Russian authorities must immediately withdraw their motion to disbar lawyer Ivan Pavlov and stop their harassment of the lawyer as a result of his professional duties, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said.
“The multiple attempts to disbar Ivan Pavlov send a clear signal to lawyers in Russia that their independence is at serious risk” said Roisin Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.
“The pattern of harassment by authorities is designed to deter lawyers from representing clients in certain high-profile cases. But international standards protect the independence of lawyers and stipulate that lawyers should never be identified with their clients’ causes”.
The ICJ calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation to withdraw the motion against Pavlov to ensure that he does not face adverse consequences for diligently carrying out his professional duties and that he continues to freely exercise his profession.
On 20 September, the St Petersburg Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation submitted a motion to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Pavlov seeking his disbarment. No alternative measures were suggested by the Ministry.
The ICJ is concerned that the grounds of disbarment threaten Ivan Pavlov’s freedom of expression and seek to penalise him for the representation of his client. By way of example, one of the grounds for disbarment cited by the Ministry of Justice is that by giving interviews to the media he carried out “an attempt to put pressure on the investigation and the court by unilaterally submitting information to the media and presenting the public with distorted data on the investigation of a criminal case”.
Among the other grounds for the disbarment sought by the Ministry of Justice are failure to attend investigative actions, an alleged unwarranted transcription of state secret information from a case file, and presidency of an NGO recognised by the authorities as “undesirable”.
Pavlov rejects these allegations as unsubstantiated or factually incorrect.
Previously, in 2020, the Ministry of Justice sought disbarment of Ivan Pavlov and appealed the refusal of the St Petersburg Bar Association to disbar him. On 30 September, the Kuibyshev District Court terminated the proceedings, as the Ministry of Justice withdrew the suit. Yet, the key points from these proceedings were used in the new motion seeking Pavlov’s disbarment submitted on 20 September.
1. The present two applications concern the restrictions imposed on the bank accounts of the applicants and on the freedom of movement of the applicant by the domestic authorities. The applicants raise various complaints under Articles 6, 11, 13, 18 and 34 of the Convention, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.
2. The applicants’ details and the names of their representatives are listed in the Appendix.
3. The Government were represented by their Agent, Mr Ç. Əsgərov.
7. Soon thereafter the bank accounts of numerous non-governmental organisations and civil society activists were frozen by the domestic authorities within the framework of criminal case no. 142006023. The domestic proceedings concerning the freezing of those bank accounts are the subject of the present two and other applications pending before the Court (see, for example the communicated cases, Imranova andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 59462/14 and 4 others; Economic Research Centre andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74254/14 and 5 others; and Abdullayev andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74363/14 and 7 others).
8. Various human rights defenders and civil society activists were also arrested within the framework of the same criminal proceedings in connection with their activities within or with various non-governmental organisations. The domestic proceedings concerning the arrest and pre-trial detention of some of those human rights defenders and civil society activists have already been examined by the Court (see, for example, Rasul Jafarovv. Azerbaijan, no. 69981/14, 17 March 2016; Mammadli v. Azerbaijan, no. 47145/14, 19 April 2018; Aliyev v. Azerbaijan, nos. 68762/14 and 71200/14, 20 September 2018; and Yunusova and Yunusov v.Azerbaijan (no. 2), no. 68817/14, 16 July 2020).
9. In July 2014 the applicant was invited to the Prosecutor General’s Office where he was questioned about the applicant association’s activities. Between July 2014 and 2016 he was again questioned, on several occasions, by the prosecuting authorities about the same activities.
IMPOSITION OF THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE APPLICANTS’ BANK ACCOUNTS
In respect of the applicant association’s bank accounts
11. According to the applicant association, on an unspecified date in July 2014 its chairman, the applicant, went to the local branch of the International Bank of Azerbaijan where he was informed by a bank official of the attachment order.
12. On 14 July 2014 the applicant association asked the Nasimi District Court for a copy of the attachment order and received it on the same day.
13. On 16 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against the Nasimi District Court’s order of 19 May 2014, claiming a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. It submitted that an attachment order could not be taken in respect of its bank accounts within the meaning of Article 248 of the CCrP since neither the applicant association nor its members were accused in any criminal proceedings. It also noted that an attachment order could be taken within the meaning of Article 248.1 of the CCrP only for the purposes of ensuring the payment of a civil claim or the confiscation of property when provided for by criminal law. However, criminal case no. 142006023 was instituted under Articles 308.1 and 313 of the Criminal Code which did not provide for confiscation of property as a sanction. Lastly, it pointed out that the attachment order was disproportionate since, even assuming that there were doubts about the origin of the money received from the United States of America’s National Endowment for Democracy, the attachment order should have concerned only the impugned amount, and not all the bank accounts of the applicant association. Together with its appeal, the applicant association also lodged a request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. In support of its restoration request, it submitted that it had never been informed of the Nasimi District Court’s hearing of 19 May 2014 and had obtained a copy of the impugned order only on 14 July 2014.
14. On 18 July 2014 the Nasimi District Court dismissed the applicant association’s request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. The court found that the applicant association had failed to submit any evidence showing that there was a valid reason for missing the three-day time-limit for lodging an appeal. The decision did not address the applicant association’s arguments concerning the court’s failure to inform it of its hearing of 19 May 2014 or to provide it with a copy of the impugned order of its own initiative.
15. On 21 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against that decision, reiterating its previous arguments.
16. On 24 July 2014 the Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, without examining the applicant association’s arguments in respect of the restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
Decides to join the applications;
Declares the applications admissible;
Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention in respect of both applicants;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 8,000 (eight thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant association in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 15,000 (fifteen thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(iii) EUR 1,900 (one thousand and nine hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses, to be paid directly into the bank account of their representative, Mr R. Mustafazade;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
The ICJ today urged the UN Human Rights Council to call on Ukrainian authorities to uphold judicial independence and protect lawyers under attack for their work during the interactive dialogue with the Deputy High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.
The statement reads as follows:
The International Commission of Jurists deplores the political interference with judicial independence in Ukraine.
Despite the annulment by the Supreme Court of the Presidential Decree removing the President of the Constitutional Court from his post, Justice Olexandr Tupytskyi has not been reinstated.
The ICJ considers that the presidential decrees that removed Constitutional Court Justices Oleksandr Tupytskyi and Oleksandr Kasminin, outside of the existing procedure, violate the obligation to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
The ICJ is concerned at cases of unwarranted interference with the work and independence of lawyers, in particular searches and arrests of lawyers. From April to June 2021 more than 110 such cases were reported. In 2020, the ICJ identified a pattern of threats, harassment and other attacks on lawyers in Ukraine, including those who defend human rights.
Forty-eight Turkish bar associations on Sunday condemned the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily for targeting 15 bar associations that have protested hate crimes against Kurdish citizens in Turkey.
The statement said bar associations had the duty to uphold democratic principles and stand against hate speech and crimes. It added that Yeni Şafak had not only targeted the bar associations in question but also used discriminatory and hateful language in its piece.
According to the statement the crimes against Kurds were not sporadic incidents but the result of mounting tension against minorities. Nihat Eren of the Diyarbakır Bar Association said the discriminatory language used by the media has also been adding fuel to the fire. “I condemn media outlets that are trying to downplay hate crimes and hate speech,” he added.
The 48 bar associations had recently condemned a series of hate crimes against Kurds in various Turkish cities. In its July 23 edition Yeni Şafak called the associations “Barons of Qandil,” implying that the associations were working for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Yeni Şafak said the attacks on Kurds were not hate crimes but “ordinary disputes and disagreements” and that the bar associations were causing ethnic clashes with their statements.
The 109-year-old Egyptian bar association was established in 1912. In this long journey of the bar association, for the major part of its history, the developments and setbacks in the state of public rights and freedoms is fully reflected. As an active part in the structure of the Egyptian civil society institutions, the bar association contributed and fought battles, was victorious, retreated, the authority was always present, either gently or by making a satisfying arrangement for it or by direct intervention. The goal was always to tame the bar association and make it one of the obedient institutions, even if this contradicted its original role in defending the rights and interests of its members.
The pre-1952 revolution stage
Since its inception, the bar association has been involved in one of its most important roles, in issues related to the country and to freedoms. During the 1919 revolution, the bar association was present, and it embraced the symbols of the 1919 revolution and announced its first strike in 1919 in protest against the exile of national leaders, and it was the first strike carried out by a union in Egypt.
Lawyers are paying a heavy price as a result of the absence of a professional union agenda, as:
– Replacing lawyers’ cases with manifestations of division, and replacing the lawyers’ unity on real union cases with daily jousting and mobilizing to support people without visions.
– Attacks on lawyers are on the rise, and so are the obstacles to their professional work.
Low union services and lack of real control over lawyers’ funds
– The disintegration of the sub-syndicates and making them mere small cantons with no vision or position
– Deliberate negligence when it comes to defending lawyers imprisoned in opinion cases or related to their right to freedom of expression or peaceful political action.
If this modest research paper may contribute to what is believed to be a professional and union agenda, then it points to:
1 – The need to limit the bar association’s register to freelance lawyers, and that lawyers in the public sector or in the business sector and public agencies and institutions should join the State Sector Authority or establish an independent union.
2 – That the bar association becomes in charge of its agenda by defining each year the number of accepted lawyers and the conditions for that in accordance with general, abstract rules.
3- Amalgamation of the sub-syndicates that have been fragmented, transferring services to them, and limiting the role of the general union to defending the profession’s policies.
4- Digitizing the bar’s work and linking the sub-syndicates with the general union and improving the quality and speed of services with simple and convenient electronic applications.
5- Making the defense of the independence of the judiciary one of the main priorities on the national level in the bar association.
6- Preparing a complete and independent register for lawyers working abroad that takes into account their interests and contributions to the bar association’s resources, and consequently the pension they deserve.
7- Restoring the national role of the bar association, which is related to the constitutional rights enshrined in the constitution, such as the rights to freedom of expression, the right to defense and other rights.
The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and continued judicial harassment of Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, a human rights lawyer from the Urfa Bar Association and a member of the Human Rights Association (IHD) Urfa Branch and Urfa Bar’s Human Rights Center.
On June 7, 2021, Urfa’s Sixth Heavy Penal Court sentenced Sevda Özbingöl Çelik to 11 years and six months of prison, on charges of “membership to a terrorist organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Turkish Criminal Code), “violating the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Meetings” (Article 28 of the Law no. 2911), and “terrorist propaganda” (Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law).
These charges are related to her participation to “unauthorised” peaceful assemblies between 2013 and 2017 in relation to women’s rights, hunger strikes of prisoners and accountability for the killings of civilians, during which “terrorist propaganda” was allegedly made through banners and slogans; to her meetings with her clients as a lawyer; her social media posts; and her membership to associations that were shut down following the passing of emergency decrees . Furthermore, the charges are based on the testimonies of two anonymous witnesses – one of which later withdrew her testimony –, who claim Sevda Özbingöl Çelik ensured “communication between the members of the terrorist organisation” through meetings with her imprisoned clients and that she was herself allegedly seen with other members of the terrorist organisation. This lack of credible evidence is symptomatic of judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Turkey, and the use of anonymous witnesses in cases involving terrorism charges has been systematically criticised by civil society in Turkey and international actors for violating the right to fair trial.
Furthermore, the judicial control measures and travel ban previously imposed on her remain in force. The sentence against her is not final and her lawyers have declared they will appeal the sentence, and she will remain free until her appeal takes place. If her conviction is upheld, she will be imprisoned to serve the sentence and will lose her license to practice as a lawyer.
The Observatory recalls that on March 12, 2020, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik’s house and office were raided and she was subsequently arrested, in the context of coordinated arrests and raids in the houses and offices of 13 human rights lawyers . The Prosecutor’s Office in Urfa initially opened an investigation against her for “assisting a terrorist organisation” (Article 220/7 of the Turkish Criminal Code). On March 17, 2020, the Peace Judgeship ordered the pre-trial detention of Sevda Özbingöl Çelik in Urfa, based on “her representation of individuals charged with membership to a terrorist organisation” as a lawyer and “her visits to the prison”. An anonymous witness alleged that she was among the lawyers who supported the communication between prisoners. After nine months in pre-trial detention, she was released on judicial control on December 11, 2020, and imposed a travel ban pending trial.
One of Russia’s leading defense lawyers has been detained on criminal charges of disclosing details of an investigation hours before he was due in court to represent a prominent former journalist accused of treason, his colleagues said early Friday.
“Ivan Pavlov, the leader of Team 29, was arrested on April 30 in Moscow after a search in his hotel room,” the organization said on its website.
Team 29 describes itself as an association of lawyers and journalists that stands for Russian citizens’ rights to access and distribute information.
“Mr. Pavlov was getting ready for a 9 a.m. court hearing for his defendant, journalist Ivan Safronov, accused of treason,” Team 29 said in the statement. The Moscow court extended Safronov’s pre-trial detention later Friday.
Pavlov told the independent Dozhd broadcaster that investigators suspect him of sharing information from Safronov’s treason case. Safronov faces up to 20 years in prison on suspicion of passing state secrets to the Czech Republic as a defense reporter in 2017.
Team 29 added that authorities also broke down the St. Petersburg apartment door of its digital security officer, Igor Dorfman, who stopped responding to calls at around that time. It later reported that police raided its office in St. Petersburg and the home of Pavlov’s wife.
Pavlov faces up to three months of arrest or two years of community service if found guilty of “disclosing the data of a preliminary investigation.”
Pavlov also represents jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s team in a highly anticipated “extremism” case that could see all its activities in Russia banned.
Pavlov’s colleague Olga Tseytlina told BBC Russia that she believes he was detained — the first such charges against lawyers since 2013 — in connection with the Navalny case to “push him aside.”
“This is an act of intimidation for the entire legal community, a signal that we’re all under the sword of Damocles: If you open your mouth, there will be fallout,” she said.
Pavlov’s other colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, said that a lead investigator in Safronov’s treason case had threatened to “do everything to jail you because you are bones in our throats.”
The parliament of Belarus has given initial approval to a law that would ban private attorneys and reduce the defense options for people charged in connection with protests and political dissent
The parliament of Belarus gave initial approval Friday to a law that would ban private attorneys, reducing the defense options for people charged in connection with protests and political dissent.
The measure, drafted by the administration of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko passed first reading, and and its eventual adoption appears certain because there are no opposition members of parliament.
Under the proposed law, lawyers could work only as part of the system of state-created consulting offices.
“The new law means the establishment of full control over lawyers by the state and the Ministry of Justice ” Siarhej Zikratski, a lawyer who has represented many Belarusian independent journalists, told The Associated Press.
Nationwide protests broke out after Belarus’ presidential election in August when official results gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office; opponents say the results were manipulated. Authorities cracked down harshly on the protests, some of which attracted as many as 200,00 people.
Today, the ICJ called on the Belarus Ministry of Justice and other relevant authorities to end the recent practice of using legal proceedings against lawyers in retaliation for discharging their professional duties and to reinstate those already disbarred.
In recent months, in the context of widespread violations of the human rights of those protesting against the outcome of the disputed 2020 presidential election, there has been an unprecedented increase of cases of disbarment of lawyers especially those who comment on violations of the human rights of their clients. Among the most recently disbarred lawyers are Konstantin Mikhel, Maxim Konon, Mikhail Kirilyuk and Yulia Ivanchuk.
“This recent wave of criminal and disciplinary proceedings against lawyers is highly worrying and it constitutes an attack on the independence of the legal profession. These proceedings, be they of criminal, administrative or disciplinary nature, should be discontinued or reconsidered as being contrary to the international human rights law concerning the independence of the legal profession,” said Temur Shakirov, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.
There is a clear pattern of the misuse of disciplinary proceedings against lawyers who represent political opponents of the government or those who openly criticize the government on issues of public significance.
Disciplinary proceedings in Belarus are not independent of the executive, since they are conducted by the Qualification Commission which operates under the Ministry of Justice.
Notably, disciplinary proceedings are pending against lawyer Dmitry Layevski, allegedly following his public comments on a pending Draft Law on advocates’ activities.
Dmitry Layevski is a lawyer representing Victor Babaryko, an opposition leader in Belarus currently in detention, and Maxim Znak, former legal representative of Maria Kolesnikova, another detained opposition leader.
Earlier, a number of lawyers, including Aleksandr Pylchenko, former legal representative of Viktor Babaryko and Maria Kolesnikova, and Lyudmila Kazak, former legal representative of Maria Kolesnikova, faced disciplinary sanctions, and Lyudmila Kazak incurred an administrative fine, as a result of discharging their professional functions.
Several lawyers involved in human rights cases have been called by the Qualification Commission to undergo an examination to re-certify their qualification to practice law and have failed the exam. This procedure appears to target lawyers working to defend human rights, as a means of harassment or reprisal.