The UN Support Mission in Libya has criticized the Deterrence Force guards for their assault of lawyer Abdullah Ali Farahat in the Tripoli Court last Monday.
“UNSMIL is concerned by the ongoing harassment, restrictions, and violence targeting lawyers, including the brutal 18 July beating of lawyer Abdullah Ali Farahat… by the Deterrence Apparatus for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism’ (DACOT) guards.”
The UNSMIL called for the protection of lawyers while performing their duties and said they have an essential role in the pursuit of justice, as it highlighted that in the past six months, three other lawyers have been assaulted and arbitrarily arrested and detained.
It called for a full, independent investigation into all attacks against members of the legal profession and for all perpetrators of violence to be held accountable.
Last Tuesday, Libya’s Bar Association held an emergency meeting to condemn the assault of Lawyer Farahat and pledged to act in response.
Awaiting the swearing-in of the new Cabinet under newly elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lankan military with violent force chased away all the protesters occupying the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat and the main protest site Gotagogama early hours of Friday.
Military and riot police, who entered the protest site armed with clubs and wires, attacked the protesters taking control of the protest site while arresting at least eight, including protest leaders and a lawyer.
Journalists and lawyers were not allowed to enter the area and at least two journalists who were covering the clearing off were attacked by the military.
Strongly condemning the attack and forcible removal of the protesters, the US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung tweeted: “Deeply concerned about actions taken against protesters at Galle Face in the middle of the night. We urge restraint by authorities and immediate access to medical attention for those injured,” the US Ambassador tweeted.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), comprising all the lawyers and judges too condemned the government’s action to attack peaceful protesters who occupied the area for more than three months and demanded the exit of former government headed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa and now the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“The BASL strongly and unreservedly condemns the use of force and violence last night by the authorities in attacking protesters at Galle Face in the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat.
It is apparent that hundreds of military personnel and police had blocked the access roads to Galle Face and prevented the public from entering the area. Attorneys-at-Law who tried to enter the area have been prevented from doing so by forces personnel. The BASL has been informed that at least two Attorneys-at-Law who sought to intervene in their professional capacity had been assaulted by service personnel. Video footage also shows unarmed civilians being assaulted by the security forces,” BASL President Saliya Peiris stated.
The BASL demanded for an immediate halt to the unjustified and disproportionate actions of the Armed Forces targeting civilians and urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that he and his government respect the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights of the people.
A new report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) makes for very grim reading, confirming many of the concerns Afghan human rights advocates have raised since last August, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
UNAMA catalogues serious human rights abuses that Taliban forces have committed, including summary executions and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan National Security Forces, which have continued months after the Taliban takeover. It chronicles the series of Taliban decrees on the rights of women and girls that have given rise to “severe restrictions on their human rights, resulting in their exclusion from most aspects of everyday and public life.” And UNAMA describes how “arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, human rights defenders, [and] protesters have had a chilling effect on freedom of the media and civic activism.”
The response from the Taliban authorities was predictable. They ignored the many cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances UNAMA documented, and they denied the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had “ever beaten anyone, harmed or forced anyone to do anything … or said anything to women about dress code.” Much of their response was limited to the situation of prisoners, including the peculiar and false assertion that inmates “are satisfied” with prison food. As UNAMA describes, prisoners have been routinely denied food and water as punishment. Taliban officials, who for years denounced torture by the former government and US forces, did not respond to allegations that they have also tortured prisoners, including by using electric shock.
UNAMA also notes that while civilian casualties have declined as the armed conflict has largely ended (with at least 118,443 civilians dead and wounded since UNAMA started counting in December 2008), attacks by Islamic State-linked armed groups continue to take a terrible toll, killing more than 700 civilians and wounding more than 1400 since August.
Eleven months after Afghanistan’s abrupt transition to Taliban rule, the UNAMA report demonstrates the crucial importance of continued monitoring and documentation of the steady erosion of rights in Afghanistan, and acts as an important reminder of the heavy price Afghans are paying.
Myanmar’s military regime has arrested at least 10 more lawyers in the last two weeks who are defending prominent National League for Democracy (NLD) figures and anti-regime protestors, bringing the total number of lawyers detained since last year’s coup to at least 42.
In the most recent case, lawyers Ko Soe Tun Tun Zaw and Ma Aye Mya Yupar from the Tun Law firm in Mandalay were arrested at their office on July 9.
“Their office is opposite Chanayethazan Township court. They were taken from there in private cars,” a fellow Mandalay advocate, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told The Irrawaddy.
He added that the whereabouts of the duo and reason for their arrest remain unknown.
Their detention came just a few days after two other lawyers from Mandalay, Aung Min Thu and Daw Than Than Lwin, were arrested at their homes on July 2.
“They [arrested lawyers] are representing political detainees. I don’t know exactly why they were arrested. Currently, they [regime forces] are targeting lawyers who represent political detainees”, said the Mandalay advocate.
“Lawyers are being arrested continuously, so I have to be very cautious for my own safety,” he added.
On June 29, lawyer Tin Win Aung, who is acting for ousted Mandalay Chief Minister and NLD vice chairman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung in his trial for alleged corruption, his wife and fellow lawyer Thae Su Naing and lawyer Thuta, who represent anti-regime protestors, were arrested leaving Mandalay’s Obo Prison. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
In April, lawyer Ywat Nu Aung, who also represented Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, was also arrested outside Obo Prison.
Concerning the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers: participation of women in the administration of justice, the Council called upon all States to guarantee the independence of judges and lawyers and the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors, and to promote the full, equal and meaningful participation and representation of all women at all levels of the administration of justice. The Council called upon Governments to respond favourably to the requests of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to visit their country, and to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in investigations, follow-up procedures and the implementation of his or her recommendations.
In a resolution (A/HRC/50/L.3) on the Independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers: participation of women in the administration of justice ,adopted without a vote (as orally revised), the Council calls upon all States to guarantee the independence of judges and lawyers and the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors, and to promote the full, equal and meaningful participation and representation of all women at all levels of the administration of justice; calls upon Governments to respond favourably to the requests of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to visit their country, and to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in investigations, follow-up procedures and the implementation of his or her recommendations.
This memorandum provides an overview of Human Rights Watch’s central concerns with respect to the Chinese government’s human rights practices, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the “Committee”) in advance of its review of China (Hong Kong) at its 135th session in June/July 2022. This submission, which draws on years of research and documentation by Human Rights Watch, covers the authorities’ misuse of national security legislation, severe restrictions on freedom of the media, and pressure on a once-independent judiciary, among other issues. We hope it will inform the Committee’s assessment of the Chinese government’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Access to justice, independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial (arts. 2 and 14)
The Chinese government has stepped up pressure on Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, expressing anger at judges’ performance, especially in handling cases related to the 2019 protests. Beijing-controlled newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have run articles and opinion pieces that repeatedly named and attacked judges whom they accused of being biased towards the pro-democracy movement, criticizing them when they question police or prosecution evidence, or when they hand down sentences Beijing considers too lenient. These media outlets have called for such judges to be punished for “encouraging chaos on the streets.”
In November 2020, the Hong Kong Bar Association wrote to Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, calling on her to “defend the judiciary and individual judges against these pernicious accusations,” which it says, “hover on the margins of a contempt of court.” Cheng is not known to have taken any actions to protect judges.
Beijing’s newspapers and pro-Beijing politicians have also attacked the bar association’s then chairperson, Paul Harris, who had called on the government to revise the NSL so that it is consistent with the Basic Law. The papers called Harris “an anti-China politician,” and baselessly linked the organization he co-founded, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, with US intelligence agencies. Beijing’s representative office directly called for Harris’ resignation in April 2021??. They have also threatened to take away the bar association’s statutory powers, including those to certify barristers, which would have serious consequences for lawyers’ independence. Harris did not seek re-election, and after the NSL police summoned him, he left Hong Kong abruptly in March 2022.
In April 2022, another prominent human rights lawyer, Michael Vidler, also closed his law firm of 19 years and left Hong Kong, though without giving an explanation.
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 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.
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.
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.
UN human rights experts* today expressed serious concerns about a violent crackdown against civil society in Iran, including members of workers’ unions and teachers arrested for protesting against their low salaries and poor working conditions, and urged those responsible for using excessive force to be held to account through comprehensive and independent investigations.
“We are alarmed at the recent escalation of allegedly arbitrary arrests of teachers, labour rights defenders and union leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders and other civil society actors,” the experts said.
In the past year, the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association has organised several nation-wide protests over working conditions and low wages, as well as to protest the arrest of teachers and restrictions on public education for all. On 1 May 2022, on the occasion of the International Workers’ Day and the Teachers’ Day in Iran, teachers held protests in a number of cities across the country, joined by workers’ unions, including the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.
Prior to the 1 May protests and until 24 May 2022, over 80 teachers were arrested or summoned by security forces or the judiciary, and the houses of several trade unionists and teachers were raided. None of the teachers were given access to a lawyer. The authorities issued statements claiming that the arrests were due to “infiltration of foreign-affiliated elements into the ranks of teachers and workers” which threatened the order and security of the country. State television broadcast footage of several of the arrested teachers and labour rights defenders, accusing them of engaging with “hostile enemies” and calling their unions illegal.
“The space for civil society and independent associations to carry out their legitimate work and activities is becoming impossibly narrow, exemplified by the large scale arrests of civil society actors and the recent Court of Appeals decision to dissolve the Imam Ali Popular Students Relief Society,” the experts said.