Tag Archives: International Commission of Jurists

European Court of Human Rights: President Warsaw Bar v. Poland




Tajikistan: Autonomous Region Protesters Denied Fair Trials


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.








Singapore: Halt executions and cease punitive cost orders against death-row lawyers


Singapore’s authorities must immediately halt any impending executions, and cease using punitive cost orders against lawyers representing death-row inmates, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.

On 5 August 2022, Singapore executed two persons, Abdul Rahim Shapiee and Ong Seow Ping, for “drug possession for the purpose of trafficking”. Their execution followed the Court of Appeal’s denial of Abdul Rahim Shapiee’s stay of execution request based on a lawsuit he and 23 other death-row inmates had filed alleging obstructions in their access to lawyers.

“The death penalty is wholly incompatible with human rights and the Rule of Law. The Singapore government has stepped up the number of executions this year with ten people executed so far,” said ICJ Commissioner Ambiga Sreenevasan. “Singapore and all other countries that continue to impose capital punishment must revisit their position.”

Executions constitute a violation of the right to life and are the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. While the ICJ opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, international law and standards on the use of the death penalty are clear that it may never be imposed upon a conviction for drug offences since such offences, in turn, do not involve “intentional killing”, the international law threshold for capital crimes.

The ICJ is also deeply concerned about reports of punitive cost orders against lawyers who have represented clients on death row. Singaporean courts have imposed such orders against lawyers of death-row inmates because they had filed late-stage applications to the courts on behalf of their clients, purportedly on the basis that these applications were “frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process”.

For instance, on 23 June 2022, the High Court ordered two lawyers to pay the Attorney-General SG$20,000 (approx. US$14,500) in costs for a failed application on behalf of 17 death-row inmates who alleged that, as ethnic minorities, they were more likely to be investigated, prosecuted and sentenced to the death penalty for drug offences. The High Court held that the application lacked basis, and was an abuse of process, and that its lack of merit would have been apparent to “reasonable and competent counsel”.

The imposition of punitive cost orders has obstructed death-row inmates’ access to justice and effective remedies, their right to legal counsel — with several having had to represent themselves in court — and, in turn, their right to a fair trial and, ultimately, their right to life. Notably, the 24 death-row inmates who filed the lawsuit on 1 August 2022 were unable to secure legal representation despite approaching several lawyers, as the lawyers were allegedly afraid of adverse cost orders.












South Africa: Johannesburg traders live in fear after lawyers defending evictions receive death threats


Traders in the bustling second-hand clothes market along De Villiers Street in the Johannesburg city centre say they fear for their safety after threats to lawyers who defended them from eviction.

The traders were evicted by Johannesburg metro police on 19 July. They say members of Operation Dudula, who had confronted them a week before, also took part in the eviction.

Lawyers for the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), representing the SA Informal Traders Forum, succeeded in getting the eviction overturned in court.

The Gauteng high court ruled in favour of the traders and issued an order allowing them to return to their stalls. According to a statement issued by Seri on 1 August, the City consented to the order according to its own proposals.

Commenting on the court case on Twitter, MMC for Economic Development Nkululeko Mbundu (ActionSA) claimed the traders were immigrants and that South Africans were being used as a “front” by Seri. He said the trading precinct would be “invaded” as a result of the court order.

Seri said his comments prompted a response on social media, with threats to burn down the institute’s offices, kill the lawyers and harm the staff. Staff had also received threatening phone calls.






South Africa: Regulatory authority’s bar on properly qualified non-citizen lawyers practising, merely because of citizenship, is an unjustifiable human rights violation


The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) are disappointed by the 2 August judgment of the South African Constitutional Court in the Relebohile Cecilia Rafoneke v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Rafoneke) case, which the Court heard together with the Bruce Chakanyuka & Others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services & Others (Chakanyuka) case. Rafoneke concerns the constitutionality of Section 24(2)(b) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA), which prohibits otherwise qualified lawyers from practising law in South Africa solely on the basis of their citizenship.

The applicants in this case are two Lesotho and three Zimbabwean nationals who all reside lawfully in South Africa and are appropriately qualified to practise as lawyers in the country. Nonetheless, they are prevented from being admitted to practice solely because they hold neither South African citizenship nor permanent residence status, which the Legal Practice Act requires. In the Rafoneke case, the applicants were partially successful in a challenge before the Free State High Court, which found that Section 24(2)(b) was unconstitutional and invalid to the extent that it does not allow non-citizens to be admitted and authorized to be enrolled as non-practising legal practitioners. The Constitutional Court, however, did not confirm this declaration, finding, instead, that the provision is not unconstitutional to the extent that it prevents those who are neither South African citizens nor permanent residents from being enrolled as legal practitioners.

Earlier this year, ICJ appeared as a friend of the court in the Rafoneke case before the Constitutional Court of South Africa, submitting written arguments through representation from LHR. Advocate Thabang Pooe presented ICJ’s oral arguments to the Court. Alongside Rafoneke, the Court was also asked to hear Chakanyuka, which involved a similar legal challenge to Section 24(2)(b) brought by the Asylum Seeker, Refugee & Migrant Coalition.






Egypt: arrest, detention & short-term disappearance of Youssef Mansour




Topic: arrest, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer, Mr. Youssef Mansour.

Mr. Youssef Mansour is a lawyer, formerly with the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, a non-governmental organisation that shut down in January 2022. He was the defence lawyer of another human rights defender, who was sentenced in December 2021 to four years in prison.


On 24 March 2022, around 30 security personnel, who arrived in police and civilian cars, arrested Mr. Youssef. Some were armed, some were in civilian clothing, and they produced no arrest warrant but told Mr. Youssef “we are affiliated with the government,” and gave him three minutes to get ready.

It is reported that Mr. Mansour was forcibly disappeared for two days, during which his family had no information about his whereabouts. In addition, his official arrest document was dated 25 March 2022, one day later than his actual arrest. He later told his lawyers that he had been held at the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency in Cairo, and was questioned about his social media postings.

On Friday 25 March 2022, he was moved to al-Basatin police station, also without the knowledge of his family or lawyer.

On 26 March 2022, Mr. Mansour appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor (SSSP) in Case No. 330/2022 on accusations of spreading false news inside Egypt and outside. Mr. Mansour was questioned about Facebook postings he had made regarding the prison conditions of on of his clients. Mr. Mansour had mentioned in his posts that the prison service sector had refused to implement official family and lawyer visiting permits to his client, held in the maximum security facility within the Tora Prison complex south of Cairo, known as Scorpion 2. He was ordered to be held in pre-trial detention pending investigations.

Mr. Mansour was accompanied by two lawyers during the interrogation, and was allowed to meet privately with them for a few minutes after the interrogation and before he was returned to his place of detention. His lawyers were reportedly not permitted to view the charge sheet or the evidence held against him.

Mr. Mansour has since been held in al-Basatin Police Station, and his pre-trial detention has been renewed twice for 15 days each time.

According to Mr. Mansour’s lawyers, the accusations in Case 330/2022 under which he is held are based on anti-terrorist Law No. 94 of 2015, and on Penal Code No. 95 of 1937 (updated) and they include the crimes of joining a terrorist group, which carries the death penalty, or long-term detention; incitement to commit a terrorist crime, punishable by up to one year in prison; and the dissemination of false news and statements harmful to the national interest, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to LE 500 (€ 25).





The Path to Tunisia’s 2022 Constitutional Referendum


Tunisia is preparing for a constitutional referendum set to take place on July 25, 2022, exactly one year after the country’s President Kais Saied set the country on an alarming trajectory. This explainer unpacks how Saied has spent the last year dismantling the independence of the judicial and legislative branches and expanding his executive authority, and details how he threatens to make permanent these steps in a new constitution.

One year of Saied’s ‘state of exception’

On July 25, 2021, Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended the activities of the Assembly of the Representatives, and lifted parliamentary immunity; on July 29, he issued Presidential Decree No. 2021-80 to formalize these steps. Thereafter, he stated that he would head the executive branch alongside a new prime minister, who was eventually announced to be Najla Bouden

On September 22, 2021, Saied declared that he would rule by decree virtue of Presidential Decree No. 2021-117 which suspended major constitutional articles and reaffirmed the previously-announced measures subverting parliamentary privileges. This step gave the president the right to rule by decree over various areas including the judiciary, the military, civil society associations, and political parties while exempting him from judicial review. Since then, Saied’s legislative and executive powers have continued to grow exponentially in the face of undermined oversight mechanisms.

These developments occurred as Saied planted the seeds for a “new political roadmap” that was rooted in a national narrative of fighting corruption and conspiracy, and holding “traitors” to account. As he did so, he declared that the 2014 constitution would no longer be valid and that the new roadmap would be based on “legal solutions” grounded in “the will and sovereignty of the Tunisian people.”

One of the steps to translate Saied’s vision into reality became the National Consultation Process, which took place between January 1 and March 20, 2022 and served as a stepping stone for the political and electoral reforms that were to come. The consultation proposed a series of questions, with specific pre-drafted answers regarding electoral, political, economic, educational, and social issues for eligible Tunisians to select from. Despite the fact that the consultation engaged only 508,000 participants, Saied declared the process a success and proceeded with his plan to implement its alleged input into next steps. Observers and experts critiqued the consultation for its low participation and methodology which resulted in unequal representation, particularly with regards to gender and region. Head of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) Noureddine Taboubi condemned the failure to inclusively involve national actors from the beginning of the consultation. In its latest urgent opinion, the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe that is composed of constitutional law experts, found fault in the president’s roadmap more generally and cast doubt over the possibility of arriving at a “constitutional synthesis” with a consultation that “ did not give rise to widespread popular support, as participation remained very little.” 

In a step that further ate away at checks and balances more generally, on February 12, 2022, Saied dissolved the Higher Judicial Council (HJC) via Decree No. 2022-11. The HJC had been promulgated in the 2014 constitution and was the highest judicial oversight body in the state. Saied’s decree replaced the HJC with a Provisional High Judicial Council, retaining the same composition of the HJC, though altering the number of judges and the appointment process, and empowering the president to act as a disciplinary power and request removal of members. These changes tightened the executive branch’s control over the judiciary and expanded the president’s powers and influence. Months later, Saied would amend Decree No. 2022-11 with Decree No. 2022-35 on June 1, 2022, giving him the power to dismiss judges if they harmed the independence or the integrity of the judiciary; the amendments paved the way for the sacking of 57 judges, per Presidential Order No. 315-2022


Key takeaways from the constitution

Consistent with the unilateral approach that Saied has taken in setting forward the political roadmap and constitutional drafting process detailed above, the latest version of the draft constitution that Tunisians are set to vote on incorporates Saied’s narrative into the preamble. It claims that July 25, 2021 was a “correction of the Revolution’s path and that of history,” and that it will enable the country to move into a “new phase in history”—an expression Saied has used multiple times in his remarks and rhetoric. The preamble refers to the national consultation process and inflates its legitimacy, stating that “hundreds of thousands of citizens” participated.

Most significantly, Saied’s draft constitution seeks to create what has been described as a “hyper-presidentialist” system, where the president has extensive executive and legislative authorities, with little checks over them. The draft grants the president executive powers found in presidential systems, while also affording him legislative powers typically enjoyed by the head of government in parliamentary systems. While Tunisia’s 2014 constitution distributed these powers between the head of government and the president in a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system, Saied’s draft seeks to concentrate them, not only making the president the most consequential actor in policymaking, but also making him omnipotent, in a manner similar to the 1959 constitution.

Saied’s draft eliminates parliament’s ability to vote to impeach the president prior to adjudication by the Constitutional Court, as had been set forth by the 2014 constitution. Moreover, while the government had previously been accountable to parliament under the 2014 constitution, this draft makes the government accountable to the president, who will also enjoy the authority to appoint and dismiss the head of government and other government ministers. The new draft keeps the infamous Article 80 of the 2014 constitution—which Saied relied on to declare emergency measures under a state of exception. However, the provision is now found in the form of Article 96, which eliminates the temporal deadline to lift these emergency measures and the Constitutional Court’s ability to rule on the validity of said-measures. In eliminating these safeguards, Saied makes the provision identical to Article 46 of the 1959 constitution and further expands the president’s authorities

Also similar to the 1959 constitution, Article 116 of the new draft stipulates that in case of a second vote of no-confidence against the government, the president has the right to accept the government’s resignation or dissolve one or both chambers of parliament. Although parliament in theory can still pass a vote of no-confidence against the government—albeit with difficulty as it requires a two-third majority of both chambers—its oversight power has been further constrained alongside the president’s expanded authority. 

In the new draft constitution, the president enjoys expansive legislative powers at the expense of a severely-weakened parliament. He has the authority to suggest draft bills, as well as the authority to issue decrees that enjoy the force of law during parliamentary recess periods or when parliament is dissolved. The draft stipulates that the president can also call for legislative and constitutional referendums without prior parliamentary approval. On the flip side, while parliament does enjoy the authority to draw up bills that are supported by a minimum of 10 MPs, it cannot pass legislation that touches on the president’s administrative powers or on financial issues. Important to note that until a sitting parliament is elected, Saied will continue to enjoy the legislative power that he has been exercising vigorously. 

While the new constitution establishes the National Assembly for Regions and Districts as the second chamber of parliament, it does away with an entire chapter on decentralization, previously present in the 2014 constitution and heralded at the time as an important success. The draft instead stipulates that local governance will further be expanded on in the law, leaving the matter outside of the constitution and raising concerns that the president may further weaken local powers, including through future amendments to the Local Authorities Code and the Electoral Law. 

The draft constitution also curtails the powers of the judiciary. It eliminates the single Higher Judicial Council that was elected and tasked to manage all types of judicial jurisdictions, and replaces it instead with three higher councils that will oversee each type of jurisdiction individually—the details of which will be left to the law; it does not guarantee their independence. Leaving this to the law, rather than protecting judicial independence at the constitutional level, creates concern that the judiciary’s role will be even further weakened down the line and its independence, further compromised. The draft dedicates a chapter to the Constitutional Court, separating it from that of the remainder of the judiciary, and changes its composition. Unlike the 2014 constitution, under which the Constitutional Court was selected by the Higher Judicial Council, parliament, and the president and was composed of judges and professors from different fields, the draft creates a court composed only of appointed judges based on seniority.

The draft constitution does away with a number of independent entities created by the 2014 constitution to act as safeguards for rights and freedom by establishing additional oversight over state institutions. The draft keeps only the Independent High Authority for Elections, albeit without specifying whether its members will be elected by parliament as had previously been the case. Though the draft does recognize and protect individual rights and freedoms, an unusually-constructed Article 5 sets forth the state as the sole entity responsible “to work, in the context of a democratic system, to fulfill the “maqasid [purposes] of Islam,” raising concerns about the state’s role in interpreting religion and on how this will manifest in practice. Civil society organizations have also raised concerns about the draft’s failure to explicitly prohibit the military trial of civilians. 

Ultimately, Saied’s constitution threatens to enshrine a system of governance in which the president enjoys expansive and in many cases, unchecked authorities, while the legislature and judiciary become seriously constrained, functioning with limited, if any, independence and autonomy. The draft is a reflection of a process that has lacked transparency, inclusivity, and accountability since day one and that threatens to formalize the actions that were taken in an alleged “state of exception,” grounding Tunisia and the Tunisian people further in an alarming and undemocratic pathway.











https://www.ohchr.org/fr/press-releases/2022/07/tunisia-presidential-decrees-undermine-judicial-independence-and-access (FRANCAIS)









https://arabic.euronews.com/2022/06/10/tunisia-judges-threaten-extend-strike-second-week-dismissal (ARABIC)

Sri Lanka: Protesters Awaiting Swearing-In Of New Cabinet Removed Violently


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.


Protesters Awaiting Swearing-In Of New Cabinet Removed Violently





China: Unfair trials of prominent activists an attack of freedom of association


Two Chinese human rights activists are set to face grossly unfair trials behind closed doors this week after being targeted and tortured due to their peaceful work, Amnesty International said today.

Legal scholar Xu Zhiyong and human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi will be in court this Wednesday and Thursday respectively, facing spurious charges of “subverting state power”.

“The Chinese authorities have targeted Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi not because they committed any internationally recognized crime, but simply because they hold views the government does not like. These unfair trials are an egregious attack on their human rights,” said Amnesty International’s China Campaigner Gwen Lee.

“Having faced torture and other ill-treatment during their arbitrary detention, Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi now face being sentenced to years behind bars in secretive trials that have been rigged from the start.”

Xu and Ding are both prominent members of the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose network of activists founded by Xu in 2012 to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

They were among dozens of lawyers and activists targeted after attending an informal gathering held in Xiamen, a city on China’s southeast coast, in December 2019, in which they discussed the civil society situation and current affairs in China.

Later that month, police across the country began summoning or detaining participants in the Xiamen gathering.

Tortured in a “tiger chair”

Ding was held incommunicado in “residential surveillance at a designated location” for more than a year after being taken away on 26 December 2019.

Friends of Xu Zhiyong say he went into hiding after the meeting in December 2019. In early February 2020, Xu criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and called on him to resign.



https://independence-judges-lawyers.org/reports/protection-of-lawyers-against-undue-interference-in-the-free-and-independent-exercise-of-the-legal-profession/ (FRANCAIS/ARABIC/CHINESE/RUSSIAN)

Tunisia judges strike after mass sackings, Saied ‘interference’


Move is a response to the president’s sacking of 57 judges on Thursday, raising fears of a return to authoritarianism.

Tunisian judges have launched a week-long strike in protest at President Kais Saied’s “interference” in the judiciary, days after he sacked 57 of their colleagues, accusing them of corruption and protecting “terrorists”.

The strike, which began on Monday, is the latest in a series of escalating moves by Tunisia’s politicians, institutions and civil society as the country’s political crisis deepens.

Saied, who dismissed the country’s elected parliament and seized executive power last July, issued a new degree extending his rule over the judiciary after he said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself” in a televised address.

The latest move against the only democratic system to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings has raised concerns among judges and other civil society groups, resulting in four judges’ unions announcing a nationwide court strike to strongly condemn the president’s “continued interference in the judiciary”.

They accused Saied of laying off judges “without the slightest recourse to disciplinary procedures” in an affront to the Constitution.

Mourad Massoudi, head of the Young Judges Union, said on Monday that “the strike started today at all courts across the country, and appears to have been widely observed”.

Courts will stay open for terrorism cases.

In February, Tunisia’s president dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council that deals with the independence of judges. The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution and the move spurred accusations that Saied was interfering in the judicial process.

At the time, Tunisia’s Judges Association called for a two-day strike for all courts in the country in protest against President Saied’s move to dissolve the top judicial watchdog, amid growing fears of a return to authoritarian rule.






https://www.businessnews.com.tn/hammadi-rahmani-commente-sa-revocation–un-acte-de-vengeance,520,119701,3 (FRANCAIS)