Tag Archives: UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

eSwatini/Swaziland: Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko shot dead


Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko,the Chairperson of the MultiStakeholder Forum(MSF) has been shot dead.

The death of the prominent lawyer was confirmed by his wife Tanele Maseko on Saturday evening, he was gunned down at his home, Luyengo.

“It’s true,Thulani has been killed, bashaye waphola Nkhosi. Ubobuye ushaye kwanyalo kusenemaphoyisa,” said the wife to the late MSF Chairperson.

The death of the human rights lawyer comes a few hours after King Mswati warned those calling for democracy that his mercenaries would deal with them.

Eswatini is in the midst of a political unrest, Mswati has intensified the killing of political activists and human rights defenders.






Lawyers supporting protestors in China targeted by authorities


Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about reports of lawyers being targeted by the Chinese state security police. The lawyers have been providing pro bono legal advice to people arrested during the recent anti-lockdown protests.

In the past few weeks, peaceful protests have started in a number of cities in China. The protests were triggered by the mourning of the victims who passed away during a lockdown fire in Urumqi, but have developed into a protest against the Chinese zero-COVID policy that has led to very strict lockdown measures and overall discontent with the repressive regime. The Chinese government has responded to the protests by arresting large numbers of protesters.

Several lawyers have been providing legal services to those arrested during the protests. It has been reported that local authorities and state police have attempted to interfere with the lawyers’ attempts to provide legal services. Lawyers have been warned to drop certain cases by local authorities and have been questioned by state security police. One lawyer, Wang Shengsheng, reportedly stated that she and her colleagues have received threatening phonecalls and that state security police has been investigating her.

Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, recently released from prison, is currently not involved in the defense of the arrested protesters for fear of political reprisals. Yet, Yu states he is happy to see China’s remaining rights lawyers stand up for the protesters but worries that the lawyers will end up getting arrested in another ‘709 crackdown’.

Lawyers have a special role with regards to protests. In his report of June 2021, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association stated that “lawyers and legal practitioners play a crucial role in helping to ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and access to justice. They do so (…) by working to ensure that individuals and groups are protected against violations and abuses; by holding those responsible for rights violations to account; by pursuing remedies for those whose human rights have been violated in the context of assemblies; and by promoting structural changes oriented towards the reform of rights violating systems”.

Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about the chilling effect caused by the harassment of the authorities on the Chinese lawyers defending the protesters and the impact this might have on the effective legal protection of the protesters.








Turkey: Judicial harassment and upcoming trial of rights lawyer Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş



The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment and upcoming trial hearing of Ms Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş, a lawyer, women’s rights defender and board member of the Rosa Women’s Association (Rosa Kadın Derneği). Rosa Women’s Association is a civil society organisation focusing on violence against women and women’s rights in Diyarbakır and overall South-Eastern region in Turkey. The Association has supported more than 160 women who survived from violence.

On December 22, 2022, the eighth hearing in the ongoing trial of Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş on the charge of “membership to an armed terrorist organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code) will be held before the Diyarbakır 8th Heavy Penal Court. If convicted, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş could face up to 10 years of imprisonment.

The case against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş began in May 2020, when Diyarbakır prosecution authorities launched investigations into members of Rosa Women’s Association. The authorities then divided individual cases per person and the investigation against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş initiated in August 2020.

According to the indictment drawn up by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the charges relate to the allegation that Rosa Women’s Association would praise and defend the activities and principles of the Kurdistan Labour Party (PKK), which would make members and board members of the Association members of an armed terrorist organisation.

Apart from the general allegations against the association, the indictment against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş presents only one anonymous witness statement as the basis of her alleged “membership to an armed terrorist organisation”. This anonymous statement alleges that, as an attorney, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş regularly visits women prisoners convicted for terrorism-related charges, financially assists them, and provides them communication with the PKK and the outer world. Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş denied these allegations, explaining that the aim of Rosa Women’s Association is to advocate to put an end to violence against women, and that she did not carry any prison visit in the last three years nor is familiar with any of the women prisoners the anonymous witness mentioned. So far, Diyarbakır 8th Heavy Penal Court did not inquire into the allegations and defences of the parties.




https://jinpanel.com/HUKUK/content/view/201269 (TURKCE)


Tajikistan: On-going imprisonment of lawyer Buzurghmehr Yorov and current detention conditions


In a joint letter to the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan, Lawyers for Lawyers and Freedom Now have expressed their concern about the on-going imprisonment of lawyer Buzurghmehr Yorov.

On 6 October 2016, Mr. Yorov was found guilty for several violations of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 23 years imprisonment. In 2017, his sentence was increased with 5 years for insulting government officials. Mr. Yorov received a total sentence of 28 years, which was reduced by six years in the mass amnesty of December 2019.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in 2019 that Mr Yorov’s imprisonment was unmotivated and a violation of several international standards. They ordered the immediate release of Mr. Yorov, without success.

According to our information, Mr. Yorov has suffered serious ill-treatment and is at grave risk at the moment. On 16 November 2022, he was placed in solitary confinement in a punishment cell for expressing its disagreement with the President. Here, Mr. Yorov is reportedly tortured, which has even led to hospitalization. On 17 November, Mr. Yorov is transferred to a different prison without notice to the Ministry of Justice or his family. He was held incommunicado until 10 December, when his wife was allowed to visit him and noticed he had bruising on his neck and face, a sign of mistreatment.

Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers for Lawyers and Freedom Now are deeply concerned about the safety and health of Mr. Yorov and respectfully urge the authorities of Tajikistan to:

– Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yorov in compliance with the WGAD decision; and

– Ensure his safety and health according to international standards.

Read the full letter here.




Tajikistan: Long Sentences for Autonomous Region Activists


Six civil society activists from the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan, detained in connection with protests in May 2022, have received lengthy prison terms after closed, unfair trials, Human Rights Watch said today.

Among them is Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, a 65-year-old independent journalist and civil rights activist, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison on charges of conspiring against the state and organizing the protests. Her former husband, Kholbash Kholbashov, was sentenced to life in prison in September.

“The trials of the Gorno-Badakshan activists were held behind closed doors without access to lawyers or the evidence against them, in violation of fundamental fair trial standards,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Tajikistan authorities should immediately release these six activists, along with the other activists who have been locked up for legitimate exercise of their rights and drop all charges against them.”

The other five activists who were convicted in trials on December 9 and 10 are members of Commission 44, an independent group established in 2021 to investigate the death of Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, a resident of the region killed by police in November 2021, whose death sparked an initial round of protests in Khorog, the regional capital.

The convicted activists are Faromuz Irgashov, a lawyer who headed Commission 44, sentenced to 30 years; Muzaffar Muborakshoev, a civil rights activist, 29 years; Khursand Mamadshoev, brother of Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, 18 years; Manuchekhr Kholiknazarov, head of the Association of Lawyers in Pamir, 15 years; and Khushruz Djumaev, a civil rights activist and blogger known by the pseudonym Khushom Gulyam, 8 years. All were charged with “participation in a criminal association” under article 187 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan. In June, two other members of the group were also sentenced to 18 years each.

The persecution of activists, journalists, and lawyers from the autonomous region has been ongoing since May, following a government crackdown on peaceful protests by the local population, the Pamiri, a distinct ethnic and religious minority, whom the government has long discriminated against. The authorities have arrested and detained more than 200 people on charges related to the protests and ensuing clashes. According to the United Nations special rapporteur on minority issues, as many as 40 people may have been killed in a special “anti-terrorism operation” that the Tajik authorities conducted in the region to quash the protests.







Turkey: Stigmatisation and death threats against Jiyan Tosun and her family



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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD) about the acts of stigmatisation and death threats against Ms Jiyan Tosun, her family, and Ms Eren Keskin. Ms Tosun is a lawyer and member of İHD. She is the daughter of Mr Fehmi Tosun, who was forcibly disappeared in 1995. Jiyan Tosun works for justice, truth and reparation for her father and other victims of enforced disappearance, together with the Saturday Mothers/People. Ms Keskin is the Co-Chairperson of İHD.

On November 13, 2022, while they were sitting in a café in Küçükçekmece District, Istanbul, plainclothes police officers took Jiyan Tosun and two of her foreign clients to the Istanbul Küçükçekmece Police Station for an identity check. In the police station, Ms Tosun was informed that a bomb attack in İstiklal Street, in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, had just been perpetrated. She was questioned by the anti-terror branch police, who asked her if she had any information about the attack. Ms Tosun was released shortly after, together with her clients.

As Ms Tosun was in the police station, Mr Adem Taşkaya, a member of the Victory Party (Zafer Partisi) posted a photo of a woman, allegedly the terrorist suspect, on Twitter. Along with the photo, he published a message stating that Ms Jiyan Tosun was responsible for the attack, which killed six people and wounded 81. Even though the post was removed within three minutes, Ms Tosun and her family have been receiving offline and online threats, including death, rape and sexual violence threats, since then. On the same day, unknown individuals who identified themselves as police officers posted photos and personal information about Ms Tosun and her relatives, including minors, on a Telegram channel.

Consequently, due to her work as a lawyer in the same office as Jiyan Tosun and her position as co-chair of İHD, Eren Keskin has also been targeted and threatened as a result of the false information posted by Mr Taşkaya.

On November 14, 2022, after spending the previous night in a police station in Istanbul as a protective measure, Ms Tosun filed a criminal complaint against Mr Adem Taşkaya before the Küçükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Ms Tosun also requested to be put under a protection scheme.










https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/tr/case/death-threats-against-woman-human-rights-defender-and-lawyer-jiyan-tosun (TURKCE)


https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/case/death-threats-against-woman-human-rights-defender-and-lawyer-jiyan-tosun (FRANCAIS)


Click to access EN_HRL_20221124_Turkey_Sentencing-of-lawyers-from-the-Progressive-Lawyers-Association-HD-and-the-People-s-Law-Office-HHB.pdf

Click to access EN_HRL_20221115_Turkey_Arrest-of-lawyer-Aryen-Turan.pdf

UK: Colin Harvey: A target has been put on my back, says Queen’s academic


A Queen’s University Belfast academic has said a campaign of intimidation has put a “virtual target” on his back.

Colin Harvey is a professor of human rights law at the university.

He said it was particularly since he engaged with work about Ireland’s “constitutional future” that he had been targeted.

Queen’s previously said it had ongoing engagement with police over staff welfare following concerns about the safety of Prof Harvey.

Prof Harvey, who is a board member of the Ireland’s Future organisation, said he was being vilified “for having what is essentially a Good Friday Agreement conversation”.

The organisation was set up to advocate for and promote debate and discussion about the future of Ireland.

It has held a number of events to discuss planning for a united Ireland, most recently in the 3Arena in Dublin.

Speaking to BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Prof Harvey said he had been caricatured and vilified.

“I have been the subject of what is a sustained, systemic campaign of intimidation and harassment that has circled around Queen’s – but not only around Queen’s – in relation to my work,” he said.

“That’s been really repetitive lying, repetitive disinformation and it links back to a previous conversation about people questioning my commitment to a peaceful and democratic society here in the past, present and future.

“What that has effectively done is it has put a virtual target on my back.”















Burundi: Tony Germain Nkina, avocat en danger


Tony Germain Nkina est un avocat burundais.

Longtemps membre de l’Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues, qu’il représentait dans la province de Kayanza, Tony Nkina a milité pour venir en aide aux détenus les plus vulnérables. Après la réélection plus que contestée du président Nkurunziza, en 2015, les activités de l’APRODH ont été suspendues et ses avoirs gelés. Dans le même temps la plupart des ONG qui œuvraient au Burundi ont été contraintes de réduire leurs activités ou de quitter le pays. Plusieurs membres de l’APRODH ont été arrêtés et condamnés à de lourdes peines de prison sous des accusations fallacieuses.

Refusant de quitter le pays, au contraire de nombreux autres défenseurs des droits humains qui se sont résolus à l’exil, Tony Nkina a continué à pratiquer son métier. Mais en 2020, alors qu’il s’était rendu dans le nord du pays pour y assister un client dans le cadre d’un litige foncier, il a été arrêté et mis en procès sous l’inculpation de « collaboration avec des groupes armés ». Malgré ses dénégations et l’absence de toute preuve, il a été condamné à cinq années de prison et est toujours aujourd’hui détenu. L’avènement du nouveau président Ndayishimiye n’a malheureusement rien changé à sa situation.







https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/22/interview-paying-price-defending-human-rights-burundi (ENGLISH)

https://www.amnistia.org/ve/noticias/2022/10/22058/burundi-abogado-recluido-arbitrariamente-desde-hace-casi-dos-anos (ESPANOL)

Venezuela: Rights lawyer Engels Wladimir Puertas victim of arbitrary detention, torture, serious threats and criminalisation of his work


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.







Egypt: arrest, detention & short-term disappearance of Youssef Mansour




Topic: arrest, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer, Mr. Youssef Mansour.

Mr. Youssef Mansour is a lawyer, formerly with the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, a non-governmental organisation that shut down in January 2022. He was the defence lawyer of another human rights defender, who was sentenced in December 2021 to four years in prison.


On 24 March 2022, around 30 security personnel, who arrived in police and civilian cars, arrested Mr. Youssef. Some were armed, some were in civilian clothing, and they produced no arrest warrant but told Mr. Youssef “we are affiliated with the government,” and gave him three minutes to get ready.

It is reported that Mr. Mansour was forcibly disappeared for two days, during which his family had no information about his whereabouts. In addition, his official arrest document was dated 25 March 2022, one day later than his actual arrest. He later told his lawyers that he had been held at the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency in Cairo, and was questioned about his social media postings.

On Friday 25 March 2022, he was moved to al-Basatin police station, also without the knowledge of his family or lawyer.

On 26 March 2022, Mr. Mansour appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecutor (SSSP) in Case No. 330/2022 on accusations of spreading false news inside Egypt and outside. Mr. Mansour was questioned about Facebook postings he had made regarding the prison conditions of on of his clients. Mr. Mansour had mentioned in his posts that the prison service sector had refused to implement official family and lawyer visiting permits to his client, held in the maximum security facility within the Tora Prison complex south of Cairo, known as Scorpion 2. He was ordered to be held in pre-trial detention pending investigations.

Mr. Mansour was accompanied by two lawyers during the interrogation, and was allowed to meet privately with them for a few minutes after the interrogation and before he was returned to his place of detention. His lawyers were reportedly not permitted to view the charge sheet or the evidence held against him.

Mr. Mansour has since been held in al-Basatin Police Station, and his pre-trial detention has been renewed twice for 15 days each time.

According to Mr. Mansour’s lawyers, the accusations in Case 330/2022 under which he is held are based on anti-terrorist Law No. 94 of 2015, and on Penal Code No. 95 of 1937 (updated) and they include the crimes of joining a terrorist group, which carries the death penalty, or long-term detention; incitement to commit a terrorist crime, punishable by up to one year in prison; and the dissemination of false news and statements harmful to the national interest, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to LE 500 (€ 25).