24 January 2018
To coincide with the 8th annual international ‘Day of the Endangered Lawyer’, Council of The Bar of Ireland has written to the embassies of Egypt, Turkey, China, and Azerbaijan, condemning the harassment, imprisonment and torture of lawyers in their respective countries.
Tom Creed SC, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Council of The Bar of Ireland said, “We urgently call upon these governments to cease their campaign of persecution against the legal profession. The present course can only lead to further international isolation and to further deterioration of the human rights situation for the people of these countries.”
In writing to the embassies on behalf of the Human Rights Committee, Mr Creed reminded the governments 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:
Egypt: Ebrahim Metwally Hegazy, Azza Soliman and Mohamed Zaree. Ms Soliman and Mr Zaree have been prohibited from travelling abroad, and Mr Hegazy has been detained and tortured. They have been targeted for persecution solely on account of their tireless work in protecting the human rights of their fellow Egyptians.
Turkey: The detention since September 2017 of 14 lawyers from the People’s Law Office, an organisation which represents the victims of police violence and other human rights violations carried out by state officials. It’s reported that of the lawyers, Engin Gökoğlu, was tortured by prison officers while in detention. At the time of these arrests, the number of lawyers under criminal prosecution in Turkey has reached 1,343.
China: Jiang Tianyong has been convicted of inciting subversion of state power and sentenced to two years in prison simply for representing his clients’ interests. Mr Jiang’s case is, as reported by Amnesty International, part of a wider campaign focused on jailing and intimidating lawyers who take on politically-sensitive cases that challenge the Government.
The Republic of Azerbaijan: Amendments to the Azerbaijani Civil Code adopted on 31 October 2017 give the state-controlled bar association full control over practicing law in the country. We believe that the changes will effectively prevent thousands of our Azerbaijani colleagues from appearing in court at all. We note that the brave lawyers who currently dare to confront the authorities in court about human rights violations are routinely harassed and disbarred. Azerbaijan’s appalling treatment of the eminent human rights lawyers Intigam Aliyev, Khalid Bagirov, Elchin Sadigov and Yalchin Imanov discredits Azerbaijani justice in the eyes of the world.