Tag Archives: OMCT

Spain: State surveillance on journalists, politicians, and lawyers

04/05/22

On 18 April 2022, the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto published an investigation in which it concluded that there had been an extensive surveillance operation using the PEGASUS and CANDIRU programs, focusing on different Catalan and Basque personalities.

According to the research, confirmed by Amnesty International, at least 65 individuals were targeted. Among those affected were journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and political representatives from Catalonia and the Basque Country (including Members of the European Parliament as well as different Catalan Presidents).

To date, this case of surveillance has become the most important within Europe, being the most visible and newest face of longstanding repressive practices, not only within Catalonia and the Basque Country but also beyond its borders. The interferences published by The Citizen Lab study should not be understood as isolated cases, but rather part of a set of tools employed in the persecution of critical voices, political dissidence and shrinking civil society space.

In light of the information made public about the use of this spyware which is only available for states, the organisations and collectives undersigned wish to declare that:

[…]

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/state-surveillance-on-journalists-politicians-and-lawyers-in-spain

https://www.omct.org/es/recursos/llamamientos-urgentes/state-surveillance-on-journalists-politicians-and-lawyers-in-spain (ESPANOL)

Torture and criminalisation of protest in Cuba

14/04/22

The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) will examine the situation in Cuba in relation to the measures adopted to prevent, investigate, punish and fully compensate victims of torture during its 73rd session, on 20, 21 and 22 April, 2022.

This report was prepared by a coalition of independent civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Cuba, with the support of international human rights organisations. The objective of this report is to put the spotlight on the situation of human rights on the island, based on the obligations assumed by the Cuban State by ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Treatment or Punishment.

The review by the CAT is one of the few carried out by UN treaty bodies on the island, since Cuba has ratified neither the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights nor the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This report highlights the lack of legal safeguards for detainees and violations of due process; the lack of independence of lawyers and justice operators; the lack of measures to prevent, eradicate and punish violence against women; the constant harassment, persecution and criminalisation of human rights defenders and journalists; the closure of democratic spaces for civil society organisations; the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by people deprived of liberty in detention centres; the arbitrary arrests, torture and cruel treatment of journalists and protesters in the context of the defence of human rights and social protest in the country.

[…]

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/reports/tortura-y-criminalizaci%C3%B3n-de-la-protesta-en-cuba

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

https://www.omct.org/es/recursos/reportes/tortura-y-criminalizaci%C3%B3n-de-la-protesta-en-cuba (ESPANOL)

Kyrgyzstan: Release Wrongfully Detained Lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov

26/03/22

IPHR [International Partnership for Human Rights] is seriously concerned about the detention of well-known lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov in Kyrgyzstan following critical remarks he made about the judicial system in connection with a peaceful protest against the war in Ukraine, which was dispersed by police. We call on the Kyrgyzstani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the lawyer, to safeguard the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in accordance with their international obligations, and to allow lawyers, activists and other citizens to peacefully speak up on issues of concern to them without fear of repercussions.

On 24 March 2022 Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek found Nurbek Toktakunov guilty of petty hooliganism (under article 126 of the Code of Offenses) and ruled to detain him for five days because of his allegedly insulting remarks about judges in Kyrgyzstan. The following morning, police detained Toktakunov outside his home, reportedly using disproportionate force, although the lawyer did not put up any resistance. He is currently serving his sentence in a police detention facility in the capital, where he has reported being held in substandard conditions with his cell lacking light, toilet and a place for sleeping. He has appealed against the ruling in his case.

The charges levelled against Toktakunov concern remarks he made in connection with a peaceful picket against the war in Ukraine held outside the Russian embassy in Bishkek on 17 March, when he criticised as unconstitutional a controversial court-sanctioned blanket ban on holding assemblies outside the embassy and in other central areas of the capital from 11 March to 11 April 2022. With reference to this decision, police claimed that the peaceful protest was not allowed and detained three participants, namely human rights defenders Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov.

[…]

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/kyrgyzstan-arrest-and-judicial-harassment-of-three-anti-war-protesters-and-their-lawyer

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/24/kyrgyzstan-repeal-protest-ban

https://24.kg/english/228752_Human_rights_defenders_condemn_arbitrary_arrest_of_Nurbek_Toktakunov/

https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-protests-russian-invasion/31768949.html

https://24.kg/english/228541_Lawyer_Nurbek_Toktakunov_arrested_for_5_days_for_insulting_judges/

https://april.kg/ru/article/pravozashhitnik-nurbek-toktakunov-arestovan-na-5-sutok (KYRGYZ)

https://www.azattyk.org/a/advokat-nurbek-toktakunov-abaktan-kat-jazdy/31768614.html

Egypt: Call to release 50 rights lawyers in long-term pre-trial detention

31/01/22

https://mada32.appspot.com/www.madamasr.com/ar/2022/01/30/news/u/%D9%85%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%B4-%D9%88%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A1/ (ARABIC)

Azerbaijan: Denial of the commutation of sentence for Elchin Mammad

16/12/21

[…]

The Observatory has been informed about the denial of the commutation of sentence for Mr. Elchin Mammad, human rights lawyer, who has been arbitrarily detained on false charges for over a year at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. Elchin Mammad is the President of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an NGO providing free legal assistance to low-income families and non-profits, as well as the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in Azerbaijan.

On December 9, 2021, the Court of Appeal of Baku rejected the appeal filed by Elchin Mammad challenging the October 9, 2021 decision of the Surakhani District Court to deny Mr. Mammad the replacement of his remaining prison term with either a suspended prison sentence or non-custodial alternatives. On November 24, 2021, Elchin Mammad was transferred from prison No. 14 of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice to pre-trial detention centre No. 1 in Kurdakhani, where he remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. The reasons for this transfer remain unknown. Elchin Mammad’s health has drastically deteriorated during his detention due to the lack of adequate medical care. Moreover, after his transfer to pre-trial detention centre No.1 in Kurdakhani, Elchin Mammad had no access to a bed for some days due to severe overcrowding in the facilities.

The Observatory recalls that on March 30, 2020, the police arrested Elchin Mammad at his home in the city of Sumgait, a few days after he had published online a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery worth 7,500 manats (around 4,070 Euros) and ammunition at his office. The Sumgait City Court remanded Mr. Mammad in custody on charges of “theft causing significant damage” and “illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories”. On October 14, 2020, the Sumgait City Court sentenced Mr. Mammad to four years in prison.

The Observatory further recalls that the circumstances in which the verdict was handed down suggest that Elchin Mammad did not benefit from a fair trial. The evidence heard at the trial was inconsistent and should not have led to Mr. Mammad’s conviction, while the investigation phase also appeared to have been marred by police tampering of evidence. Yet, on February 19, 2021, the Sumgayit Court of Appeal upheld the four-year prison sentence of Elchin Mammad and concluded that his right to a fair trial was respected during the judicial proceedings in his case. Moreover, on July 7, 2021, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld Elchin Mammad’s prison sentence. His lawyers announced they will submit his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

On June 12, 2021, Elchin Mammad was transferred to the Main Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice (Central Penitentiary hospital), following an order from the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan. Six days before his transfer to the penitentiary hospital, Elchin Mammad fainted. Moreover, he has lost a significant amount of weight while in detention, has trouble walking and swollen legs. Being ill with Hepatitis C, his health condition is particularly concerning and puts him at high risk of contracting COVID-19 in view of the overcrowding and poor prison conditions in Azerbaijan.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the ongoing arbitrary detention and the deteriorating health of Elchin Mammad and urges the Azerbaijani authorities to grant him access to adequate and comprehensive medical treatment, and to immediately and unconditionally release him, as his detention is arbitrary and is only putting his life at risk.

[…]

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/azerbaijan-denial-of-the-commutation-of-sentence-for-elchin-mammad

http://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/azerbaijan-deteriorating-health-conditions-of-elchin-mammad

Cameroon/Canada: Death threats against rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho

06/11/21

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cameroon.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the death threats against Felix Agbor Nkongho, aka Agbor-Balla, a human rights lawyer, Vice-President of the African Bar Association (AFBA) for Central Africa and founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA). Mr. Agbor Nkongho is a prominent defender of the rights of the Anglophone minority in Cameroon who advocates for a peaceful resolution to the Anglophone crisis [1] .

Between October 29, 2021 and November 1, 2021, Felix Agbor Nkongho attended a Leadership Retreat in Toronto, Canada, organised by the NGO Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations. The aim of the retreat was to discuss collaborative actions towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, namely by improving dialogue, protecting human rights and granting humanitarian aid, and promoting negotiation with the support of international mediation. Throughout the week, Felix Agbor Nkongho received multiple death threats on social media and by a voice message on Whatsapp calling “any separatist or ‘Ambazonian’ to kill him” should he be seen in the cities of Buea or Kumba.

The Observatory strongly condemns the above-mentioned death threats against Felix Agbor Nkongho and recalls that this is not the first time he faces attacks and acts of harassment. On May 6, 2020, he was dismissed from his job as a lecturer in the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the State-owned University of Buea after he asked his students to critically engage with and discuss the Anglophone crisis in an exam. Moreover, on January 10, 2017, following his participation in a peaceful protest, Felix Agbor Nkongho was arbitrarily arrested and detained on charges of “terrorism”, “treason”, “civil unrest” and “jeopardising the peace and unity of the Republic of Cameroon” by the Military Tribunal of Yaoundé under the 2014 Anti-Terrorism Law, which contravenes the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) principles on the right to a fair trial and allows for Cameroonian citizens to be charged in military courts. Mr. Agbor Nkongho was finally released on August 31, 2017 through Presidential Decree and all charges against him were then dropped.

The Observatory further condemns the increase in recent years of intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders in Cameroon, particularly since the beginning of the socio-political crisis in the Anglophone regions at the end of 2016, and recalls that several defenders of the rights of the Anglophone minority have been subjected to attacks, harassment and arbitrary detention under the Anti-Terrorism Law, or enforced disappearance, including Messrs. Mancho Bibixy TseFranklin Mowha and Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, who died in military custody in August 2019.

[…]

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/cameroon-death-threats-against-human-rights-lawyer-felix-agbor

https://allafrica.com/stories/202110140575.html

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

(FRANCAIS)

https://www.camerounweb.com/CameroonHomePage/features/NOSO-sortie-fracassante-d-un-anglophone-en-exil-sur-Agbor-Balla-sur-la-r-union-de-Canada-626329

Egypt: Stop trials by emergency courts

31/10/21

The welcome lifting of a years-long state of emergency in Egypt is marred by ongoing trials of dozens of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, activists, opposition politicians and peaceful protesters by emergency courts where proceedings are inherently unfair, Amnesty International said today. 

On 1 November, blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, human rights lawyer and director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms Mohamed Baker and blogger and activist Mohamed Ibrahim (known as Mohammed “Oxygen”), will appear before an Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) to face politically motivated charges of “spreading false information to undermine national security” over their social media posts. All three have spent more than two years in abusive pretrial detention in appalling conditions, denied private access to lawyers and regular contact with their families.

“The lifting of the state of emergency is good news in that the authorities will no longer be able to refer new cases to the emergency courts that were created under it. However, the news has a sting in its tail. Existing trials before these courts are set to continue, their number swollen by a recent string of referrals of detained human rights defenders and activists,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

“For this to be a meaningful step towards addressing Egypt’s human rights crisis, the authorities must immediately and unconditionally release those facing trial before emergency courts solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. They include Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Baker and Mohamed ‘Oxygen’ Ibrahim, who have already spent over two years in prison solely for their peaceful activism and defence of human rights. The authorities should also stop the use of emergency courts altogether, as their proceedings breach the most basic fair trial standards, including defendants’ right to have their convictions and sentences reviewed by higher courts.”

On 25 October 2021, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced that he would not extend the state of emergency, in force since 2017.  Yet in the three months preceding this decision, the Egyptian authorities referred at least 20 human rights defenders, activists and opposition politicians to trial before emergency courts. 

Egypt’s ESSCs are activated during a state of emergency, since the Emergency Law allows the president to appoint judges to the courts and to designate crimes that are subject to their jurisdiction. Prosecutors then refer all cases related to those crimes to ESSCs, but are no longer able to do so once the state of emergency ends. Article 19 of the law governing the state of emergency stipulates that ongoing trials are to continue even after the state of emergency is no longer in force.

Tried by emergency courts on bogus “false information” charges

The charges against both Alaa Abdelfattah and Mohamed Baker stem from their criticism of the authorities’ treatment of prisoners and suspicious deaths in custody, while charges against Mohamed “Oxygen” are based on his posts about the government’s poor track record in upholding socio-economic rights. None of their posts include any incitement to violence or hatred and are therefore protected under Egypt’s constitution and international obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression.

[…]

May be an image of 2 people and text that says "The Observatory @OBS_defenders defenders #Egypt: The detention and judicial harassment against rights defenders Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen is ongoing after +2 years of arbitrary detention. They must be immediately released & all charges against them dropped! omct.org/en/resources/u.."
https://australia.option.news/wp-content/uploads/sites/41/2021/10/Write-for-Rights-2021-Mohamed-Baker-Amnesty-Australia.jpg
May be an image of ‎1 person, beard and ‎text that says "‎.باقر السجن في سنتين Baker.. 2 Years in Prison‎"‎‎

Belarus: Trial of Viasna’s Homieĺ members set for September 3

23/08/21

Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryia Tarasenka

Human rights defender of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa have been detained in remand prison No. 3 in Homieĺ for seven months. They are accused of organizing and financing actions that grossly violated public order (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code). Volunteer Maryia Tarasenka, who is free but under travel restrictions, is another defendant in the trial, which is expected to start on September 3 at the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ. The criminal charges against the three activists will be heard by judge Siarhei Salouski.

What are the charges?

The key charge Sudalenka is facing is reimbursing the fines imposed on peaceful protesters after the rigged election of August 2020. He and the two Viasna volunteers also helped numerous people find lawyers to defend them in protest-related trials. Among other things, Leanid Sudalenka is accused of purchasing firewood to help a family, whose father was later convicted of “rioting” and appearing in a YouTube video to explain what a people’s protest is.

The human rights activist has been in the pre-trial detention center since January 18. Tatsiana Lasitsa has been in custody since January 21. Maryia Tarasenko was briefly detained, but soon released. The charges against her, however, remained in place.

More than 200 witnesses were interviewed in the case. The case file contains 77 volumes.

Judge Siarhei Salouski is known for being the top-convicting judge in the post-election administrative trials. Salouski ordered a total of over three months in prison.

In 2020, Salouski twice fined journalist Larysa Shchyrakova for reporting for Belsat TV.

Last July, Leanid Sudalenka helped Valery Smiayan, a man fined by Salouski for staging a peaceful protest to support arrested activist Siarhei Tsikhanouski, to submit a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee. It is obvious that the judge is not impartial towards Sudalenka.

Why is the case against Viasna’s activists in Homieĺ politically motivated?

Leanid Sudalenka is a well-known human rights activist, who has been defending human rights for twenty years. He provided free legal assistance, including the preparation of individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee to challenge violations by the Belarusian authorities. For his human rights activities, Sudalenka received the French award “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”. In 2019, he was awarded the National Human Rights Prize in the nomination “Human Rights Defender of the Year”.

The Belarusian authorities have regularly persecuted Leanid Sudalenka for his active human rights work. They staged unsuccessful provocations to prosecute him, searched him at the state border, and tried to discredit him through publications in state-controlled media.

[…]

https://spring96.org/en/news/104744

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/europe-central-asia/belarus/belarus-months-after-arbitrary-detention-viasna-s-members-must-be

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/belarus-upcoming-trial-of-leanid-sudalenka-tatsiana-lasitsa-and-maria-tarasenka

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/belarus-arbitrary-detention-of-viasna-members-leanid-sudalenka-and-26489

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/leonid-sudalenko

https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/europe-asie-centrale/belarus/resolution-de-l-onu-sur-le-belarus-valiantsin-stefanovic-viasna-27131 (FRANCAIS)

Joint statement on the repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski

02/08/21

IBAHRI | IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

Together with more than 50 lawyers’ organizations, bar associations, civil society organisations and individual lawyers, Lawyers for Lawyers co-signed a joint statement on the mounting repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski.

Since peaceful protests in Belarus erupted in 2020, following the presidential election condemned by the international community, the law in Belarus has been turned into a tool of oppression, and lawyers – into victims of political persecution. Lawyers, who express views contrary to those of the government or represent peaceful protestors or opposition leaders in courts, face constant pressure. Repressions against law practitioners take multiple forms – including criminal persecution, administrative arrests, punitive disciplinary proceedings. In a span of ten months, more than twenty Belarusian lawyers, who took an active political and civic stance, have been deprived of the right to practice their profession.

Lawyer Dmitriy Laevski was disbarred by the decision of the Minsk City Bar Association on 9 July 2021. The decision on disbarment was taken by the disciplinary commission of the bar association on 8 July 2021. The decision on expelling Dmitriy Laevski was urgently taken within one day and only two days after a verdict was announced in the high-profile case of one of his clients Viktar Babaryka – ex-presidential candidate, key political opponent of Alexander Lukashenko and now a political prisoner.

On 8 July 2021, Dmitriy Laevski participated in two disciplinary proceedings. The first concerned the judicial appeal to the previously made decision of the disciplinary commission of the Minsk City Bar Association on reprimanding Dmitriy for his Facebook post, commenting about the recent amendments to the Law on Legal Practice. The second one – as a result of which Dmitriy was eventually disbarred – concerned the statement made during Viktar Babaryka’s hearing, which hinted at the innocence of Babaryka’s co-defendants, who pleaded guilty during the trial. It is precisely Dmitriy’s procedural position and the realization of his legal defense mission that became the ground for his disbarment. On 17 July 2021, Laevski appealed the decision of the disciplinary commission and published the full text of his appeal.

Being deprived of his license, Dmitriy Laevski cannot proceed to represent the interests of another high-profile political prisoner and lawyer Maksim Znak, whose trial is about to commence. Due to the disbarment, the defendant in one of the most resonant political cases has been deprived of his main defender.

[…]

The Philippines: Fellow lawyers to Justice Secretary: Reckless to say danger is just part of job

19/03/21

DOJ undersecretaries, assistant secretaries submit courtesy resignations |  ABS-CBN News

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says he was taken out of context. ‘All I said was that lawyering for certain cases or causes may be attended with personal risks.’

Fellow lawyers have called out Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for his “reckless” statement that danger is part of their job amid the alarming rise in killings and threats to members of the legal profession under the Duterte administration.

“It is reckless to state that risk and danger is part of the life of lawyers and judges and such is part of their profession. Ours is a profession that has no room for violence in its fight against injustice,” said the La Salle Greenhills Alumni Lawyers Association, signed by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, among others.

The group addressed Guevarra’s remarks in a statement condemning the red-tagging of Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, who had cleared and ordered the release journalist Lady Ann “Icy” Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago.

In an earlier Rappler Talk interview, former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te said Guevarra’s statement is “unfortunate.”

“I think that is unfortunate. Nowhere in law school are law students told lawyering is a contact sport. Lawyering involves helping people, lawyering involves giving advice to those who do not understand the law, lawyering involves teaching law students to become the best lawyers,” Te said.

“To say that lawyering is an inherently dangerous profession, I’m not sure where that comes from. Maybe I’d agree if he would say lawyering has become a dangerous profession, and then maybe I would ask, ‘Kaninong kasalanan ‘yun (Whose fault is it)?” he added.

Lawyers in the Philippines have demanded stronger government action on the unprecedented spike in killings of persons in the legal profession, which groups attribute to the climate of impunity under the Duterte administration.

[…]

https://www.rappler.com/nation/lawyers-reaction-guevarra-saying-danger-part-lawyering

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2021/03/18/2085274/lasallian-lawyers-group-violence-has-no-place-legal-profession

https://www.rappler.com/nation/lawyers-killed-duterte-marcos-aquino-administrations-data-studies

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/780009/pnp-ibp-renew-collaboration-to-address-killings-of-lawyers-judges-prosecutors/story/

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2021/03/16/2084780/house-urged-probe-police-profiling-lawyers-alleged-communist-rebels

https://www.philstar.com/nation/2021/03/19/2085321/ibp-take-down-tarp-red-tagging-judge

https://news.tv5.com.ph/breaking/read/terror-tarpaulin-ibp-slams-attacks-on-legal-profession-pnp-vows-thorough-probe

https://www.rappler.com/nation/national-news/lawyer-killings-cast-shadow-peralta-retirement-supreme-court-chief-justice

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/urgent-interventions/philippines-dutertes-administration-should-be-held-accountable-for-the-killings-of-activists-and-human-rights-defenders