Human Rights Lawyers at Risk

2015 2015-09-24T13:26:21+0300 2015-09-24T13:26:21+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The report is based on data and information gathered from alumni of the HRHN International Law in Advocacy (ILIA) programme. HRHN has brought this material together to uncover the conditions under which human rights lawyers work in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.

In recent years, pressure has intensified on lawyers working in human rights or representing individuals who claim their rights have been violated. This trend is particularly worrying in Eastern Europe, where it is threatening the wellbeing of society as a whole, and endangering the ability of States to function under the rule of law.

The pressure and punishment of human rights lawyers is not confined to Eastern Europe and the countries in which HRHN is active. Although the report’s geographic scope is limited to these locations, its findings and recommendations have wider applicability. For example, Chinese human rights lawyer Xiao Guozhen, a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, shared his experience from his country: 

The increasing popularity of human rights lawyers, especially among the disgruntled and oppressed, and their rising influence on social media, has scared our leaders to such an extent that they felt it necessary to carry out the current wave of nationwide arrests.

The violation of existing protections for lawyers adds to the need for further protections.  Our colleague from Azerbaijan, Intigam Aliyev, today sits in prison. His story of repression serves as an illustration throughout the report of the need to increase protection for lawyers. The report highlights many other cases to underline the systematic nature of repression against lawyers.

HRHN’s advocacy work will direct the report at the Council of Europe, the UN General Assembly, and national governments: 

  • Council of Europe – The Council of Europe must establish a system to prevent and punish reprisals against human rights lawyers cooperating with the Council of Europe mechanisms, especially human rights lawyers working with the European Court of Human Rights, for which a conventional protection is foreseen in the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • UN General Assembly – The UN General Assembly will adopt a new resolution on human rights defenders this autumn.  We are pushing for language explicitly protecting the  legal representatives of human rights defenders to be included in the resolution.
  • National governments – Systematic repression of human rights lawyers must stop. We are making the case that governments must investigate and punish those responsible for such repression.

We encourage HRHN members to:

  • Publish the report – Please publish the report and the attached press release and list of some of the lawyers on your website. Please also make it visible on social media. Please use the hashtag #RightsLawyersAtRisk.
  • Discuss the issue with your national authorities – We strongly encourage you to send the report to relevant sections and responsible people at your Ministry of Justice, and to request a meeting to discuss the findings and recommendations. HRHN Secretariat can provide you with an overview of the cases mentioned in the report that relate to your country. We can also support the travel of one of the alumni of the ILIA programme to join such meetings with authorities.
  • Share the report with MPs and MEPs – Contact MPs and MEPs and encourage them to question their governments, the European Commission, and the European External Action Service (EEAS) about their actions to protect human rights lawyers.
  • Share the report with the diplomatic community – Please share the report with the diplomatic community in your country, call upon them to publicly condemn cases of threats, harassment, persecution, and violence against human rights lawyers, and to provide moral and financial support to such lawyers and their relatives. Urge diplomats to attend events organised by human rights lawyers to show public support for their work.
  • Share advocacy opportunities with HRHN Secretariat– Please share any other advocacy opportunities with the Secretariat.

Please find attached the report (in English, and Russian will be available soon), as well as examples of threats (in English and Russian) and HRHN’s press release (in Russian and English).

Please feel free using it for your publications.