In the report, Lawyers for Lawyers and the IBAHRI have expressed their concern about the independence of the legal profession, legislative initiatives by the Hungarian government, and the public rhetoric against lawyers and judges.
Lawyers for Lawyers and the IBAHRI have expressed their concern about the independence of the legal profession, legislation and legislative initiatives impacting the judicial independence, and the public rhetoric against lawyers and judges. With adoption of the so-called “Stop Soros” legislation of 2018, the Hungarian government has restricted the rights of lawyers to carry out their professional duties independently and curtained their freedom of association by criminalizing the legal assistance provided by the immigration lawyers and legal NGOs to undocumented migrants.
Moreover, the Hungarian government adopted a new law in 2019 that targets the independence of the judicial system by granting the possibility to public authorities to file a constitutional complaint with the Constitutional Court instead of passing through the ordinary court system. As the independence of the Constitutional Court has been seriously undermined by the governing majority, the Court has been reluctant to hold authorities accountable for their wrongful acts. Moreover, through this new law Constitutional Court judges after their retirement could almost automatically become judges of the Hungarian Supreme Court. This would allow the ruling majority, which currently needs two-third majority in Parliament to elect Constitutional Court justices, to indirectly select and have so-called ‘loyal judges’ at the Supreme Court as well. This might have a direct effect on further eroding impartiality principle.
Lastly, according to our information, media sources have been widely used in Hungary to target, discredit, and demonize lawyers and judges that criticize the government, and uphold human rights. Herewith, the public rhetoric portrays lawyers as the enemies of the Hungarian state as well as defenders of terrorists and criminals.
During the UPR in 2018, Azerbaijan accepted four recommendations with respect to the effective protection of lawyers, including disciplinary measures taken against lawyers, and access to justice. Our report concludes that Azerbaijan has not adequately implemented the four recommendations with respect to lawyers.
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.
We urge the authorities of Azerbaijan to:
respect the rights of lawyers, guarantee that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, and guarantee that lawyers are not being subjected to disbarment or other disciplinary measures on improper grounds, in line with Principles 16(a) and (c), 23 and 27 of the Basic Principles and Article 19 ICCPR. Azerbaijan should ensure that there are fair and transparent admission proceedings into the legal profession. Azerbaijan should implement recommendations 140.70 and 141.13 fully and without any delay;
The next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt’s human rights record is scheduled for 13 November 2019, under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. We are writing to strongly urge your government to use this occasion to address the ongoing human rights crisis in Egypt.
Since the last review of Egypt’s record in 2014, human rights violations have increased sharply and the undersigned organisations and our partners have documented unprecedented levels of repression against human rights organisations and human rights defenders. The UPR is an opportunity for States to contribute to reversing these trends and promoting respect for human rights in Egypt.
We urge your government to take part in the UPR process and to make concrete recommendations to the Egyptian authorities to urgently address the following issues:
Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, civil society activists and all those detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including lawyers, journalists, labour rights activists, minority rights activists, and LGBTQI activists. Put a stop to excessive police probation measures and the use of prolonged pre-trial detention to punish dissenters, close Case 173/2011 against Egyptian NGOs and lift arbitrary travel bans on human rights defenders.
More than three years since Turkey’s 2016 failed coup and one year after its state of emergency was lifted, the government continues its relentless and pervasive crackdown on civic space, media freedom and dissenting voices.
Turkey’s human rights record will come under review by the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Period Review (UPR) mechanism in January 2020. Ahead of the review, ARTICLE 19, P24, PEN International, English PEN, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Press Institute (IPI), Freemuse, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), IFEX and Norwegian PEN have made a submission to the UPR.
“This report charts the extraordinarily rapid decline in the rule of law and freedom of expression in Turkey over the last four years. The Turkish authorities have dismantled the independence of the judiciary and more journalists have been jailed than anywhere else in the world,” Sarah Clarke. “We urge UN member states to take much stronger action in holding Turkey to account for these violations.”
“The Turkish media is pinning its hopes on international mechanisms and the United Nations Human Rights Council to end its persecution,” IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “This report not only highlights the precarious situation in Turkey, but also makes suggestions to remedy the situation.”
Amongst the report’s key recommendations are to urge Turkey to restore the rule of law and impendence of the judiciary, to release all jailed journalists and to drop the hundreds of baseless charges against journalists, artists, civil society actors and academics.
Criminalization of the use of ByLock constitutes the retroactive punishment because a) it is not foreseeable under Turkish laws, b) it is unprecedented in Turkish case-law, c) at the time of such alleged use it was not the object of sufficiently precise, valid law to which a sufficiently certain sanction was attached,
The use of ByLock does not prove criminal guilt.23 Using an electronic communication software which was offered to public use via the most visited and famous online platform (i.e Apple and Google Play stores) is legitimate exercise of fundamental rights, namely the freedom of expression and the freedom of [confidential] communication, not a crime. Freedom of expression includes the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, including all forms of electronic and internet-based modes of expression,
A conviction may be based on correspondence which show a crime has been committed provided that such correspondences have been legally acquired and in any case it is supported with other concrete evidence,
An arrest or detention that lacks any legal basis—in violation of the principle of legality—is arbitrary. Retroactive criminal punishment by detention amounts to arbitrary detention. Arrest or detention as punishment for the legitimate exercise of the rights as guaranteed by the ICCPR, such as freedom of expression, is arbitrary,
In the report, Lawyers for Lawyers expressed concerns about the newly passed law ‘On the Professional Activities of Advocates and Legal Assistance’ for it could undermine the independence of the legal profession.
Lawyers for Lawyers also highlighted that the Kazakh authorities do not always uphold the necessary guarantees for the proper functioning of the legal profession in practice. Lawyers are regularly subjected to improper interference or attempts to put pressure on them by members of law enforcement agencies or investigative bodies. Furthermore, lawyers regularly sometimes do not have the opportunity to meet with their clients in full confidentiality.
In an open letter sent to heads of government missions to the UN in Geneva, Human Rights in China joins 39 other NGOs to press for a UN resolution to address the deteriorating human rights situation in China.
The NGOs call for governments to use the upcoming session of the Human Rights Council (February 25-March 22, 2019) as an opportunity to push with “one voice”: for accountability for the steeply worsening rights abuses in China which have been gaining increasing international attention.
Two reviews of China’s rights practices at the UN last year, in particular—by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)—highlighted deeply concerning developments, including the mass internment of Uyghur and other ethnic Muslims in so-called “vocational retraining camps,” in gross violation of religious and cultural rights; the broadening control over information and expression especially online in the name of cybersecurity; the continued persecution of human rights lawyers and defenders; and the erosion of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, in violation of the “one country, two systems” principle.
Reaching beyond its borders, China has also been waging a sustained challenge to the existing international human rights framework, which is based on the principle of the universality of human rights.
(1) In the last years, the crackdown on freedom of expression has intensified. Reports indicate that in 2017, Viet Nam authorities have detained or exiled many peaceful activists and bloggers. Human rights lawyers who work on sensitive cases frequently face reprisals either in relation to their own human rights advocacy or their legal representation of people seen as critical of the Government. They are subjected to, amongst other things, threats, harassment and intimidation. Some lawyers have been the victim of physical attacks in connection to their legitimate advocacy. See Joint submission (JI) L4L & LRWC, par.10
A number of lawyers in Viet Nam have even been subjected to arrests and prosecution in connection to their professional activities or in relation to their human rights advocacy. See JI L4L & LRWC, par.11
(2) Governments must protect lawyers from unfair or arbitrary disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary action against lawyers must be based solely on a code of professional conduct consistent with recognized ethical and professional standards including the Basic Principles and determined by an independent tribunal after a fair hearing conducted in accordance with international due process requirements. Before the UPR review of Viet Nam in 2014, several leading human rights lawyers had been disbarred, including lawyers Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Quoc Quan. More recently, other lawyers have been disbarred or are facing disbarment or other disciplinary actions on improper grounds. See JI L4L & LRWC, par.12
A representative from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) will speak at a United Nations conference next week to highlight human rights abuses in China such as the suppression of lawyers and labour unions.
Ming Lam of HKCTU will be speaking at a pre-session of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, which examines the human rights performance of member states once every five years. The pre-session is designed for civil organisations to raise issues before the Human Rights Council conducts its inquiry in November.
Lam will travel to Geneva next week accompanied by Albert Ho and Emily Lau, both representatives of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG).
Ho will also represent the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, one of the largest pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong.
Ho said the group will prioritise the issue of oppressed dissidents: “We have to pinpoint the imprisonment or detention of a number of dissidents [who were detained] simply because of their exercise of the freedom of speech in a peaceful and non-violent manner,” he said.
The group demanded that China release all detained dissidents and stop the persecution of human rights activists. It raised examples including Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer who has been detained for over 1,100 days without trial, as well as lawyers Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan and Jiang Tianyong.
【International Lobbying: Remember Them, the China Human Rights Lawyers】@chrlcg chairman Albert Ho and boardmember Emily Lau have attended the UPR pre-session on China today. We are calling for immediate release and stop all forms of torture towards human rights lawyers. pic.twitter.com/I7VSwPjZmu