Tag Archives: OMCT

Joint oral statement to Human Rights Council on Belarus

28/06/22

On 28 June, Lawyers for Lawyers, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada delivered an oral statement on Belarus during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. The interactive dialogue took place during the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The statement reads as follows:

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Lawyers for Lawyers, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada remain alarmed at the findings in the Special Rapporteur’s report, including the growing number of arbitrary arrests and detentions on politically motivated grounds.  

As of 22 June, 66 Belarusian lawyers have been persecuted since the 2020 elections, including through disbarment, detention, and prosecution. Recent examples include the detention of Vitaliy Braginets, Alexander Danilevich, and Anastasia Lazarenko. On 23 May, Maksim Znak was added to the Belarusian State Security Committee’s “list of terrorists”. This creates a chilling effect on other legal professionals, restricting human rights defenders’ and political opponents’ right to access independent, effective legal representation.

We also note with concern the further deterioration of the independence of the judiciary, used by the authorities “as repressive instruments to silence dissent”. This, together with ongoing attacks against lawyers, undermines justice and perpetuates a culture of impunity.

Finally, we condemn recent amendments to the Criminal Code that expand the application of the death penalty in Belarus.

We urge this Council to take all possible actions to ensure accountability for abuses and to prevent further deterioration of the situation, and to ensure the renewal the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

[…]

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/statements/belarus-persecution-of-dissenting-voices-continues

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/06/belarus-engulfed-fear-systematic-violations-and-impunity-persist-un-expert

https://www.euronews.com/2022/06/28/uk-belarus-politics

Iran: Rights lawyer returned to prison to ‘continue serving his sentence’

26/06/22

Amirsalar Davoodi, a human rights activist and lawyer who was temporarily released from prison in June last year after about 2 years and 7 months in prison, was returned to prison on Sunday.

Mr. Davoodi’s wife, Tannaz Kolahchian, tweeted that the human rights lawyer had been sent back to prison “to continue serving his sentence.”

Amirsalar Davoudi was arrested on November 20, 2018, by security agents in his law office.

He learned on May 28, 2019that Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran had sentenced him to a total of 30 years imprisonment and 111 lashes, on account of six charges including “insulting the Supreme Leader”, and “spreading propaganda against the system” and “forming a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” in relation to his human rights work.

After Mr. Davoodi’s appealed the verdict, it was overturned by the Supreme Court, however, Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court upheld his 30-year prison sentence in August last year.

He was released on bail from Rajaie Shahr prison in Alborz province on 13 June 2021.

His temporary release was followed by the decision of Branch 41 of the Supreme Court to accept his request for a retrial, due to irregularities in the legal process of his trial.

https://www.omct.org/en/resources/statements/iran-five-human-rights-defenders-sentenced-to-prison-for-denouncing-covid-19-mismanagement

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/06/presentation-secretary-generals-report-situation-human-rights-islamic-republic

https://www.voanews.com/a/un-lambasts-iran-s-increasing-use-of-executions/6628221.html

https://www.jpost.com/international/article-710136

https://ir.voanews.com/a/amirsalar-davoodi-prisoner-lawyer-iran/6633627.html (FARSI)

https://iranwire.com/fa/news-1/105186-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%86%DA%98%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D9%88-%D8%A7%D9%85%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%88%D8%AF%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84-%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%B3-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AF

Afghanistan: The Taliban continues to target activists, journalists and stifle protests by women with impunity

16/06/22

The state of civic space in Afghanistan remains repressed. Following the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, a human rights and humanitarian crisis has ensued. Human rights defenders face systematic intimidation throughout the country and dozens have been threatened, abducted or attacked. Protests, especially by women activists, have been stifled by the Taliban with the use of excessive force to disperse crowds, leading to deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters. Journalists have also been at increased risk.

In May 2022, Taliban authorities in Afghanistan dissolved five key departments including the country’s human rights commission, deeming them unnecessary in the face of a financial crunch.Also dissolved was the high council for national reconciliation (HCNR), the once high-powered national security council, and the commission for overseeing the implementation of the Afghan constitution.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, appointed in April 2022, undertook his first visit to the country from 15th to 26th May 2022. Following his visit, he stated that Afghanistan is facing a plethora of human rights challenges, but the Taliban have failed to acknowledge or address the magnitude and gravity of abuses, many of which were committed in their name.

Among other issues, he was alarmed about reports of ongoing extrajudicial and revenge killings of former members of the security forces and officials, and door-to-door searches. The high number of reports of intimidation, harassment, attacks, arrests and, in some cases, the killing or disappearance of journalists, prosecutors, judges and civil society members, was another serious concern. Bennet also said the erasure of women from public life was especially concerning, citing measures such as the suspension of girls’ secondary education, severe barriers to employment and limits on freedom of movement, association and expression.

[…]

https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2022/06/16/taliban-continues-target-activists-journalists-and-stifle-protests-women-impunity/

https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/06/high-commissioner-updates-human-rights-council-afghanistan

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/06/1120492

https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/news/high-court-grants-the-judicial-review-claims-of-two-afghan-judges-against-the-governments-refusal-of-their-claims-to-relocate-to-the-uk

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"‎‎