Tag Archives: USA

Interview: After Fleeing the Taliban, a Women’s Rights Defender Mourns the Loss of Afghanistan, Urges Action to Save the Country’s Lawyers

12/05/22

Before the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan last August, Najla Raheel was a busy lawyer specializing in assisting victims of domestic violence. She dedicated her free time to serving on legislative committees to strengthen protections for women’s rights. She also served in the upper echelons of the country’s nascent independent bar association. But when Washington pulled out and the Taliban swept in, everything changed.

As the Taliban claimed Kabul, it freed thousands of prisoners — including many of the men Raheel had helped put behind bars for spousal abuse. Fearful of revenge, and stifled by the new regime’s rapid imposition of policies aimed curbing the rights of women, Raheel knew she had to leave. After weeks of hiding in Kabul, she faced a harrowing journey to escape the immediate threats that surrounded her, and after months of legal limbo, has arrived in Canada, where she hopes to start a new life.

JURIST Features Editor Ingrid Burke Friedman spoke with Raheel about her professional life before the Taliban’s rise, the obstacles she faced in fleeing her country and establishing a new home, and her hopes for the beleaguered attorneys of Afghanistan.

[…]

Do you have faith that the legal profession in Afghanistan will regain its independence?

The Taliban seized control of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association shortly after they took Kabul, so by now the organization has been fully merged into their Justice Ministry. Because of that, I can’t say I have any optimism at all, though I do hold out hope for an independent profession in the future. But for that hope to ever translate into action, we will need the support of other bar associations around the globe. Without strong external support, I’m afraid there’s little room for wishful thinking.

What would you ask of lawyers around the world with respect to supporting the work and safety of those attorneys who were forced to flee Afghanistan, as well as those who stayed but now live in persecution?

I call on the lawyers of the world not to forget their counterparts in and of Afghanistan. We desperately need your support. In particular, I would make the following requests:

First: Advocates inside Afghanistan are under threat and their lives are in imminent danger. Help them leave Afghanistan.

Second: Those attorneys that have made it out of Afghanistan are often left to fester in refugee camps for far too long, which poses a threat to anyone’s mental health. Help them get out of these refugee camps and into destination countries.

Finally: Those attorneys who have made it past all of these obstacles and have arrived in destination countries so often find themselves unemployed, and thus unable to provide for themselves and their families. And ultimately, these attorneys who have devoted their professional lives to defending the rights of others find themselves silenced. Help them find work. In fact, help them find work helping Afghan refugees in order to alleviate this whole dark cycle.

https://www.jurist.org/features/2022/05/12/interview-after-fleeing-the-taliban-a-womens-rights-defender-mourns-the-loss-of-afghanistan-urges-action-to-save-the-countrys-lawyers/

https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/daphne-bramham-lives-of-afghans-who-worked-for-canada-in-heightened-danger

https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/05/afghanistan-dispatch-taliban-issue-severe-hijab-decree-for-afghan-women-2/

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/nouvelle-aquitaine/gironde/bordeaux/temoignage-une-avocate-fuit-le-regime-des-talibans-en-afghanistan-et-se-refugie-en-gironde-2540184.html (FRANCAIS)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine: what the international legal community can do to help

21/04/22

The webinar titled ‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine: How can the legal profession provide support to Ukraine?’ took place on 6 April 2022 and was expertly moderated by Joanna Weller of LexisNexis, who is also the Co-Chair of the IBA Rule of Law Forum.

The IBA Law Firm Management Committee spearheaded the creation of this webinar as part two of the Russian invasion of Ukraine series and the recording is available here. Part one can be viewed here.

Wayne Jordash QC, Managing Partner at Global Rights Compliance, said that in the future, there will be a need for people who can provide on-the-ground support. ‘People who know their way around the battlefield and search for the ugly truth whenever possible will be needed.’ It will be essential for them to study the local laws. He warned audience members not to go at this alone, but to coordinate with local agencies. ‘You don’t want multiple people interviewing multiple witnesses,’ said Jordash. He stressed that this was not a short-term project and that the international community will need to focus on this for the long term.

‘Even in war, international law has its own rules, but not for Russia. They have even managed to create new kinds of crimes,’ said Anna Ogrenchuk, President of the Ukrainian Bar Association, based in Kyiv. She pointed out, ‘this is one of the challenges we as international lawyers have to face.’ Ogrenchuk remarked how grateful her group was for the support of the various bar associations and lawyers worldwide. However, she pointed out the difficulty and intricacies that will still need to be sorted out from a legal standpoint.

Wendy Betts is Director of eyeWitness to Atrocities, an initiative of the IBA. The organisation works with human rights defenders worldwide and has been working in Ukraine since 2017. Their efforts have been made possible through advances in technology, particularly cell phone usage, to record crimes and related volatile situations. As footage and metadata of this type needs to be verified in order to be used for legal purposes, they have developed an app that helps create footage that cannot be edited or deleted, keeping the integrity of the data and saving it in a closed system. The validity is closely maintained through a chain of custody backed by technology donated by LexisNexis.

Jörg Menzer of Noerr leads the firm’s Bucharest office and is Chair of the IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest (SPPI). He asked the group specifically what could be done by private practice lawyers and what they should consider as the next steps.

[…]

https://www.ibanet.org/ukraine-webinar-report-lfmc

https://www.lawsociety.ie/News/News/Stories/law-society-professional-training-supports-ukraine-colleagues?fbclid=IwAR0KSMFaT1ljOOg6ZQkTtrMMlEYYLbjt693uQwKulqPnUmBz88Ge-_WKBR0

https://ccbe.eu/actions/events/

https://www.ccbe.eu/actions/ukraine/

Ukraine

https://news.siu.edu/2022/05/050322-SIU-School-of-Law-commencement-ceremony-is-May-6.php

https://fr.zone-secure.net/109394/1553047/?fbclid=IwAR1oWhsLx8eH0i-_wa69MOkDv_KPk55RBVZgl8Ci0KNBDjBiZ_heHyc4i8c#page=3 (FRANCAIS)

https://www.ccbe.eu/fr/actions/evenements/

https://www.ccbe.eu/fr/actions/covid-19/

https://www.droit-inc.com/article38331-Quebec-apporte-son-soutien-a-Avocats-sans-frontieres

Cambodian dissident dresses up as ‘Lady Justice’ for trial

03/05/22

An outspoken critic of Cambodia’s government dressed up as “Lady Justice,” complete with scale and blindfold, to bring attention to her case as lawyers in her trial for treason presented their final arguments Tuesday.

Theary Seng, a Cambodian American lawyer, is charged with conspiracy to commit treason and incitement to commit a felony, which together carry a maximum jail sentence of 12 years. The charges arose from a failed attempt by leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia in November 2019, after a period of self-exile. Cambodian authorities, who opposed his return, alleged Theary Seng was involved in organizing the trip, which she denies.

Four other defendants being tried on the same charges are former members and activists of the dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, of which Sam Rainsy was co-founder. Theary Seng denies belonging to the party.

“I am not afraid of prison. I am ready. I am prepared to go to prison if this dictatorial, autocratic regime continues with its injustice against justice itself. So I am not afraid of prison,” Theary Seng told journalists outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court in 2017 ordered the Cambodia National Rescue Party to be dissolved for allegedly plotting to seize power, but it is widely believed the action was taken to help ensure that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party would win the 2018 general election. His ruling party made a clean sweep of the National Assembly seats.

Opponents of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 37 years, criticize him for acting in an autocratic manner and keeping the opposition on a tight leash. He has said he intends to stay in office until 2028 and has endorsed one of his sons to be his successor.

To publicize her case, Theary Seng dressed on Tuesday as Lady Justice, a symbol of law who is traditionally depicted as a Roman goddess bearing a sword and a balancing scale and wearing a blindfold and flowers in her hair. On previous trial days, she had dressed up in a prison-style orange outfit with ankle shackles and as a classical Cambodian Apsara dancer, telling reporters she was expressing her belief that the trial was “political theater.”

[…]

https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-election-2020-cambodia-phnom-penh-sam-rainsy-29caf41e807e622bbcc937d154478b5b

https://www.ucanews.com/news/eu-condemns-political-persecution-in-cambodia/97205

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

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theary_Seng (FRANCAIS)

UK ‘turns back on’ former Afghan prosecutor hunted by Taliban

07/05/22

The UK’s Afghan resettlement scheme is failing to support those looking to flee Afghanistan, a former senior prosecutor who lives in fear of his life in neighboring Pakistan has told The Independent.

The man, who is being hunted by the Taliban, has lived in Pakistan for almost 18 months after fleeing his homeland. But he is still being denied resettlement in the UK despite having family members in Britain.

He is “constantly terrified” that underground Taliban networks in the country will locate and kill him. The former director of prosecution for an Afghan province has already been targeted by a car bomb, which he escaped by switching vehicles before it detonated.

He told The Independent that family members back in Afghanistan have received threatening visits and letters.

The former prosecutor living in Pakistan said of the Taliban takeover: “Can you imagine all the prisoners that I had put in prison for their crimes escaping? All the jails were breaking down, and everyone was coming out by themselves. I was scared to death.

“Dealing with the Taliban is a nightmare for all the attorneys. It was unusual for the head of a province to speak to them directly, but I wanted to see if they had regrets for what they did, as many of them are young.

“But it was very difficult because some of them were the most dangerous people — who are proud of killing women and killing children — and they said they would never regret their crimes.

[…]

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2077091/world

https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/taliban-afghanistan-uk-resettlement-scheme-b2071241.html

https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghan-prosecutors-targeted/31471145.html

https://www.nycbar.org/media-listing/media/detail/taliban-takeover-of-the-afghanistan-independent-bar-association

https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/aba-works-to-help-afghan-evacuees-stuck-in-abu-dhabi-camp

Statement of the New York City Bar Association re: the Taliban Takeover of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association

06/05/22

The New York City Bar Association[1] joins the international community in condemning in the strongest possible terms the Taliban’s recent takeover of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association and related ongoing developments.[2]

The Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (“AIBA”) was established in 2008 under Afghanistan’s Advocates Law as a statutory body to oversee the licensing and regulation of lawyers independent of the executive branch, to promote professional excellence and equal opportunity in the legal profession, and to champion the rule of law and social justice.[3] The AIBA’s by-laws are among the most progressive of any bar association in the world. For example, the AIBA is believed to be the only bar association worldwide to have self-imposed gender quotas for bar leadership, including a quota for women on all executive committees, as well as a requirement of at least one woman vice-president.[4] Similarly, the AIBA by-laws require all AIBA members to take on at least three pro bono cases a year.[5] From its inception, the AIBA has been independent, non-governmental, and non-political.[6]

In the wake of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban in mid-August 2021, the AIBA had been viewed as the country’s sole remaining bulwark of fundamental human rights, due process, judicial independence, the rule of law, and democratic values.[7]

However, on November 22, 2021, the Taliban Ministry of Justice published a decree stripping the AIBA of its independence, including its authority to license lawyers, and merging it into the Ministry.[8] The same decree states that only Taliban-approved lawyers will be permitted to appear in the courts and declares that lawyers must be “honest and loyal to the Islamic Emirate” (the Taliban), must have not worked with the prior government (i.e., the internationally-recognized government), and must have taken part in the “jihad” of the past 20 years – criteria that, in effect, would appear to exclude all non-Taliban figures.[9]

On November 23, 2021, the day after the decree issued, an estimated 50 armed Taliban stormed the AIBA’s offices in Kabul, threatening the lawyers and staff with violence before ordering them off the premises[10] and installing a new president who has ties to the Taliban Ministry of Justice but no relevant experience.[11] Days later, on December 5, 2021, armed Taliban raided an AIBA news conference planned to protest the Taliban takeover and to highlight the importance of the AIBA’s independence, forcing AIBA members to flee for their lives.[12] The situation has continued to deteriorate since then.[13]

Particularly alarming is the fact that, as a result of its takeover of the AIBA, the Taliban now have access to the AIBA’s database of the personal and professional records of more than 2500 lawyers and judicial system employees.[14] These records include detailed, highly-sensitive information on matters such as individuals’ home addresses, family members, and client files – leaving lawyers, prosecutors, and judges (particularly women) even more exposed to the very real possibility of reprisals at the hands of convicted prisoners who were freed by the Taliban and at the hands of the Taliban itself.[15] The Taliban have similarly seized control of the AIBA’s bank accounts and funds.[16]

More recently, the Taliban Ministry of Justice has announced that Afghan lawyers will be required to re-certify under a new qualification process established by the Ministry.[17] Male lawyers who have applied to renew their licenses under the new process report that they have been required to take an oral examination in which the questions are drawn from religious subjects and have nothing to do with the law.[18] To date, the Taliban have failed to issue even a single law license to any woman lawyer.[19]  Although, like their male colleagues, women lawyers have applied to renew their licenses, their requests are not being processed and they have been told to wait until a decision is made as to whether they will be permitted to continue to practice.[20]

[…]

https://www.nycbar.org/media-listing/media/detail/taliban-takeover-of-the-afghanistan-independent-bar-association

https://www.ibanet.org/IBA-appeals-to-UN-for-support-on-Taliban-take-over-of-AIBA

https://www.helloasso.com/associations/fonds-de-dotation-du-conseil-national-des-barreaux/formulaires/2 (FRANCAIS)

https://eye.newsletter.cnb.avocat.fr/m2?r=wAXNA6-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

Cameroon: Rights lawyer Patrick Yong Fanyong abducted by unidentified gunmen

02/05/22

Turkey ordered detention of 89 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

29/04/22

Turkish prosecutors have over the past week ordered the detention of 89 people including teachers, lawyers, active duty and dismissed military officers and former military cadets due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to Turkish media reports.

The public prosecutor’s office in Denizli on Monday issued detention warrants for 10 individuals including teachers and lawyers over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations in the provinces to detain five suspects.

As part of an investigation launched on Tuesday by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants have been issued for 53 people including active duty and former military officers and former military cadets. Turkish police have detained 23 of the suspects in operations in 16 provinces.

[…]

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

https://euromedrights.org/publication/free-the-gezi-defendants/

https://ahvalnews.com/gezi-trial/farce-called-gezi-trial-when-verdict-criminal-act

UK/Russia/Ukraine: Lawyer-bashing has a new target

27/04/22

Lawyer-bashing has long been a national pastime, with attacks regularly mounted by the press and politicians on ‘fat cat’ defence barristers and ‘activist’ legal aid lawyers for having the nerve to, er, do their job. 

But a new target has emerged – the alleged ‘enablers’ of oligarchs, whose cash was generally welcomed in London until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

So it was that a panel of eminent investigative journalists queued up at the Frontline Club in London on Tuesday evening to pour scorn on claimant media lawyers as the pressure continues to build.

Some firms are ‘becoming the servants of the super-rich’ and using litigation to try and ‘silence a journalist for years’, said Clare Rewcastle Brown, whose work exposing corruption in Malaysia led to her being sued in London and elsewhere.

Paul Caruana Galizia, a reporter at Tortoise Media whose mother Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in Malta in 2017, said London lawyers are offering a ‘one-stop oligarch shop’ and, in certain cases, effectively ‘acting for an organised crime group’.

Even an officer of the court joined in, with Adelaide Lopez – a senior associate at Wiggin who recently represented journalist Catherine Belton – saying that ‘naming and shaming … is probably going to be more effective than anything the SRA is going to do’. Ouch.

Asked whether the Solicitors Regulation Authority has the ‘capacity or the competence’ to enforce potential new measures to stop so-called ‘lawfare’, Lopez and fellow lawyer Charlie Holt – UK campaigns manager for English PEN – answered in unison: ‘No.’

Perhaps even Gazette readers who deplore the criticism of lawyers for the clients they represent can agree on that one. 

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/obiter/lawyer-bashing-has-a-new-target/5112297.article

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/defence-counsel-backs-naming-and-shaming-oligarch-solicitors/5112287.article

https://www.bloombergquint.com/gadfly/banning-oligarch-lawyers-isn-t-the-answer-change-british-law

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/why-dont-we-just-cancel-all-the-oligarch-lawyers/2022/04/26/4c388a90-c52f-11ec-8cff-33b059f4c1b7_story.html

https://www.barandbench.com/news/ukraine-v-russia-who-are-ukraines-lawyers-before-the-international-court-of-justice

(UKRAINIAN)

USA: Commissioners Urge a UN Committee on Torture Review of China

21/04/22

Commissioners from the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released today a letter to Mr. Claude Heller, the Chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture urging him to not delay a robust review of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because of the PRC’s failure to submit its country report in a timely manner. The Commissioners note that the “human rights situation in China has demonstrably worsened since the Committee’s last review in 2015, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” and remind the Committee Against Torture Chair that the Committee has the power to move ahead with a review without a country report.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the CECC’s Chair and Cochair respectively, were joined on the letter by fellow CECC Commissioners Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Representative Thomas Suozzi (D-NY). The letter includes information about the torture and ill-treatment of individuals detained in China drawn from the CECC’s 2021 Annual Report on human rights conditions in the PRC.  An Executive Summary of the 2021 Annual Report can also be downloaded.

The full text of the letter is below and here

[…]

In the 2015 Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed serious concerns “over consistent reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, which overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions.” In addition, former detainees, including those of mass internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), have documented the prevalence of torture in extrajudicial detention facilities in recent years. Regrettably, credible reports postdating the Concluding Observations continue to show that torture and ill-treatment of detainees at the hands of Chinese government officials have not abated. To give but a few recent examples—

[…]

In October 2020, authorities in Baoji municipality, Shaanxi province, detained lawyer Chang Weiping a second time in one year not long after he accused authorities of having tortured him during the earlier detention in January 2020. Chang has been legal counsel in health discrimination lawsuits, among others. Chang’s detention is linked to a civil society meeting held in Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, in December 2019. Authorities also detained and reportedly tortured lawyer Ding Jiaxi and legal expert Xu Zhiyong in connection to their participation in the Xiamen meeting.

[…]

https://www.cecc.gov/media-center/press-releases/commissioners-urge-a-un-committee-on-torture-review-of-china

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/19/un-high-commissioner-must-uphold-principled-and-coherent-response-chinas-human

Ukraine: Lawyer Syvova Yana kidnapped by Russian forces

16/04/22

Шановні колеги!

Військова агресія російської федерації проти України 🇺🇦 триває!

Нажаль жертвами військових злочинів стають і наші колеги!

Жахливі події відбуваються на тимчасово окупованих територіях Запорізької області!!!

“Русский мир” несе людям тільки горе та страждання. 10 квітня 2022 року окупаційною комендатурою міста Мелітополя було викрадено прекрасну жінку – адвоката, члена Кваліфікаційно-дисциплінарної комісії адвокатури Запорізької області СИВОВУ ЯНУ ВІТАЛІЇВНУ. “Новою владою” вона утримується без жодних підстав. Її доля невідома ні рідним, ні колегам, ні близьким. Таке “освобождєніє” уготоване жителям окупованих територій!? Вимагаємо від загарбників – Припиніть терор!!!

(Рада адвокатів та КДКА Запорізької області Facebook, 14/04/22)

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/16/calls-for-us-to-issue-visa-bans-for-uk-lawyers-enabling-russian-oligarchs