The ICJ today urged the UN Human Rights Council to call on Ukrainian authorities to uphold judicial independence and protect lawyers under attack for their work during the interactive dialogue with the Deputy High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.
The statement reads as follows:
The International Commission of Jurists deplores the political interference with judicial independence in Ukraine.
Despite the annulment by the Supreme Court of the Presidential Decree removing the President of the Constitutional Court from his post, Justice Olexandr Tupytskyi has not been reinstated.
The ICJ considers that the presidential decrees that removed Constitutional Court Justices Oleksandr Tupytskyi and Oleksandr Kasminin, outside of the existing procedure, violate the obligation to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
The ICJ is concerned at cases of unwarranted interference with the work and independence of lawyers, in particular searches and arrests of lawyers. From April to June 2021 more than 110 such cases were reported. In 2020, the ICJ identified a pattern of threats, harassment and other attacks on lawyers in Ukraine, including those who defend human rights.
The mobilisation of support for Afghans has begun in Luxembourg, with the Bar Association gathering asylum specialists and refugee associations calling on the government.
On Thursday 19 August, a meeting was held in the presence of Luxembourg ombudsperson Claudia Monti, outgoing president of the Luxembourg Bar Association François Kremer and ten lawyers specialising in international protection, following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan a few days earlier. “The initiative comes from an exchange I had with Claudia Monti at the beginning of the week, where we thought of bringing together several members of the bar to initiate a discussion on the dramatic situation in which Afghanistan has been sinking for the last few days,” explains Franck Greff, lawyer and president of the immigration and international protection commission of the Luxembourg Bar.
The aim, says Greff, is to “pool our forces in order to have the most uniform discourse possible with regard to both the Directorate of Immigration and the administrative courts. In this context, the commission I chair is working on the subject so that a document will soon be issued by the bar, intended for all our colleagues.” A basic text is already being drafted on the current situation in Afghanistan. It will compile a maximum of relevant information to be shared in order to facilitate the work of lawyers who defend the cases of Afghan applicants for international protection.
“What does the ministry intend to do for these people?”
Greff, who specialises in international protection and immigration, has himself been contacted by a dozen of his clients since the beginning of the week in view of the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, and in Kabul in particular. “Some of them have, for example, had their applications for international protection refused by the Directorate of Immigration and have lodged an appeal with the administrative courts. They are wondering what initiatives we will be able to take.”
The ambition is thus, among other things, to re-evaluate all the files in the light of the current situation in Afghanistan. “This is the great challenge that’s before us now,” continues Greff. “The lawyers hope that the actions they will be able to carry out will enable favourable solutions for all Afghans who are currently on national territory, both those who are in proceedings before the Directorate of Immigration and those who are in litigation before the administrative courts, without forgetting the people who have been rejected. We are going to work for everyone.”
In the fall of 2021, the UN Human Rights Committee will review Azerbaijan’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, and more in particular the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Lawyers for Lawyers has taken the opportunity to file a submission on the list of issues prior to reporting to inform the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Azerbaijan.
The submission highlights four main issues: harassment and criminal prosecution of lawyers, disbarment and other disciplinary measures on improper grounds, access to a lawyer, and violations of freedom of expression of lawyers.
Lawyers for Lawyers has long been concerned about attempts to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers who work on cases that engage human rights or represent persons perceived to be critics of the Azerbaijani authorities and have been targeted solely because they are carrying out their professional activities.
We have reported on the cases of multiple lawyers who have faced administrative harassment on improper grounds. The use of disciplinary measures by the Azerbaijani Bar Association (ABA) to retaliate against lawyers for their human rights or professional activities has been a problem for years.
Furthermore, we are concerned about the low number of lawyers in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has among the lowest number of lawyers for every 100,000 in habitants compared to other European countries. This is due to a change in legislation in 2017, which excluded lawyers from representing individuals in criminal cases who were not a member of the ABA. Since 2018, the number of lawyers who are members of the ABA has increased, but still the number of lawyers in Azerbaijan is not sufficient to ensure everyone’s right of access to an independent lawyer of their own choice.
Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has ordered a thorough investigation on the assassination of a female lawyer and her husband who were shot by a sniper outside their house in Davao City.
Eleazar said the use of sniper in the killing of Hilda Mahinay-Sapie and her husband Muhaimen Mohammad Sapie on July 14 was an indication that it was well-planned.
It was the female lawyer who was first shot after she was asked to check on her vehicle. Her husband was also shot dead when he went out to check on her wife who was then slumped in front of their house.
“It was well-planned that it why we are focusing on all the possible motive of the attack and the people who planned this incident,” said Eleazar.
Authorities said the couple just finished their radio program when the crime happened.
Eleazar expressed confidence that this case would be resolved in no time.
“In the meantime, let us wait for the result of the investigation. I am confident that this will be resolved,” said Eleazar.
The Davao City police has said they are looking at all possible angles for the crime, including the cases on land disputes which were handled by the victims.
Authorities already obtained a CCTV footage which could be of help in the investigation.
The National Bureau of Investigation and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines inked a deal last week to extend assistance to, and protect, members of the Judiciary who experience threats and harassment.
The NBI, in a statement, said its OIC-Director Eric Distor and IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa signed a Memorandum of Agreement to strengthen coordination and communication between the agency and the IBP’s chapter organizations.
The IBP is the national organization for Philippine lawyers.
The bureau said both parties agreed to maintain direct lines between their leaderships for faster coordination and to help prevent attacks on lawyers. The agreement also covers data sharing between the NBI and IBP.
This comes nearly three months since the IBP and the Philippine National Police signed a separate MOA to address attacks on members of the legal profession. Under the agreement, the PNP will help lawyers enhance their skills and knowledge in protecting themselves through proper use of firearms.
In its accord with the NBI, the bureau “will provide timely assistance to lawyers, prosecutors and magistrates in distress and extend appropriate security and protection in cases of threats or hazards in the performance of their duties and functions as may be allowed by law and regulations.”
The NBI will also expedite and prioritize probes into incidents or cases of violence against members of the legal profession.
Human Rights House Foundation has raised the situation for legal professionals in Azerbijan and Belarus during the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The statement was released on the sidelines of the Interactive Dialogue under Item 3, and in response to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges & Lawyer’s report.
We agree with the Special Rapporteur that justice systems have been affected in a number of countries, including through threats or attacks against human rights lawyers.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the Azerbaijani lawyer Fuad Aghayev, argued that Azerbaijan “employs several methods to pressure human rights lawyers… It has established political bias in the admission process to the Bar, and suspended or disbarred human rights lawyers”. These continue to be employed in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has exploited the pandemic to increase pressure on human rights lawyers. It has used the pandemic to justify insufficient implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgements. In addition, human rights lawyers continue to be harassed and disbarred. In 2020, Azerbaijani Bar Association reprimanded human rights lawyer Javad Javadov for raising a legitimate concern about alleged ill-treatment of his client linked to Covid-19 measures.
In 2021 Shahla Humbatova, one of the handful offew independent human rights lawyers left in the country was disbarred and then reinstated after major international pressure.
A dozen of lawyers remain unlawfully disbarred in Azerbaijan, including human rights lawyers Alaif Hasanov and Khalid Baghirov. Moreover, just like prominent lawyers Intigam Aliyev and Annaghi Hajibeyli, several of the younger human rights lawyers are arbitrarily precluded from joining the Bar Association.
Belarus, in the midst of its own human rights crisis, has carried out numerous disbarments in recent months.
Liudmila Kazak is a prominent Belarusian lawyer with over 20 years defending human rights cases, including many cases involving human rights defenders. She was sentenced and fined for allegedly participating in peaceful protests in September 2020 and was subsequently disbarred in February this year. She is one of many such cases.
The ICJ joined today seven other organisation in a statement before the UN Human Rights Council expressing concern at the systematic human rights violation and the persistent impunity in the Philippines and calling for more accountability.
The joint statement delivered by FORUM ASIA reads as follows:
Nearly six months since its adoption, Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 offering technical assistance to the Philippines has proven to be utterly insufficient to address the systematic human rights violations and persistent impunity documented in the High Commissioner’s report. The Philippine Government’s policies and actions since the Resolution’s adoption have been completely at odds with the commitments outlined in it.
Extrajudicial killings in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ have continued. To date, the Government has made no tangible progress towards accountability against those most responsible for such killings. In December 2020, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC found that there is “reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity” of murder, torture, the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm, and other inhumane acts were committed between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019.
Human rights defenders pursuing legitimate work, especially those who advocate for international accountability, including lawyers, continue to be attacked and accused of belonging to terrorist groups. Rights defenders continue to be arrested and jailed. The draconian Anti-terrorism Act, passed last year, exacerbates risks to defenders. The killing of nine human rights defenders and activists on 7 March, two days after President Duterte ordered the police and military to “finish off” and “kill” those purported to be “communist rebels”, illustrates clearly the persistent killings and attacks faced by activists and defenders. It is very clear that no amount of technical assistance or capacity building will end the killings as the President and top government officials continue to incite murder and violence as official policy.
Qualification Commission at the Ministry of Justice has terminated the licenses of lawyers Kanstantsin Mikhel, Mikhail Kiryliuk, Maksim Konan and Liudmila Kazak, Mediazona reports.
The reasoning behind this decision is unknown. The basis for the review of Kanstantsin Mikhel‘s license was his administrative arrest (14 days) under Article 23.34 in November 2020. Maksim Konan is in the same situation: he served 12 days in October. In the case of Liudmila Kazak, lawyer of Maryia Kalesnikava, the formal cause was an administrative case under Article 23.4 (“Disobedience to the lawful demand of an official”).
Mikhail Kiryliuk, a member of the Coordination Council, is not in Belarus at the moment – his interests were represented at the commission by Siarhei Zikratski. His license was terminated because of “inappropriate expressions towards representatives of the state bodies”.
The final decision will be made by the board of the Ministry of Justice at the beginning of next week. For now, the lawyers are still entitled to engage in their activities.
Sri Lanka’s prominent human rights lawyer Hejaz Hezbullah, who has been detained for over 10 months for alleged links in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack, was on Thursday presented in a court for the first time since his detention, a move his lawyers believe has been taken ahead of a UN session focussing on the country’s human rights record.
The magistrate’s court remanded Hezbullah until March 3 after charging him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), his lawyers said.
The court appearance comes ahead of next week’s UNHRC sessions where Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability record is to come under focus, they said.
Hezbullah was arrested in April last year for alleged links in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings carried out by a local jihadi group. The police alleged that Hezbullah had aided and abetted the Easter Sunday bombings.
Nine suicide bombers belonging to Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.
Hezbullah was not given access to his lawyers or the family during the detention. He was also not produced in the court during this time and held without a charge despite international pressure from European Union, Amnesty International and other right.
Dr. Ye Lwin (now former mayor of Mandalay city) is my [relationship redacted]. He’s now being chased too. Her father is also a very active NLD [National League for Democracy, the former Myanmar ruling party chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi] supporter so her whole family is very worried. Her grandfather (an author) was also a political prisoner and was released only when we were in [institutional affiliation redacted] (he was in jail for more than 10 years).