commission and the council of the Minsk regional Bar Association on May 31, 2021, for “offenses incompatible with the title of a lawyer”. The notice of disbarment was sent to the Andrei Machalau’s old house address. Hence the human rights lawyer was not adequately informed about the decision. On June 18, 2021, Mr. Machalau learned about the decision while representing his client Olga Sinelava, who was prosecuted and subsequently sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom for political reasons, in the courtroom. Subsequently, an investigation for using an invalid document was opened against him.
Human rights lawyers in Belarus working on sensitive cases are subjected to judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention, administrative sanctions, criminal prosecution, and disciplinary sanctions, including disbarment, according to Lawyers for Lawyers and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights. According to Defenders.by, 60 lawyers have been disbarred in Belarus since 2020, and at least four lawyers are currently detained in trump-up charges. In this framework, the exclusion of Andrei Machalau from the Minsk regional Bar Association is based on politically motivated grounds, as it has become a common practice to persecute lawyers as a form of intimidation.
The founder and managing partner of a Kabul law firm that spent years working for Canada’s embassy in Afghanistan says many of his colleagues were left behind and are in hiding, so he is urging the federal government to quickly bring them to Canada.
Saeeq Shajjan’s firm, Shajjan & Associates, was hired by the Canadian embassy in Kabul and Global Affairs Canada in 2013, and the contract is valid until Dec. 31. Mr. Shajjan and his family were first evacuated to Qatar after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August, then travelled to Canada. Twenty-nine of his colleagues and their families were not as fortunate.
He said the past four months have been draining and he has given no thought to starting his new life in Canada. “I’m really concerned about the safety and security of everyone who is left behind,” he said.
“It’s so difficult to receive these calls and messages from my colleagues. Some of them, they’re literally in hiding. They would move from one place to a different place to make sure that they keep their safety and they’re not traced.”
In July, Marco Mendicino, who was immigration minister at the time, announced that Ottawa would resettle thousands of Afghans who had worked alongside Canadian troops and diplomatic staff through a special immigration program. The government later promised to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has said that helping people inside Afghanistan is particularly challenging because the Taliban control exit routes, so Ottawa has to work with partners on the ground to ensure their safe passage.
Denounce the violation of the independence of the legal profession;
Raise concern about the appropriation of the AIBA database, which includes details relating to AIBA registered lawyers, staff and committee members; and
Condemn the seizure of the AIBA bank account and forfeiture of funds.
Following a recent public announcement by the Taliban stating that it would incorporate the AIBA into its Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the IBA was informed that on 23 November 2021 the Taliban forcefully broke-up a meeting being held in the AIBA office and took control of the Association. As a consequence of this directive and meeting intrusion, the Taliban now has access to the AIBA database that contains the personnel and professional records of Afghanistan’s estimated 2,500 lawyers, as well as AIBA staffers and committee members. The Taliban now also controls the non-governmental organisation’s bank account and funds.
IBA President Sternford Moyo,Chair of the IBA Bar Issues Commission Kimitoshi Yabuki, and IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, state in the letter that the incorporation of the AIBA into the Taliban’s MoJ has ‘completely compromised the independence of the legal profession in Afghanistan’, and that ‘[t]he ramifications on the Rule of Law, the administration of justice and the further contraction of the rights of women and girls cannot be overestimated.’
The letter states that the AIBA has been stripped of the ‘authority to issue Afghanistan’s lawyers with licences to practice their profession and has demanded that all lawyers that currently hold a licence reapply to the Taliban’s MoJ’, and that ‘those who do not submit applications as directed by the Taliban will be prevented from practising’.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated markedly since the Taliban toppled Kabul on 15 August, with lawyers and judges increasingly under threat. The legal profession came under a renewed attack 100 days later as Taliban forces stormed the offices of the country’s only bar association and detained and threatened its members and staff.
The attack on the offices of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) took place during an extraordinary meeting of AIBA’s Leadership Council on 23 November. Najla Raheel, AIBA’s Vice-President, was attending the meeting virtually when the line went dead. She learned later that armed Taliban had entered the building, closed the offices, tore down nameplates and demanded her colleagues hand over all of AIBA’s goods and documents. ‘We built the Association with the blood of our hearts,’ she told Global Insight. ‘Now my colleagues, who include women, are in a very bad situation. The Taliban may harm them and their families at any moment.’
Raheel and AIBA President, Ruhullah Qarizada, are two of the AIBA Executive team that have managed to flee Afghanistan with their families. The Taliban announced that the AIBA will be merged with the Ministry of Justice and has appointed one of its own leaders as president, effectively stripping the association of any independence.
Taliban leaders have swiftly shut down local protests and press conferences condemning AIBA’s takeover. Qarizada is particularly concerned that the Taliban has access to AIBA’s bank account and its database, which contains details of more than 2,500 registered lawyers. ‘In this database everything is written about these lawyers – their family members, their addresses, everything,’ he says. ‘The Taliban should not access that database because it will put lawyers’ lives in more danger.’
On 30 November the IBA sent a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres highlighting its concerns over the Taliban’s seizure of AIBA’s database, bank account and its continued moves to compromise the independence of the country’s legal profession.
The AIBA was established in 2008 after the IBA raised considerable funds and worked jointly with local Afghan lawyers to create Afghanistan’s first bar association. ‘What they accomplished and their mission showcased the new Afghanistan at the time and particularly focused on the rule of law, an independent judiciary and women’s rights,’ says Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the IBA. ‘When the Taliban took over, it was clear to me that the Afghan Independent Bar Association was not only in jeopardy, but it would probably cease to exist.’
The Taliban doesn’t respect the rule of law, lawyers or people
Ruhullah Qarizada President, Afghanistan Independent Bar Association
This prompted the IBA to embark on fundraising and evacuation efforts in conjunction with international partners to help AIBA’s leadership leave Kabul. $20,000 has been donated so far by several bar associations, but Ellis continues to push for IBA members to provide more financial support.
These efforts complement an intense campaign to evacuate Afghan female judges, lawyers and other vulnerable individuals at risk, including journalists and human rights defenders. Between 30 September and 24 October, the IBA team has worked with international and domestic partners to evacuate close to 500 people, including 103 women and their families, to Greece.
Many families remain in Greece awaiting destinations for onward travel. A number will receive safe passage to Iceland, Ireland, Australia, USA, New Zealand, the UK and Germany, but 70 families have still not been allocated a permanent residence. They have been housed in temporary accommodation thanks to a funding drive by the IBA’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and generous donations from external partners such as Airbnb. IBAHRI continues to assist them in their resettlement process.
With a constantly evolving and fast-paced news agenda, human rights issues do not always make the front page. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is committed to highlighting human rights abuses across the world and holding those accountable to justice. At the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC48), the IBAHRI joined other non-governmental organisations in statements condemning international human rights violations, with a particular focus on lawyers under attack, facing arbitrary detention or suppression of their professional activities.
Afghanistan: Since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, gross and systematic human rights violations continue to occur in Afghanistan, including attacks against female lawyers and judges. In partnership with a number of other NGOs, the IBAHRI released a joint open appeal to UN Member States to urge the adoption of a resolution creating a Fact-Finding Mission, or other independent investigative mechanism, for Afghanistan. The IBAHRI welcomes the new agreement of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to appoint a special rapporteur on Afghanistan to probe human rights violations by parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, as an important first step towards achieving oversight, accountability, justice and reparation for the ongoing crisis.
Belarus: The legal profession in Belarus is under threat, with attacks against lawyers on the rise. Most recently, Maxim Znak, lawyer for a former candidate for the Belarusian Presidency, was sentenced to a ten-year prison term following a closed-door trial. During the UN Interactive Dialogue the IBAHRI delivered an oral statement on behalf of several NGOs on the human rights situation in Belarus. The IBAHRI condemned the deterioration of the situation on the ground and stressed that the HRC must take action to prevent a further decline. The IBAHRI would welcome full support for the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus through adequate funding, as well as an examination of the situation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
TheInternational Bar Association, through itsHuman Rights Institute, has been assisting women at risk, and other vulnerable individuals, in Afghanistan. Through our efforts, and that of a number of other non-governmental organisations, more than 100 women judges, journalists, lawyers and other human rights defenders, plus their families, have been evacuated from Afghanistan. This effort is in addition to assisting the leadership of the now-defunct Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (which the IBA, together with Afghan lawyers, established in 2008) in leaving Kabul.
The vast majority of the evacuees are now in Greece. However, 70 of the families do not yet have final destinations. The Greek authorities have provided them with temporary visas to remain in Greece for a short period. We are currently working to ensure that these families find, and are transferred to, more permanent residences as soon as possible. This is where we need assistance.
We are seeking lawyers who are willing to assist these families by advocating for them in securing passage to their ultimate location. We are not seeking financial assistance; we are looking for lawyers ready to give pro bono time to assist the families.
Please let us know if you can assist by contacting us at Afghan.Appeal@int-bar.org. We will then contact you directly as to the next steps of engagement. Thank you in advance for your support!