Tag Archives: UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Egypt: Fair trial violations and threat of long term detention for Mohammad El-Baqer (joint communication)

16/05/22

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Egypt on 17 March 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public. The Government did not respond within this period. Replies, if received, will be published on the UN Special Procedures’ database

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

[…]

Mr. Mohamed El-Baqer is a lawyer and human rights defender who has actively used social and other media outlets to publish and write about human rights issues, including on cases of enforced disappearances and torture allegedly involving the National Security Agency. Following his arrest in September 2019, he was detained arbitrarily for an extended period. He was also placed on Egypt’s domestic terrorist entities and terrorist list (hereinafter “terrorism watch list”) under Case No. 1781/2019.

We previously raised our human rights concerns with the Egyptian Government about the arrest and detention of Mr. El-Baqer and the inclusion of his name on Egypt’s terrorism watch list in communications EGY 11/2019EGY 10/2020 and EGY 8/2021.. We regret that no reply has been received to any of these communications.

The case of Mr. El-Baqer was also included in the 2020 report of the Secretary-general (A/HRC/45/36, Annex I paras. 45-46) on cooperation with the UN on allegations that he had been targeted in relation to his engagement with the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt.

ALLEGATIONS

On 16 October 2021, Mr. El-Baqer was referred to the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) by the Supreme State Security Prosecution under a new case without the knowledge of his lawyers who were prevented from presenting their defence, and who were not allowed to access his case file.

Mr. El-Baqer was accused under case No. 1228/2021 of “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses.” These charges were among four accusations brought against him under an earlier case in 2019, case No. 1356/2019, which included accusations of “belonging to a terrorist group”, and “funding a terrorist group”, both of which remain in place and for which Mr. El-Baqer is held in pre-trial detention.

Although the state of emergency in Egypt was lifted on 26 October 2021, the ESSC remains in place for cases referred to it beforehand. Emergency Court verdicts are not subject to appeal and can only be commuted or overturned by the President of the republic.

On 11 November 2021, the ESSC rescheduled Mr. El-Baqer’s trial to 20 December 2021. His lawyers were not allowed to meet him or to have access to his case file, in violation of due process.

On 23 November 2021, the Court of Cassa tion rejected Mr. El-Baqer’s appeal to remove his name from the terrorism watch list issued a year earlier under Case No. 1781/2019, despite a lack of evidence or verdict justifying its decision.

On 20 December 2021, the ESSC Misdemeanor Court in New Cairo sentenced Mr. El-Baqer to four years in prison in case 1228/2021. In addition to his four-year sentence, Mr. El-Baqer continues to be held in pre- trial detention under Case No. 1356/2019 and, if tried and convicted by a Supreme State Security Court, he could face long-term imprisonment.

CONCERNS

Without prejudging the accuracy of the information received, we express serious concern regarding the allegations that Mr. El-Baqer was denied the right to due process and fair trial throughout his arbitrary detention and trial, his continued arbitrary detention, and the continued inclusion of his name on the terrorism watch list without apparent evidence, in what appears to be a misuse of this listing procedure against human rights defenders. We express further concerns regarding the reported lack of adequate sanitary conditions and adequate medical care to Mr. El-Baqer, as well as the alleged lack of regular access to and contact with his family and legal representatives.

[…]

https://www.cfjustice.org/free-them-all-a-fair-and-transparent-process-to-release-political-prisoners-in-egypt/

https://www.uianet.org/fr/actions/global-legal-community-stands-solidarity-egyptian-lawyer-mohamed-el-baqer

https://www.amnesty.fr/personnes/mohamed-el-baqer (FRANCAIS)

China: Interview: ‘They have been wiping out the whole profession’

18/03/22

Yaxue Cao of China Change talks about her recent documentary about China’s human rights attorneys.

Yaxue Cao, editor-in-chief of the U.S.-based website China Change, has been tracking human rights issues in China for years. With the help of human rights attorneys in China, dissident artist Ai Weiwei, professor and film-maker Ai Xiaoming and overseas-based rights activist, she recently released an hour-long film about the crucial role played by Chinese lawyers in defending people’s basic rights. The documentary, titled “The Defenders — 20 Years of Human Rights Lawyers in China,” offers rarely-seen footage of top rights attorneys including Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong and Pu Zhiqiang to an overseas audience. Cao spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service about the project:

RFA: How long did the film take to make?

Yaxue Cao: There were only two of us [making the documentary]. I wrote the script and collected and selected the material, while video editor cut it all together and added subtitles. Production started last year, and it took us three months in all.

RFA: This documentary spans a long period of time. How did you find all of the footage and the interviewees?

Yaxue Cao: The main point about this film is that it is based on existing footage. Half of the footage we use comes from interviews carried out for China Change, while we also collected a lot of footage, still photos and audio from news organizations and other films, including [two] made by Ai Xiaoming and Ai Weiwei’s long interview with lawyers Li Heping and Jiang Tianyong in 2011. There were also some images of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in [another] documentary. The fact that they were willing to share this material with us was a huge help.

RFA: According to my calculations, at least 33 lawyers appear in this film in some form. What kind of people are they?

Yaxue Cao: Well first of all, there should be more than 300,000 lawyers in China, but even at the peak [of legal representation], when human rights lawyers were most active, there were only about 300 of them. But people have quit or stopped speaking out under successive rounds of repression, while others do the work but don’t want to be referred to as a human rights attorney. For example, more than 20 lawyers defended [pro-democracy agribusiness mogul] Sun Dawu, but none of them were in contact with us, or with the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. Nonetheless, to me, they were still human rights lawyers.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/documentary-03182022132837.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3171042/chinese-legal-activists-girlfriend-charged-inciting-subversion

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/18/joint-ngo-letter-ahead-eu-china-summit

US grants asylum to son of Chinese language 709 rights lawyer – NEWPAPER24

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/lawyer-arrest-02232022141944.html

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/lawyer-yu-wensheng-the-man-who-never-yields/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/a-brief-overview-of-principles-on-the-role-of-lawyers-in-china/

https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/renquanfazhi/jt-03172022101927.html#.YjPJt4ObEAE.twitter (CHINESE)

Mixed news from Egypt on Human Rights Defenders

19/01/22

OHCHR | Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

In the past month and into the New Year, I have heard encouraging reports about Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in many parts of the world, including Egypt.

But while courts in Egypt have ordered the release of a number of HRDs, and lifted travel bans of others, many more continue to be held in detention without charge for long periods of time, or have been sentenced in unfair trials or have been added to the terrorist list.

I welcome the release from detention on 8 January 2022 of Ramy Shaath, the Egyptian-Palestinian human rights defender detained in July 2019 and accused of terrorism. Unfortunately, he had to relinquish his Egyptian citizenship and passport before leaving the country. That same day, Ramy Kamel Salib, who focused on defending the right to freedom of religion, and who was detained in February 2020 was issued with a release order. The two men had been charged with disseminating false news and joining a terrorist organisation and were the subject of multiple communications I sent to the Egyptian government, only some of which received a response.

[…]

I continue to raise with the Egyptian authorities the mis-use of anti-terrorist and national security laws to criminalise the work of HRDs. In multiple cases, their detention without trial has been repeatedly renewed for longer than the two year legal limit, often based vague provisions of the Penal Code, the Anti-Terror Law and Anti-Cybercrime law. Of additional concern is the practice whereby HRDs whose release has been ordered by courts are placed under investigation in new cases before they get a chance to leave detention.

Among those who have been victims of this practice are HRDs Ezzat Ghoneim, Hoda Abdel Moneim, Aisha el-Shater, Mohamed Abou Horira.

Some HRDs remain unable to travel due to travel bans, including human rights lawyers Negad el-Borei and Azza Soliman.

Others, like Gamal Eid, have been unable to work. He has suspended the activities ofthe Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), due to ongoing harassment and attacks.

I remain ready to discuss these and any other issues relating to Human Rights Defenders with the Egyptian authorities.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/01/12/egypt-prominent-rights-group-forced-close

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2022/01/17/2003771543

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

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

(ITALIANO)

Egypt: Lawyer Amr Imam was imprisoned for two years for his solidarity with his comrades in Egypt

16/10/21

Lawyer Amr Imam was imprisoned for two years for his solidarity with his comrades in Egypt

The last thing Amr Imam wrote on Facebook, “I am being arrested from home” (Facebook)

Two full years have passed since the Egyptian human rights lawyer Amr Imam has been in prison in a solitary cell, since his arrest, on October 16, 2019, from his home at dawn, and his inclusion in case No. 488 of 2019 State Security Inspection, in which he was transferred from a lawyer who Turn in the defense of prisoners of conscience to the accused.

The last thing an imam wrote on his personal account on the social networking site “Facebook” before it was closed completely was, “I am being arrested from the house.”

The Egyptian security forces arrested Amr Imam from his home on October 16, 2019, after he announced on his personal Facebook page that he condemned the arrest and assault of journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah and his solidarity with her. He was arrested on the same day and transferred from a lawyer to a prisoner of conscience. .

Immediately before that, Imam had announced his entry into a partial hunger strike to protest the arrest and torture of his friends, especially the political activist and journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah, the prominent political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, and the human rights lawyer Muhammad Al-Baqer. He said that if the demands were not met, he would escalate his protest by starting with a full hunger strike, then an open sit-in inside a judicial building with his complete hunger strike, then by escalating and announcing that he had stopped taking any liquids other than water, and then by escalating a comprehensive strike and stopping drinking water.

Imam summarized his targeted demands from this solidarity strike in “opening an investigation and hearing the statements of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, as a victim of his torture, transferring Muhammad Al-Baqer and Alaa Abdel-Fattah from a high-security prison 2, and opening an investigation into the torture of Israa Abdel-Fattah and hearing her statements as a victim.” And he opened visits to a high-security prison 2 and empowered all prison inmates “convicted and remanded” of their full rights, as stipulated by the Prison Authority regulation.” He found himself convicted of the same accusations as those who demanded their freedom, and he joins them in the same case.

[…]

https://middleeast.in-24.com/News/316596.html

https://euromedrights.org/human-rights-behind-bars-in-egypt/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/20/leading-activist-in-egypts-2011-uprising-and-two-others-jailed

https://www.madamasr.com/en/2021/12/20/news/u/alaa-abd-el-fattah-sentenced-to-5-years-lawyer-mohamed-baqer-and-blogger-mohamed-oxygen-4-years-each/

https://pen.org/press-release/egyptian-blogger/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-59730354

(FRANCAIS)

https://www.liberation.fr/international/egypte-cinq-ans-de-prison-en-plus-pour-le-militant-alaa-abdel-fattah-20211220_BMZIN4YW5VCJXMAATFEUWXCB5M/

https://afrique.tv5monde.com/information/cinq-ans-de-prison-pour-alaa-abdel-fattah-figure-de-la-revolte-en-egypte

(ESPANOL)

https://www.rfi.fr/es/condenan-a-cinco-a%C3%B1os-de-prisi%C3%B3n-a-una-figura-de-la-revoluci%C3%B3n-egipcia-de-2011

(ITALIANO)
(DEUTSCH)

https://www.em.com.br/app/noticia/internacional/2021/12/20/interna_internacional,1332625/ativista-da-revolucao-egipcia-de-2011-e-condenado-a-5-anos-de-prisao.shtml (PORTUGUES)

https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achtergrond/jaren-celstraf-voor-drie-prominente-egyptische-activisten~b0f74c7df/ (NEDERLANDS)

Indonesia: Stop reprisals against woman human rights defender – UN expert

15/12/21

Veronica Koman

Indonesia must immediately stop threats, intimidation and reprisals against human rights defender Veronica Koman and her family, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said today.

Koman, a human and minority rights lawyer, is in self-imposed exile in Australia. However, she still faces several charges in Indonesia for alleged incitement, spreading fake news, displaying race-based hatred and disseminating information aimed at inflicting ethnic hatred. The charges were believed to have been brought against her in retaliation to her work advocating for human rights in West Papua.

Koman was among five other human rights defenders mentioned in the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 annual report on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. She has faced threats, harassment and intimidation for her reporting on West Papua and Papua provinces, for providing reports to UN human rights mechanisms, and for attending UN meetings, for which she was questioned by security forces. 

“This case highlights how human rights defenders are often targeted for their cooperation with the United Nations, which is fundamental to their peaceful and legitimate work in the protection and promotion of human rights,” Lawlor said.

Acts of intimidation and threats against Koman’s family have also been reported this year, most recently on 7 November, when unidentified individuals threw two small explosive boxes inside the garage of her parents’ home in West Jakarta.

The boxes reportedly contained threatening messages, including one stating “we will scorch the earth of wherever you hide and of your protectors.” Another box addressed to Koman, delivered to the home of a family member, contained a dead chicken and a message saying that anyone hiding her “will end up like this.”

[…]

https://www.miragenews.com/stop-reprisals-against-woman-human-rights-694951/

https://en.tempo.co/read/1539742/activist-veronica-koman-joins-amnesty-international-australia

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/threats-and-attacks-against-woman-human-rights-defender-veronica-koman%E2%80%99s-family

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/veronica-koman

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

https://megapolitan.kompas.com/read/2021/12/13/14440981/amnesty-sebut-pembela-ham-dalam-bahaya-ledakan-di-rumah-orangtua-veronica (INDONESIAN)

https://news.detik.com/x/detail/investigasi/20211122/Teror-Siang-Bolong-untuk-Veronica-Koman/

https://www.suara.com/news/2021/12/09/140916/ibu-di-timika-tewas-diduga-akibat-malpraktik-kain-masuk-perut-bikin-geram-veronica-koman

Lebanon: Cease threats and intimidation of human rights lawyer – UN expert 

01/12/21

Joint letter to the Human Rights Council calling for an international  investigative mission into the Beirut blast | MENA Rights Group

Lebanon must immediately cease the threats and intimidation of Mohammad Ahmad Samir Sablouh, a human rights defender and lawyer who has worked to assist victims of torture, arbitrary detention and Syrian refugees facing deportation, a UN human rights expert said today.

Mr. Sablouh has been targeted by the General Security Directorate and the Government’s Commissioner to the Military Court in relation to his legal work and inputs for a report by Amnesty International on Syrian refugees who had allegedly been arbitrarily detained on terrorism-related charges and tortured in Lebanon.

Military prosecutors requested that Mr. Sablouh’s immunity as a lawyer be lifted, in order to prosecute him under Article 403 of the Lebanese Penal Code for allegedly making false accusations. He and his clients have also been regularly questioned in relation to his work assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“I am extremely concerned at the use of threats and intimidation that risk undermining the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the legitimate work of lawyers,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

“The unimpeded work of human rights lawyers and human rights defenders in exposing these violations is crucial.”

The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor the case and is in contact with the Lebanese authorities on the matter.

[…]

https://www.silkway.news/cease-threats-and-intimidation-of-human-47996/

Palestine: Rights lawyer Mohannad Karajah’s court date scheduled

08/11/21

mohannad karajah

Human rights defender and lawyer Mohannad Karajah is due to appear in the Public Prosecution in Ramallah on 10 November 2021. The human rights defender was informed by the Public Prosecution in Ramallah of this decision on 8 November 2021. His court appearance relates to the charges of “taking part in an illegal assembly”, “incitement of hatred within the communities” and for “denouncing the Palestinian Authority” levied against him on 5 July 2021 for his active role in Lawyers for Justice.

On 4 October, human rights defender and lawyer Mohannad Karajah was threatened with arrest. The human rights defender was previously arrested on 4 July 2021 for advocating for defendants who were arrested for taking part in protests following Nizar Banat’s death. Mohannad Karajah was alleged to have “taken part in an illegal assembly” for attending the protests to monitor human rights violations. As a result, he was accused of “incitement of sectarian prejudices”, a charge often used by the Public Prosecution against human rights defenders to criminalise their human rights work.

Mohannad Karajah is a Palestinian human rights defender and attorney representing Lawyers for Justice, a Palestinian non-governmental, human rights organisation that works to support Palestinian activists and political prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority through legal aid. Lawyers for justice also works on documenting human rights violations which the Palestinians are subjected to by the Palestinian Authority.

[…]

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/judicial-harassment-against-palestinian-human-rights-defenders

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/palestinian-authority-arrests-lawyer-activists-nizar-banat-protests

‘Climate of fear’ prevails for human rights defenders in Afghanistan

03/11/21

In addition to a prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghanistan is contending with the upheaval caused by the current political transition.

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan report that they are now enduring a “climate of fear”, threats, and becoming increasingly desperate over conditions in the country, an independent UN expert said on Wednesday.  

Stating that “the threat is very real”, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, called for an urgent coordinated response from the international community. 

“Defenders tell me of direct threats, including gendered threats against women, of beatings, arrests, enforced disappearances, and of defenders being killed. They describe living in a climate of constant fear”, she said

Those most at risk are people documenting alleged war crimes, women, in particular criminal lawyers, cultural rights defenders, especially those working in banned sectors such as musical performance, and others from minority groups. 

Some told Mrs. Lawlor that they have erased their online data history to evade identification, and that the Taliban are using other ways to find them. One of them, for example, was identified by an injury to his leg. 

Urgent action 

According to her, the Taliban have raided offices of human rights and civil society organisations, searching for names, addresses and contacts.  

“Many defenders are well known in their local communities, in particular in rural areas, and have left for the anonymity of the cities, but even there, they are forced to constantly change locations,” the UN expert said. “Most have also lost their source of income, further limiting their options to find safety.” 

Mrs. Lawlor called for immediate international support, including an urgent plan for the evacuation of those at high risk, along with their families. 

[…]

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/11/1104822

https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-human-rights-defenders-living-under-climate-fear-un-expert

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2021/11/03/british-lawyers-evacuate-103-women-at-risk-from-afghanistan/

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghan-women-lawyers-run-face-life-limbo-abroad-2021-10-25/

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/126866219/afghans-face-taliban-retribution-perhaps-death-for-kiwi-links-lawyer-says

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/irelands-legal-eagles-join-forces-to-help-bring-women-afghan-judges-to-safety-40979034.html

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/government-faces-potential-jr-over-efforts-to-help-afghan-judges/5110122.article

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/2021/10-october/ccbe-plans-special-award-for-afghan-lawyers

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/02/home-office-yet-to-provide-funding-for-afghan-evacuees-say-councils

Hong Kong: Arrests under security law are serious concern, UN experts call for review 

12/10/21

Hong Kong, Chine. Le 05septembre 2021. Les vice-présidentes de l'Alliance  de Hong Kong pour le soutien des mouvements démocratiques patriotiques de  Chine Chow Hang-Tung ont publiquement rejeté la demande d'information de la

UN human rights experts* expressed deep concern about the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and woman human rights defender Chow Hang-Tung on charges of “incitement to subversion” and being a foreign agent, and urged authorities to refrain from the use of the National Security Law and reconsider its application.

Ms. Chow, a human rights lawyer, was arrested on 8 September 2021. She was a member of the Hong Kong Alliance, an advocacy group which organised the annual candlelight vigil marking the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. Several other activists have been similarly arrested and charged under the National Security Law.

“Terrorism and sedition charges are being improperly used to stifle the exercise of fundamental rights, which are protected under international law, including freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs,” the experts said.

The experts have communicated in detailed written analysis their concerns to the Government of the People’s Republic of China about the National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region highlighting the law’s fundamental incompatibility with international law and with China’s human rights obligations.

The experts also raised their concerns over the qualification of “foreign agent” under the National Security Law, in which reference is made to funding received from foreign governments and activities benefitting them. The experts called on the Government to ensure that associations can seek, receive and use funding from foreign or international sources, without undue impediments.

[…]

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1102882

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/chow-hang-tung

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chow_Hang-tung

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/artist-10132021122322.html

https://www.rfi.fr/cn/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD/20211012-%E8%81%94%E5%90%88%E5%9B%BD%E4%BA%BA%E6%9D%83%E4%B8%93%E5%AE%B6%E5%AF%B9%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E6%A0%B9%E6%8D%AE%E5%9B%BD%E5%AE%89%E6%B3%95%E5%AE%9E%E6%96%BD%E9%80%AE%E6%8D%95%E8%A1%A8%E8%BE%BE%E5%85%B3%E5%88%87 (CHINESE)

https://www.notimerica.com/politica/noticia-china-onu-pide-hong-kong-reconsidere-ley-seguridad-nacional-20211013075949.html (ESPANOL)

Mexico: Rights lawyer Grisell Pérez disappeared for 200 days

12/10/21

(ESPANOL)

https://lasillarota.com/nacion/onu-pide-esclarecer-desapariciones-de-activistas-de-dh-en-mexico/517592