The 24th of January has been designated as the annual International Day of the Endangered Lawyer in memory of the “Massacre of Atocha” occurred this day in 1977 when four lawyers and a co-worker were murdered and four others were heavily injured at their address at Calle Atocha 55 in Madrid.
The purpose of this International Day is to draw the attention of government officials, international institutions, civil society, the media and the general public to the plight of lawyers in a particular focus country, to raise awareness about the threats the lawyers in that country face in the exercise of their profession.
This year, the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer focuses on Afghanistan.
The Coalition for the Day of the Endangered Lawyer has prepared a report about the justice system in Afghanistan, describing the extremely dire situation confronting Afghan lawyers today.
The European Young Bar Associations, as part of the Coalition, strongly supports the recommendations provided in the Report addressed to the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, the international community, the European Union and its Member States, in order to improve the situation of Afghan lawyers in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.
In addition to the limitations on fundamental human rights and reprisals against lawyers, judges and prosecutors that should be condemned, as an association representing young lawyers, the EYBA express its concern especially for the limitations to education and access to the legal profession imposed by the Taliban’s Ministry of Justice which affect the new generations, more than others.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (M.L.K).
On 4 January 2023, a criminal lawsuit was launched against Adem Taşkaya, the co-president of Zafer Partisi (Victory Party), who had posted a tweet targeting woman human rights defender Jiyan Tosun and falsely accusing her as the perpetrator of the bomb attack in Istanbul on 13 November 2022. The woman human rights defender Jiyan Tosun filed a complaint against Adem Taşkaya and other unidentified perpetrators, seeking that they be named and prosecuted.
Jiyan Tosun is a woman human rights defender, lawyer and a member of Human Rights Association. She provides legal support to women and LGBTI+ survivors at the Legal Assistance Office against Sexual Abuse and Rape in Detention. Jiyan Tosun is the daughter of Fehmi Tosun, who was forcibly disappeared in 1995. The woman human rights defender has been seeking justice for her father and the other enforced disappearances together with Saturday Mothers/People.
On 4 January 2023, a criminal lawsuit was launched against Adem Taşkaya, who had posted a tweet targetting woman human rights defender Jiyan Tosun by falsely accusing her as a perpetrator of the bomb attack in Istanbul on 13 November 2022. He posted her photo, saying that “the bomber is a PKK lawyer, Jiyan Tosun”. Following the tweet, Jiyan Tosun and her family started receiving a high number of death threats, which ultimately led to their decision to leave their home. This prompted Jiyan Tosun to filea complaint with the public prosecutor against Adem Taşkaya and other unidentified perpetrators. Jiyan Tosun also requested to be put under a protection scheme, as she worried for her safety and security. The Kücükçekmece 20th Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment against Adem Taşkaya, who is charged with offences of “insult” as per Article 125/2, and illegally disseminating personal data as per Article 136 of the Turkish Penal Code. The trial is set to begin on 30 May 2023.
An investigation by the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Meso-American Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders exposes the Ortega-Murillo regime’s use of criminalization as a systematic tool for control.
Criminalizing human rights advocacy and political dissidence “has been one of the principal instruments of control” used by the Nicaraguan regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, during their sharp pivot towards totalitarianism in recent years. That’s the warning from the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil) and the Meso-American Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras).
The two organizations collaborated on an investigation and subsequent report entitled: “Persecuted for defending and resisting: the criminalization of women human rights defenders in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico.” According to the final document presented in San Jose, Costa Rica, the investigation concluded that criminalization has be used “in a recurrent way” by the regime.
“Since before 2018, criminalization had already been used repeatedly by the government of Daniel Ortega to persecute feminists, after they supported the  denunciation for rape that Zoilaamerica Narvaez – daughter of Ortega’s current wife and vice president Rosario Murillo – filed against [Ortega]; and again, when they opposed the extreme penalization of abortion that Ortega instituted as part of a [2006-7] pact with the Catholic Church hierarchy,” the document asserts.
Another case of criminalization employed by the regime and documented in this research report was aimed against Francisca Ramirez, a farm leader, and all the rural people who raised their voices in opposition to an Inter-Oceanic Canal megaproject that Ortega was promoting. The project, which subsequently never got off the ground, threatened the land and livelihoods of many farm communities in the south of Nicaragua.
A violent process
The investigation emphasizes that the criminalization in Nicaragua “goes beyond just [bogus] legal processes” and is manifested in “a multiplicity of violent actions,” such as accusations, smear campaigns, harassment, canceling organizations’ permission to operate, civil death, emigration restrictions or banishment, among others. These acts have all had serious repercussions on the lives and struggles of the advocates and their families.
The human rights defenders who serve as lawyers for the political prisoners, “affirm that as part of the criminalization processes [against them], they also face the retention or canceling of their trial lawyers’ licenses, or the threat of such action, both of which generate great concern and frustration,” the document states. Both the attorneys and the prisoners’ families have indicated that they’re subjected to extreme searches and controls during any entrances and exits to the country’s penitentiaries.
“The strategies employed by the Government vary and intensify as they adopt ever more violent and authoritarian postures. In addition, they increase according to the degree to which the advocates persist in their defense of human rights, going from actions such as police sieges or police taking their pictures to investigations that ease the way for them to later prosecute the advocates under criminal law,” the report highlights.
Joint Declaration by: Peace Brigades International – PBI Mexico; World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; Protection International Mesoamerica; Taula per Mèxic (Barcelona); Front line Defenders; Swedish Movement for Reconciliation – SweFOR; Amnesty International
Concern about the harassment, surveillance and likely attempted murder of the lawyer and defender of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of Land and Water – Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala (FPDTA – MPT), Juan Carlos Flores Solís.
November 28, 2022
The Mexican State has the duty to guarantee the right to defend human and collective rights, and the integrity and life of human rights defenders of the FPDTA-MPT.
Human rights organizations are concerned about the harassment, surveillance and likely attempted murder of the lawyer and human rights defender Juan Carlos Flores Solís.
The undersigned organizations hereby recognize the indispensable work of the lawyer and human rights defender of the FPDTA-MPT, Juan Carlos Flores Solís, for his human rights work and defense of the right to access to water, a healthy environment and the self-determination of peoples.
The work of Juan Carlos Flores Solís, as a member and lawyer of the FPDTA-MPT, has focused on legal and social accompaniment of different indigenous Nahua communities fighting against mega-projects and against the extraction and contamination of water, both in the Cuautla River, in the municipality of Ayala, Morelos, and in the Metlapanapa River, in the municipality of Juan C. Bonilla, Puebla.
We would like to collectively express our concern for the recent events of intimidation, harassment, surveillance and the likely attempted homicide against Juan Carlos Flores Solís, which is directly linked to his legitimate legal and human rights work. We have received information from Juan Carlos Flores Solís about the attacks against his physical integrity, threats of physical harm, repeated raids, and acts of surveillance, intimidation and harassment that he has been subjected to throughout this year. These attacks seek to undermine and hinder the exercise of his right to defend human rights, as his legal and social accompaniment work is translated into denouncing the serious environmental impacts related to the industrial activity of both Mexican and transnational companies operating in the centre of the country.
Anti-government protesters arrested in Iran‘s city of Mashhad are being held at secret prisons that lack proper amenities, a lawyer who fled the country with her family over fears for their safety has said.
Thousands of Iranians are believed to have been arrested for taking part in the nationwide protests that broke out in mid September and show no signs of abating despite a violent crackdown that has claimed nearly 400 lives, according to human rights groups.
Lawyer Marzieh Mohebi said she came to know of at least one such “black site” for detainees in Mashhad in the weeks before she fled the city.
“I am aware of new places designated for prisoners in Mashhad which do not meet the criteria for prison. They don’t have toilets, places for eating, or a medical facility for treating wounds,” Ms Mohebi told The National.
The families of some detainees have no idea where their children are, she said.
“The families of those prisoners are being kept in the dark by the Islamic Revolutionary Court and Ministry of Justice. They are in a very bad situation.”
Ms Mohebi, who has been practising law for more than two decades, was lauded by state media in 2017 for the pro bono legal assistance provided by the Soura Women Lawyers Association that she founded. She declined to say what circumstances prompted her to flee Iran, except that she feared for her family’s safety.
Iran’s judiciary said two weeks ago that it had issued arrest warrants for 1,000 people in relation to the protests, which were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested by the morality police in Tehran on charges of breaching the country’s strict dress code.
Venus Faddoul is a lawyer, newscaster and human rights defender who has been working for over 12 years on cases related to the protection of women’s rights, in particular from a legal, political and communication perspective.
As a lawyer, she has led cases of great complexity, such as the defence of a matter like the interruption of pregnancy, which is almost totally criminalised in Venezuela. Venus Faddoul is also the director of 100% Estrogen, an NGO focused on creating educational content to promote multimedia material on the huge gap between men and women in Venezuela, especially on issues such as political participation, sexual rights, lack of gender perspective in the criminal system and inequality in the workplace.
The Observatory has been informed of risk episodes suffered by lawyer Venus Faddoul from 2019 to the present, observing an increasement of the risk throughout 2020 which has affected her personal security.
In 2019, the lawyer and her team were subjected to public accusations by judicial officials, police officers and legal representatives of the detainees, accusing them of intentionally slowing down the Yusleidy Salcedo Feminicide case in order to prolong the pretrial detention of the detainees.
In 2020, she undertook the case of Vannesa Rosales, a human rights defender prosecuted for assisting in the abortion of a 13-year-old sexually abused girl, being the visible face of the defence throughout the process. Due to the high international profile of the case, its repercussions in various international media, and the fact that the case was brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as well as the United Nations mechanisms, the lawyer, as well as her family, were profiled and identified by SEBIN (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service). Since then, the lawyer denounces having received express requests to lower the tone of the complaint, as well as threats and harassment in order for her to abandon the defence of Vannesa Rosales. During the period in which these threats took place, her private vehicle was constantly damaged.
When representing the case of Naybelis Noel and the cases mentioned, the lawyer was monitored in all her actions, which led to the opening of a criminal investigation against her. Currently, lawyer Venus Faddoul is living outside of Venezuela due to serious threats of detention for the legitimate exercise of her right to defend human rights and to denounce the lack of transparency in the Venezuelan judicial system.
The 10-year-long trial of twenty-two lawyers of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) ended with an unjust and cruel decisions as all lawyers have been sentenced to prison time over trumped-up terrorism accusations including membership in a terrorist organisation and spreading terror propaganda.
Since 2016’s coup attempt, there has been a relentless campaign of arrests which has targeted fellow lawyers across the country. In 77 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, lawyers have been detained, prosecuted and convicted due to alleged terror-linked offences. As of today, more than 1600 lawyers have been arrested and prosecuted while 615 lawyers have been remanded to pretrial detention. So far, 551 lawyers have been sentenced to 3356 years in prison over terrorism-related charges, mostly membership in terrorist organisations. Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation consists of two separate laws: the Turkish Penal Code (5237) (“TPC”) and Anti-Terrorism Law (3713). Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalises the establishment and/or commanding an armed terrorist organisation, and the subsection 2 (Article 314/2)  criminalises the membership to an armed organisation. Under the Turkish Penal Code, these two offences carry the penalty of 7.5 to 22.5 years imprisonment. Turkish authorities have been abusing anti-terror laws to silence government critics.
The İstanbul 18th Heavy Penal Court sentenced Barkın Timtik, Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Oya Aslan to 19, 16 and a half and 13 years in prison respectively for membership in a terrorist organisation and spreading terror propaganda, and ruled for the continuation of their detention.
In reaction to judgment the Arrested Lawyers Initiative said:
Together with the International Observatory at Risk (OIAD), Lawyers for Lawyers, International Caravan of Jurists, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada and Global Justice Association, has informed the Colombian authorities of its concern about the information received regarding the situation of Luz Estella Romero Villalba and the other members of the Asociación Colectivo Mujeres al Derecho (ASOCOLEMAD), an association of women lawyers and human rights defenders in Colombia.
In the communication, the organisations have urged the Colombian institutions and authorities to:
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety and physical and psychological integrity of those who make up ASCOLEMAD, within the framework of protection programs and international standards;
Guarantee, under all circumstances, that human rights defence lawyers in Colombia can carry out their activities in defence of human rights without fear of reprisals and without restrictions and with respect for the United Nations Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers, signed in Havana in 1990.
Likewise, in particular, we urge the Office of the Attorney General to observe due diligence and guarantee the rights to due process, defence, access to justice and the right to information in the investigation of the reported facts.
Les plaidoiries devant la Cour d’appel militaire de Tunis se poursuivent dans l’affaire intentée contre l’ancien bâtonnier des avocats, Abderrazek Kilani, a déclaré Ridha Belhaj, membre de son comité de défense.
Le verdict est prévu ultérieurement, a-t-il déclaré, ce vendredi, à la TAP, précisant que le collectif de défense a réclamé l’annulation du procès et le prononcé d’un non lieu.
“Des avocats tunisiens et étrangers, ainsi que des activistes des droits de l’Homme étaient présents à l’audience de ce vendredi”, a-t-il indiqué.
Kilani a, aussi, rappelé que l’ancien bâtonnier, qui a pris sa propre défense, avait affirmé que la discussion qu’il a eue avec les agents de sécurité devant l’hôpital Habib Bougatfa, à Bizerte, où était admis son client Noureddine Bhiri, dirigeant au Mouvement Ennahdha, “était légale”.
“L’échange a été mené, dans le respect des règles de courtoisie”, s’est-il défendu, niant avoir incité les forces de sécurité à la désobéissance.
Pour rappel, le 30 septembre, le juge d’instruction près la Cour d’appel militaire a décidé de reporter l’examen de l’affaire contre l’ancien bâtonnier des avocats, Abderrazek Kilani, à ce 28 octobre, à la demande de la défense.
Kilani est poursuivi pour avoir prononcé des “paroles, gestes ou menaces”, le rendant coupable “d’outrage à un fonctionnaire public, ou assimilé, dans l’exercice ou à l’occasion de l’exercice de ses fonctions”, suite à un échange verbal avec des membres des forces de sécurité, le 2 janvier 2022, devant l’hôpital Habib Bougatfa de Bizerte.
Le collectif de défense de l’ancien bâtonnier Kilani avait fait appel de cette décision, en mai dernier, arguant du motif de “l’incompétence du Tribunal militaire à statuer dans l’affaire” et que Abderrazek Kilani était, “lors de l’incident précité, en mesure d’exercer ses fonctions d’avocat, en rendant visite à son client à l’hôpital.”
Engels Wladimir Puertas Ochoa is a lawyer and human rights defender. He is member of the legal team of the organisation “100% Estrógeno”, where he works defending cases related to gender, gender equality and gender identity. He also leads the organisation “Iniciativa por una Justicia Igualitaria” (Initiative for Equal Justice), together with other lawyers of the organisation. For more than eight years, he has been representing students, human rights activists and victims of arbitrary detention and frame-ups (the falsification and production of incriminating evidence in court against a particular individual).
The Observatory has been informed of several risks and attacks suffered by the lawyer Engels Wladimir Puertas Ochoa from March 2011 until today, with an even higher frequency during the year 2021.
In the period between 2011 and 2016, the lawyer had already been victim of persecution, attacks, threats, harassment and has suffered 6 arbitrary detentions during which he was subjected to torture, isolation, psychological pressure and illegal deprivation of his liberty. According to his own statements, regional and national security bodies (the Intelligence Division of the Mérida State Police and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) were responsible for these arbitrary detentions, which took place in the context of peaceful protests for the rights of imprisoned students.
Since 6 October 2021, he has been threatened with arrest by order of the fourth judge of the criminal judicial circuit of the judicial district of the state of Mérida, following the instructions of the same institution president, lawyer Carla Gardenia Araque. According to the lawyer Gardenia, these threats are due to the multiple complaints he has filed with the competent authorities regarding acts of corruption in the judicial system of this city.
On the same day, during a hearing in the trial in which he is the defence lawyer, the Fourth Public Prosecutor of the Judicial District of the State of Mérida threatened and physically assaulted Engels Puertas and part of his team, ordering his detention in the facilities of the Judicial Criminal Circuit of the State of Mérida.
Engels Puertas is currently out of Venezuela because he has received serious threats of arrest for the legitimate practice of his profession and for denouncing the lack of transparency in the Venezuelan judicial system.