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:
Along with the workaday perils of practising law that they share with their male counterparts, such as being gunned down in the street, Colombia’s women lawyers face threats that are particular to them. They could be raped, for example, or suffer another form of sexual assault that aims to intimidate and discourage them from doing their job – which is representing and protecting the vulnerable through the rule of law. Also, women lawyers’ children may be threatened with violence or press ganged into a guerrilla army, where the only subject on the curriculum – Marxist precepts apart – is how to kill.
These are some of the stark truths to emerge from this year’s Day of the Endangered Lawyer (24 January) panel discussion chaired by Law Society international human rights adviser Doctor Marina Brilman. Previous discussions have looked at other countries where the rule of law no longer holds sway, such as Azerbajan, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt. This year’s focus is on the South American republic of Colombia, where the 2016 peace agreement was supposed to have ended the 60 year conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the state.
The conflict claimed around 262,000 lives, displaced 6.9m people, saw around 18,000 children forced to join armed groups and many thousands more people ‘disappeared’, raped or tortured. The optimism engendered by the agreement has failed to bear fruit, as the three Colombian lawyers on the panel report.
Dora Lucy Arias Giraldo is a member of Colombia’s leading human rights lawyers’ collective. She begins: ‘The Colombian constitution states that it is the duty of lawyers to promote human rights and represent the vulnerable. And yet the government, working through its own intelligence organisations, has an active strategy of diminishing and weakening our operations through attacks on our children and sexual violence against our (women lawyers’) bodies.’ She concedes: ‘There are protection measures in place regarding gender, but they are under-funded – a particular problem when trying to bring powerful economic players to justice.’
Ana Maria Rodriguez, who is also a human rights lawyer, warns that Colombia’s ‘entire existence as a social justice state’ is under threat. She points to recent ‘reforms’ that were designed specifically to weaken the remit of both public prosecutors and the ombudsman, while increasing the power of the executive to turn a blind eye to government corruption.
Lawyers are being arbitrarily arrested, prosecuted and convicted, as well as forcibly disappeared and even killed in countries across the world because of their work upholding the rule of law, the Law Society of England and Wales said to mark the day of the endangered lawyer on 24 January.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers around the world who put their lives at risk so that people’s rights are protected and those who violate them are held accountable.
“Today we think particularly of our colleagues in Afghanistan who helped build the justice system and bring stability to the country under the former government. Since the Taliban took power some have tragically been killed because of the work they did, a few managed to escape, but far too many are in hiding, at risk from not only the Taliban but also from terrorists and criminals they convicted since released from prison.
“The Law Society stands in solidarity with legal professionals around the world. We will continue to work to support them and to contribute to building strong, fair justice systems everywhere.”
Lawyers in several European countries this week staged demonstrations in front of Turkish diplomatic missions to show solidarity with attorneys imprisoned in Turkey, according to Turkish media.
Lawyers in the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium demanded the immediate release of imprisoned lawyers affiliated with the now-closed Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD). During the demonstration Norwegian lawyers said they demanded the release of their colleagues who had been imprisoned for doing their job and exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Elsa Leona McClimans, chair of the Norwegian Bar Association, said lawyers did not normally wear their robes at demonstrations but that they had made an exception for such a significant case.
Lawyers Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Barkın Timtik from the ÇHD are currently under arrest. Both lawyers and 20 others from the association are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”
The ÇHD was closed by a government decree in November 2017.
The prosecutor is requesting prison sentences ranging from seven-and-a-half years to 53 years for the 22 lawyers.
The prosecutor dropped the charges against Ebru Timtik, a previously imprisoned lawyer who died during a hunger strike in September 2020.
Timtik and her colleague Aytaç Ünsal were arrested in September 2018 for alleged membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
The high-risk situation suffered by Nicaraguan lawyer José Arnulfo López Cruz has forced him to take refuge in Spain with his family, to avoid arrest for his work as a lawyer defending political prisoners in Nicaragua.
José Arnulfo López Cruz is a lawyer and human rights defender. He belongs to the organisation Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), which specialises in the legal defence of political prisoners in the socio-political context of Nicaragua. José Arnulfo resigned from his position as a prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor’s Office and, from 2018 until today, has dedicated himself to the practice of law as a defender of political prisoners.
The Nicaraguan lawyer has worked for the Nicaraguan Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) and has defended high-profile cases during his career, which has led to his continued harassment by police and vigilante groups.
These persistent attacks have included threats by paramilitaries during court appearances in the cases he has defended, as well as continuous police surveillance and monitoring of his workplace and home. The risk to the lawyer extends to his family members, who are also victims of this repression. In this regard, in May 2021, lawyer José Arnulfo was arbitrarily detained with his son by police officers who beat him and illegally stole their documents and money.
This harassment has become more frequent since the Nicaraguan lawyer took over the defence of pre-presidential candidate Félix Alejandro Maradiaga, who was arrested on 9 June 2021 . This has also affected the work of his wife, Arlen Cristina Muñoz, who was detained and questioned in defence of Félix Maradiaga by police officers on 18 June 2021.
The situation of José Arnulfo and his family became untenable after he received a call warning of his imminent arrest, which precipitated his departure from the country on 3 October 2021 and his exile to Spain, where he will seek political asylum.
Iranian human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, a beacon of hope for many Iranians suffering under the theocratic mullah dictatorship, will mark the thousandth day of her prison sentence on 8 March 2020. She was arrested on 13 June 2018 and later sentenced to 33 years imprisonment and 148 lashes.
Nasrin Sotoudeh campaigned primarily against anti-women laws and fought against the arbitrary violation of existing rights within the Islamic Republic. Before her new conviction, Nasrin Sotoudeh worked to defend two young women who publicly protested against the wearing of the headscarf enforced by law and who were subsequently imprisoned. Nasrin Sotoudeh is an iconic figure of the Iranian human and civil rights movement. She has received many international awards and is a member of the board of trustees of the International Society for Human Rights.
Martin Lessenthin, spokesperson of the IGFM board, emphasises: “8 March 2021 is a sad day for human rights. Every day that Nasrin Sotoudeh has to spend behind bars is a day when the Iranian leadership commits a crime against its people. On many occasions, Nasrin Sotoudeh defended people in court who otherwise would not have found a lawyer. She was always on the side of those victimised by the oppressive power apparatus. She defended women who wanted to live a self-determined life or children who were threatened with the death penalty. This is yet another reason why Nasrin and her family are so cruelly persecuted by the mullah regime.”
Until mid-October 2020, Nasrin Sotoudeh was imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison before being transferred without her knowledge to Qarchak Prison, known for its abysmal sanitary conditions, on 20 October 2020 under the pretext of a hospital visit. During her detention, she was allowed to leave prison for a few days following a 50-day hunger strike to seek medical treatment for Covid disease and to see her family. However, her prison sentence is still set to last more than 20 years, an inhumane punishment for the mother of two children, IGFM criticises.
In 2012, the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for her courageous commitment to human rights. In September 2020, Sotoudeh was awarded the Human Rights Prize 2020 by the German Judges’ Association and on 1 October 2020 she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “alternative Nobel Prize”.
A Spanish criminal court has taken the decision to prosecute Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer of former Catalan presidents Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra, on suspicion that he is connected with a drug trafficking case.
National Audience judge María Tardón, a former Madrid city councillor for Spain’s Popular Party, considers that the lawyer committed an alleged crime of money laundering, involving the funds that came from a criminal organization dedicated to drug trafficking and led by José Ramón Prado Burgaño, also known as Sito Miñanco, for whom Boye acted as a lawyer. He is also being prosecuted for forgery.
Boye has repeatedly denied having any connection with the case, stating that one of the lawyers who has been prosecuted, Manuel Puente Saavedra, “falsely” incriminated him in a statement that allowed Puente Saavedra to be released in 2019.
Spanish “lawfare” and “the rattling of gowns”
Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, came out in defence of Boye, and attributed the decision of the National Audienc court to “lawfare”, the practice of using legal systems to achieve a partisan goal. “Everyone knows perfectly well what all this is about. A shame, as a result of a certain sector of the judiciary sinking into in the mud of lawfare. A classic case. All my support, friend Gonzalo Boye,” said Puigdemont. “Thank you, President, we continue” the lawyer replied.
On the International Day of Endangered Lawyers – 2021, we have the privilege of having an exclusive interview with Mr Diego García-Sayán, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. We talked about a wide range of topics: from growing authoritarianism to attacks on judges and lawyers; Poland, Turkey, Hungary, Italy and others.
Q1: Mr Garcia-Sayán, first we must thank you for your incredible efforts to protect the lawyers and judges across the world in these difficult times. Could you start by talking more about your mission as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers?
In 1994, the Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1994/41, noting both the increasing frequency of attacks on the independence of judges, lawyers and court officials and the link which exists between the weakening of safeguards for the judiciary and lawyers and the gravity and frequency of violations of human rights, decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. Like other Special Procedures, this mandate was assumed by the Human Rights Council (General Assembly resolution 60/251), and extended for one year, subject to the review to be undertaken by the Council (Human Rights Council decision 2006/102).
The responsibility entrusted to the Special Rapporteur s diverse and complex. His/her mandate is broad and covers issues such as access to justice, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the proper functioning of the justice system, the protection of the person and function of judges, lawyers, prosecutors and judicial officers, and the right to a fair trial and due process. All of these aspects are fundamental to the exercise of human rights.
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) calls on all countries, including Australia, to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional obligations without fear of retribution.
On 24 January 2021, the 11th Day of the Endangered Lawyer, lawyers across the world are given a specific opportunity to reflect on the grave infringement of human rights experienced by some of our colleagues, and to advocate for systemic change in their treatment. ALHR finds it highly concerning that lawyers risk danger for upholding the human rights of others and protecting vulnerable clients.
ALHR President Kerry Weste said “ALHR gives thought to the many human rights lawyers around the world who remain in prison or are at risk for simply doing their job and attempting to carry out their duties in line with international standards. Unfortunately, this now includes Australian lawyers facing prosecution for performing their duties.
In 2021 the global focus of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer is on the experiences of lawyers in Azerbaijan. Serious human rights violations have affected Azerbaijani lawyers who represent the victims of human rights violations and have spoken up about torture and ill-treatment in police custody. Lawyers who assisted in bringing the cases of human rights defenders to the European Court of Human Rights have been disbarred or even detained on various charges. The Azerbaijani authorities have failed to respect the rights of lawyers by not adequately enabling them to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani authorities have failed to take substantive steps to uphold the right to a fair trial and to guarantee that every citizen has effective access to justice and legal assistance of their choice.”
“ALHR calls on all countries to comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and ensure that lawyers can act in accordance with the law and without improper interference or persecution,” Ms Weste said.
Le 24 janvier 2021, le Conseil national des barreaux s’associe à la 11e édition de la Journée internationale de l’avocat en danger, qui attirera l’attention sur la situation préoccupante des avocats azéris. Un combat qui s’inscrit dans un engagement plus large en faveur des confrères menacés à travers le monde.
Une journée internationale pour dénoncer la situation en Azerbaïdjan
Coalisant les principales organisations représentatives de la profession, la Journée internationale de l’avocat en danger a pour objectif de sensibiliser la société civile et les pouvoirs publics sur les dangers qui pèsent sur des milliers d’avocats partout dans le monde.
Après que de multiples cas de harcèlement des avocats, en violation du droit international et des normes internationales sur l’indépendance de la profession y aient été documentés, l’Observatoire International des Avocats en Danger (OIAD) attire l’attention sur l’Azerbaïdjan. À travers cette journée, c’est un barreau sous l’influence de l’exécutif et le harcèlement dont sont victimes certains avocats qui est dénoncé.
Dans le cadre de cette journée, les organisations représentatives de la profession d’avocat organisent une manifestation devant l’Ambassade d’Azerbaïdjan. Elle se tiendra à Paris, le lundi 25 janvier 2021, à 11h.
Rendez-vous sur le terre-plein rue Auguste Vacquerie angle rue Jean Giraudoux, à proximité immédiate de l’Ambassade d’Azerbaïdjan à Paris.