Tag Archives: Lawyers for Lawyers

Chinese New Year: Looking back on another year of repression of China’s legal professionals

22/01/23

Today, 22 January, marks the start of the Chinese New Year and the start of the Spring Festival. Hopefully, the start of the Year of the Rabbit will bring a better tide for China’s human rights lawyers compared to the ongoing repression on lawyers in the previous years. However, the outlook is grim. Although the Rabbit is a symbol of – amongst others – peace in Chinese culture, it does not seem that Chinese human rights lawyers will be provided such peace in the upcoming year.

China

The repression on lawyers in China has intensified over the last 10 years, with many lawyers being arrested or disbarred. Over the last year, the Chinese government has further curtailed the freedoms available to residents of Hong Kong, which is also affecting Hong Kong based human rights lawyers. The situation of lawyers both in China and Hong Kong remains of concern, especially after granting a third 5 year-term to Xi Jinping.

Over the last year, Lawyers for Lawyers has expressed concerns about these developments through several joint oral statements on China during the 49th, 50th, and 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We have discussed the enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of lawyers and defenders in China; the systematic pattern of arbitrary detention of lawyers China; and the widespread pattern of enforced disappearances including of lawyers and human rights defenders in China.

Lawyers for lawyers has also expressed concerns on the harassment of human rights lawyers defending protestors of the zero-covid policy.

In 2022, Lawyers for Lawyers also filed a joint submission and a joint oral statement to inform the Human Rights Committee of the deteriorating situation of lawyers in Hong Kong.

[…]

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2023/01/20/2003792908

https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-orwellian-claims-of-justice-under-national-security-law-in-hong-kong/6925839.html

Letter to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on the disbarment proceedings against Arnon Nampha

19/01/23

In a joint letter, Lawyers for Lawyers again expressed concerns about the disbarment proceedings against lawyer and human rights defender Mr. Arnon Nampha.

Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about the disbarment proceeding against Mr. Arnon Nampha, a lawyer and human rights defender, that is taking place before the Investigative Committee that was established by the Committee on Professional Ethics of the Lawyers Council of Thailand during the Meeting No. 1/2564 on 13 January 2021.

We were informed that the proceeding against lawyer Arnon Nampha is related to a complaint motion filed to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on 7 August 2020 by the Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, who alleged that lawyer Arnon Nampha’s behaviour violated the Lawyers Council of Thailand’s disciplinary rules as his behaviour would “incite, intend to cause unrest, distort information and insult on the monarchy”. The speech in question called for reform of the constitution and the monarchy, during a peaceful protest at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 3 August 2020.

According to our information, a first pre-hearing was postponed twice on 24 November 2021 and 3 March 2022, due to the fact that Mr. Nampha was held in detention pending trial. Therefore, the first pre-hearing was scheduled for 7 April 2022 where both parties appeared before the Investigative Committee to schedule witness examination dates. The Committee scheduled the complainer witness examinations on 2 and 20 June and the complained witness examination on 18 July, 1 and 22 August, and 5 September 2022. However, on 2 June, the complainer failed to attend the first hearing taken place at the LCT. The proceeding therefore was adjourned until 20 June. The next witness examination was scheduled on 11 January 2023 but has been rescheduled to July 2023. After the witness examinations are completed, the Committee will schedule the date to deliver the order.

[…]

https://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2022/05/12/arnon-monarchy-reform-movement-still-on-track-despite-no-street-protests/

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/thai/activist-bail-02282022150416.html

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/arnon-nampa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnon_Nampa

eSwatini/Swaziland: Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko shot dead

21/01/23

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko,the Chairperson of the MultiStakeholder Forum(MSF) has been shot dead.

The death of the prominent lawyer was confirmed by his wife Tanele Maseko on Saturday evening, he was gunned down at his home, Luyengo.

“It’s true,Thulani has been killed, bashaye waphola Nkhosi. Ubobuye ushaye kwanyalo kusenemaphoyisa,” said the wife to the late MSF Chairperson.

The death of the human rights lawyer comes a few hours after King Mswati warned those calling for democracy that his mercenaries would deal with them.

Eswatini is in the midst of a political unrest, Mswati has intensified the killing of political activists and human rights defenders.

http://www.swazilandnews.co.za/fundza.php?nguyiphi=3732

https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/eswatini-statement-spokesperson-situation-country_en

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-thulani-maseko

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thulani_Maseko

(ITALIANO)

Afghanistan: Male judges and prosecutors left behind in ‘forgotten crisis’

17/01/23

The Taliban’s increasingly draconian policies in Afghanistan, the return to Sharia law and attacks on women’s rights have rightly drawn the world’s attention. However, almost 18 months after the Taliban seized power, there are growing calls to ensure that Afghan men, including those working in the legal profession, are also safe from harm.

Imogen Canavan, a Legal Consultant at the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law, has worked closely with the IBA and the International Association of Women Judges to evacuate vulnerable Afghans since August 2021. As part of these efforts, hundreds of female judges deemed to be at risk were evacuated alongside their families and have since been resettled in Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Iceland.

While Canavan says these efforts are to be hugely commended, she’s increasingly concerned for the safety of male judges in Afghanistan who are now being forced to impose Sharia Law. ‘One of the focuses for me as a consequence of this work has been the male judges, because I feel like they’re a much bigger group,’ she says. ‘There are about 200 female judges, but there are about 2,000 male judges. What we see in terms of security risks for them is mostly kidnappings of the eldest son. They usually want the judge to present themselves to the Taliban in exchange for the son. Then often we anticipate that this would be likely to result in killing or certainly torture. There’s extortion as well.’

Safiya was an Afghan national working in the UK last August when the Taliban seized Kabul. Though she had no previous links to the legal profession, she, like Canavan, found herself fully immersed in the evacuation efforts. Safiya has watched in horror at how women have been steadily removed from nearly all areas of public life in Afghanistan, but says many male judges could be even more at risk than their female counterparts. ‘A lot of very well-known male judges were left behind,’ she says. ‘That’s the thing that upset me the most because all these men at the top of their field were getting in touch with me, but there was no evacuation mechanism for them. They’re the ones that are most in need now.’

Canavan says it was also a mistake that prosecutors weren’t deemed at risk enough to be evacuated by governments and humanitarian organisations in the wake of the Taliban takeover. ‘They are being attacked with knives and guns and their homes are being burnt down,’ she says. ‘Like legal academics, this group has not been prioritised, has been left behind and nobody’s thinking about them.’

[…]

https://www.ibanet.org/Afghanistan-Male-judges-and-prosecutors-left-behind

Click to access ILAC_Afghanistan_Report_2023-2.pdf

https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/01/1132662

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/2023/january/afghan-judges-to-speak-at-dublin-event

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/the-taliban-appear-to-be-making-kill-lists

https://news.un.org/fr/story/2023/01/1131517 (FRANCAIS)

https://www.barreaubruxelles.be/component/k2/item/1079-24-janvier-2023-conference-de-presse

Lawyers supporting protestors in China targeted by authorities

22/12/22

Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about reports of lawyers being targeted by the Chinese state security police. The lawyers have been providing pro bono legal advice to people arrested during the recent anti-lockdown protests.

In the past few weeks, peaceful protests have started in a number of cities in China. The protests were triggered by the mourning of the victims who passed away during a lockdown fire in Urumqi, but have developed into a protest against the Chinese zero-COVID policy that has led to very strict lockdown measures and overall discontent with the repressive regime. The Chinese government has responded to the protests by arresting large numbers of protesters.

Several lawyers have been providing legal services to those arrested during the protests. It has been reported that local authorities and state police have attempted to interfere with the lawyers’ attempts to provide legal services. Lawyers have been warned to drop certain cases by local authorities and have been questioned by state security police. One lawyer, Wang Shengsheng, reportedly stated that she and her colleagues have received threatening phonecalls and that state security police has been investigating her.

Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, recently released from prison, is currently not involved in the defense of the arrested protesters for fear of political reprisals. Yet, Yu states he is happy to see China’s remaining rights lawyers stand up for the protesters but worries that the lawyers will end up getting arrested in another ‘709 crackdown’.

Lawyers have a special role with regards to protests. In his report of June 2021, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association stated that “lawyers and legal practitioners play a crucial role in helping to ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and access to justice. They do so (…) by working to ensure that individuals and groups are protected against violations and abuses; by holding those responsible for rights violations to account; by pursuing remedies for those whose human rights have been violated in the context of assemblies; and by promoting structural changes oriented towards the reform of rights violating systems”.

Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about the chilling effect caused by the harassment of the authorities on the Chinese lawyers defending the protesters and the impact this might have on the effective legal protection of the protesters.

https://mailchi.mp/3165601cacf1/749qlxejj6-33417?e=01b44952bb

https://apnews.com/article/technology-health-beijing-covid-human-rights-adcefe4b4696aab684f0b69175999005

https://www.asianews.it/news-en/Chinese-human-rights-lawyer-stopped-by-COVID-19-health-app-57360.html

https://www.firstpost.com/explainers/how-chinas-covid-19-app-restricted-the-movement-of-a-human-rights-activist-in-her-own-country-11842191.html

https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=27546

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Wensheng

https://29principles.uk/en

Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Negros Occidental condemns lawyer’s killing

24/12/22

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Negros Occidental chapter strongly condemned the fatal shooting of Atty. Danny Pondevilla on December 20 at Lacson Street in Bacolod City.

We call upon the authorities, including the police, to exert every legal means to identify the suspect and to bring the perpetrator to justice. IBP Negros Occidental chapter, headed by Atty. Josephine Natalaray, said.

An assault to any member of the legal profession is an assault to the entire community, Natalaray said, in statement issued by IBP Negros Occidental.

Pondevilla, the 47-year-old general manager of Northern Negros Electric Cooperative, was found dead in the driver’s seat of his Honda CRV, with a gunshot wound at the back of his head, according to the police.

The two individuals tagged by the police as “persons of interests” in their investigations, were subjected to paraffin tests. However, the results released on December 22 yielded negative results, PLt. Jonito Pastrana, Police Station 2 officer in charge, said.

Police probers are looking into personal or job related grudges, as among the possible motives behind the death of Pondevilla.

We will continue to be vigilant. We will continue to pursue our goal to let the rule of law prevail, the IBP Negros Occidental further said in a statement.

Bacolod City Police Office director PCol. Thomas Joseph Martir said that they are also looking into CCTV footage from commercial establishments in the area, which could have recorded the commission of the crime.

The creation of a Special Investigation Task Group has been recommended to fast track the investigation into the shooting incident.*

https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/12/25/news/regions/ibp-condemns-pondevillas-killing/1871652

https://www.rappler.com/nation/visayas/gunman-kills-negros-electric-cooperative-manager-bacolod/

https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1949338/bacolod/local-news/bacolod-police-form-special-investigation-task-group-on-pondevillas-slay

https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1949254/bacolod/local-news/familiaran-urges-authorities-to-solve-killing-of-pondevilla

https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1949183/bacolod/local-news/cops-eye-two-angles-behind-slay-of-electric-coop-manager

https://news.abs-cbn.com/spotlight/11/28/22/un-special-rapporteur-singhateh-visits-ph

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/17/philippines-undercounts-recent-drug-war-deaths

#StopKillingLawyers

Tajikistan: On-going imprisonment of lawyer Buzurghmehr Yorov and current detention conditions

19/12/22

In a joint letter to the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan, Lawyers for Lawyers and Freedom Now have expressed their concern about the on-going imprisonment of lawyer Buzurghmehr Yorov.

On 6 October 2016, Mr. Yorov was found guilty for several violations of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 23 years imprisonment. In 2017, his sentence was increased with 5 years for insulting government officials. Mr. Yorov received a total sentence of 28 years, which was reduced by six years in the mass amnesty of December 2019.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in 2019 that Mr Yorov’s imprisonment was unmotivated and a violation of several international standards. They ordered the immediate release of Mr. Yorov, without success.

According to our information, Mr. Yorov has suffered serious ill-treatment and is at grave risk at the moment. On 16 November 2022, he was placed in solitary confinement in a punishment cell for expressing its disagreement with the President. Here, Mr. Yorov is reportedly tortured, which has even led to hospitalization. On 17 November, Mr. Yorov is transferred to a different prison without notice to the Ministry of Justice or his family. He was held incommunicado until 10 December, when his wife was allowed to visit him and noticed he had bruising on his neck and face, a sign of mistreatment.

Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers for Lawyers and Freedom Now are deeply concerned about the safety and health of Mr. Yorov and respectfully urge the authorities of Tajikistan to:

– Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yorov in compliance with the WGAD decision; and

– Ensure his safety and health according to international standards.

Read the full letter here.

https://thediplomat.com/2022/12/mary-lawlor-on-the-climate-of-fear-among-human-rights-defenders-in-tajikistan/

https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-human-rights-united-nations-lawlor-rahmon-climate-fear/32175075.html#0_8_10089_8766_2710_245122295

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/tajikistan-heavy-prison-sentences-for-rights-defenders-from-gorno-badakhshan-autonomous-region

Swaziland/eSwatini: LAWYER IN PLACE OF SAFETY AFTER SHOOTING

12/12/22

Human Rights Lawyer Maxwell Nkambule, who survived an attempted assassination, has gone to a place of safety outside the country.

In an interview with this publication yesterday, Nkambule said, following the shooting incident in broad daylight last Wednesday, he had left the country for safety reasons.


He did not reveal his whereabouts but insisted that he was safe and comfortable wherever he was. Nkambule said it had sunk in his head how close he was to death and he was taking it one day at a time. The human rights lawyer told this publication that he was aware that the people who were behind his attack were still following him. Nkambule appreciated those who assisted him as he received help from both his local and international networks. He assured all those who were genuinely concerned about his safety that indeed he was safe.

Terrorism

Nkambule said he would come back to do what he was trained for and did not think that any of his matters would be affected by his absence. He stated that he would continue facing them until the end as he still believed that the attack was linked to his work as a legal representative of a number of people, who faced charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2018.
He emphasised that he would come back and handle those matters and even new ones that may arise. In a previous interview, on the day of the incident, Nkambule said no form or amount of intimidation would sway him from doing his job. The lawyer warned other lawyers like him to be very careful as they may be a target as well. “We have to be careful now because we don’t know when and how they are going to hit,” said Nkambule.

He said his attack was an eye-opener to everyone, especially human rights lawyers. One of the cases in which Nkambule is appearing is that of the three men, who are alleged to have killed members of the State security forces. The accused in this matter are Ncamiso Mabuyakhulu, who is a member of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), Philani Sihlongonyane, a member of the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) and their co-accused, German Robert Dlamini, whose political home is uncertain. They are facing 29 counts under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Nkambule’s other clients are the two men who were arrested after being found with explosives and army uniform. He also represents the three men who are accused of burning the Ngudzeni Inkhundla building. These are Bongani Goodman Mamba, Bongumusa Kenneth Kunene and Sibongiseni Hoshoba Shongwe. The Law Society of Swaziland (LSS) expressed its concern about the reports of the alleged attempt to take Nkambule’s life.

[…]

http://www.times.co.sz/news/137983-lawyer-in-place-of-safety-after-shooting.html

http://www.swazilandnews.co.za/fundza.php?nguyiphi=3488

http://new.observer.org.sz/details.php?id=19352

https://www.africanews.com/2022/11/11/eswatini-army-opens-fire-on-protesters-3-injured//

https://crisis24.garda.com/alerts/2022/11/eswatini-further-unrest-is-possible-nationwide-at-least-through-november

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021%E2%80%932022_Eswatini_protests

Azerbaijan: Ongoing pre-trial detention of Mr. Elchin Sadigov

05/12/22

In a joint letter to the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Observatory for Lawyers have expressed their concern about the pre-trial detention and house arrest of lawyer Elchin Sadigov.

On 10 September 2022, Mr. Sadigov was arrested together with the journalist Mr. Avaz Zeynalli and charged with “complicity in bribe taking”. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Sadigov represented Rasim Mammadov, a prominent businessman in Azerbaijan accused of embezzlement. Mr. Sadigov is suspected of being involved as an intermediary. Since Mr. Sadigov is currently under house arrest and could be sentenced to 12 years in jail, he is restricted in his ability to practice law.

Furthermore, we are concerned that Mr. Sadigov’s right on a fair trial is violated. On the day of his arrest, the Prosecutor’s General’s Office searched his home and office, where they confiscated documents and his mobile phone. International human rights law protects the confidentiality of lawyers-client communications as well as the privacy of attorneys’ records as an element of the right to a fair trial.

In the joint letter, we call upon the authorities of Azerbaijan to drop all charges against Mr. Sadigov unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees and put an end to all acts of harassment against Elchin Sadigov, including at the judicial level.
We further urge that all lawyers in Azerbaijan must be able to carry out their legitimate professional activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

[…]

https://apa.az/en/incident/azerbaijani-journalist-avaz-zeynalli-and-lawyear-elchin-sadigov-imprisoned-for-4-months-384473

(AZERBAIJANI)

China: JOINT STATEMENT CALLING FOR THE RELEASE OF LI YUHAN

29/11/22

On the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, The 29 Principles, Lawyers for Lawyers, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the International Bar Association’s Human Rights’ Institute (IBAHRI), the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Front Line Defenders, the Law Society of England and Wales, the Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers (UIA-IROL), the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, the American Association of the International Commission of Jurists, the Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, Avocats sans Frontières, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, The Rights Practice, Ordre des Barreaux Francophones et Germanophones de Belgique express their concern about the ongoing detention of Chinese human rights lawyers Li Yuhan. Li Yuhan has been detained in Shenyang City, the capital of the Northeastern province of Liaoning since October 2017. She was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Although her case was tried last year, there is still no verdict and her release date remains unknown.

Li Yuhan is a veteran lawyer who started practising in the 1990s, taking on numerous human rights cases such as Falon Gong and Christian underground churches. She also represented Wang Yu, one of the most prominent lawyers arrested in the “709 crackdown” – a mass arrest of human rights lawyers and other activists in 2015. The arrest of Li was regarded as retaliation for her involvement in Wang Yu’s case and other sensitive cases.

It is reported that she has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention, including insufficient food and being denied to receive adequate and appropriate medical treatment. Also, the authorities tried to force her to plead guilty and postponed her trial a few times until October 2021.  

Having been detained for more than five years, her health deteriorated rapidly and she suffers from arrhythmia, fluttering in chest and tremors, coronary heart disease, unstable angina, hyperthyroidism, acute erosive gastritis, cerebral concussion, and cerebral ischemia.

[…]

https://29principles.uk/en/contents/joint-statement-calling-release-li-yuhan

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/statement-report/joint-statement-calling-release-li-yuhan

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/li-yuhan

https://29principles.uk/zh-hant/contents/%E5%90%84%E5%9C%B0%E4%BA%BA%E6%AC%8A%E7%B5%84%E7%B9%94%E6%96%BC%E3%80%8C%E5%9C%8B%E9%9A%9B%E5%A5%B3%E6%80%A7%E4%BA%BA%E6%AC%8A%E6%8D%8D%E8%A1%9B%E8%80%85%E6%97%A5%E3%80%8D%E8%81%AF%E5%90%88%E5%91%BC%E7%B1%B2%E8%A6%81%E6%B1%82%E7%AB%8B%E5%8D%B3%E9%87%8B%E6%94%BE%E6%9D%8E%E6%98%B1%E5%87%BD%E5%BE%8B%E5%B8%AB%EF%BC%88%E5%8F%AA%E6%9C%89%E8%8B%B1%E6%96%87%E7%89%88%EF%BC%89 (CHINESE)