To coincide with the 9th annual international ‘Day of the Endangered Lawyer’, the Human Rights Committee of the Council of The Bar of Ireland has written to the embassies of Turkey, India, China, Russia and Egypt, condemning the harassment, prosecution, arbitrary detention, threats and torture of lawyers in their respective countries.
In writing to the embassies, Conor Dignam SC, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, urgently called upon these governments to cease their campaign of persecution against the legal profession and reminded them of Principle 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provides that:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics".
The following are the specific cases that were outlined to the embassies as causes for concern:
Turkey: The ongoing detention of Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Engin Gökoğlu, Aycan Çiçek, Aytaç Ünsal, and Behiç Aşçı of the People's Law Office, charged simply for representing alleged members of terrorists in other trials; and a travel ban imposed on lawyer Hanifi Barış for his vocal position against ongoing human rights violations in Turkey. It is believed these actions are in direct reprisal for the lawyers’ tireless work in defence of human rights.
India: The detention of Sudha Bhardwaj, a human rights lawyer whose work has focussed on protecting the rights of Adivasi people in the State of Chattisgarh. It is believed that Ms. Bhardwaj’s arrest is directly linked to her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights in India.
Russia: The indictment of Mikhail Benyash, a defence lawyer providing legal assistance to participants of peaceful protests. He is currently facing up to five years in prison. It is believed that the charges brought against Mr. Benyash are in direct reprisal for his work in defence of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. Furthermore, the detention of Emil Kurbedinov, a human rights lawyer actively involved in the defence of the rights of Crimean Tatars, charged with “propagandising for extremist organisations” and now faces disbarment from the Crimean Bar Association. It is believed that these actions are in direct reprisal for the human rights work of Mr. Kurbedinov and his vocal position against ongoing human rights violations in Crimea.
Egypt: The detention of lawyer Mohamed Ramadan who provides legal representation and assistance to victims of torture, human rights defenders and political prisoners. He is currently being held in solitary confinement in a small cell without sanitary facilities. It is believed that the charges brought against Mr. Ramadan are solely connected to his legitimate and peaceful work in defending and protecting human rights in Egypt.
China: The ongoing detention of lawyer Wang Quanzhang who has been held incommunicado since his detention on 9 July 2015 during a nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders in China. Charged with ‘subversion of state power’ he faces life imprisonment if found guilty. We believe that the charges brought against Mr. Quanzhan are solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.