Human Rights Monitoring Group Update – January 29, 2016

Posted: 01/29/2016

Human Rights Monitoring GroupThe Human Rights Monitoring Group (the “Monitoring Group”) is a group of benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada appointed by Convocation. It was established in 2006 to monitor human rights violations that target members of the legal profession and the judiciary as a result of the discharge of their legitimate professional duties.

Today, the Law Society has released eight public statements expressing grave concerns about the following human rights lawyers:

Pu Zhiqiang in China 

Pu Zhiqiang is a prominent human rights lawyer in Beijing and lawyer to artist Ai Weiwei. He often defends clients who are involved in politically sensitive cases. It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on 22 December 2015, Pu Zhiqiang was convicted and given a three-year suspended sentence, following 19 months of detention on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. The charges are related to social media posts questioning government policy, which were posted online between July 2011 and May 2014. Reports indicate that although Pu Zhiqiang has been released, the verdict will prevent him from ever practising law again.

Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal in India

Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal are human rights lawyers and the founders of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG), an organization that provides free legal aid to Adivasi people in Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Sukma and Bijapur. It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on 6 October 2015, the Bastar Bar Association passed a resolution prohibiting any lawyer who is not registered with the local Bar Council from practising in the Jagdalpur courts. The resolution prevents Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, both registered with the Delhi State Bar Council, from representing clients in Jagdalpur.

Khin Khin Kyaw in Myanmar

Khin Khin Kyaw is a member of a legal team that is representing more than 50 students who participated in the March 2015 protests to oppose Myanmar’s National Education Law. Reports indicate that while Khin Khin Kyaw was representing her clients in court on 1 September 2015, the judge refused to accept a minor amendment to the legal motion Khin Khin Kyaw submitted. Individuals in the courtroom loudly accused the judge of being biased. On 15 September 2015, Khin Khin Kyaw was charged with ‘disrupting the court’, and her trial began on 14 October 2015. It is the Law Society’s understanding that she is now facing up to six months in prison and the revocation of her licence to practice law.

Khalil Ma’touq in Syria

Khalil Ma’touq is a longtime and prominent human rights lawyer in Syria, and is also the director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research. On 2 October 2012, Khalil Ma’touq and his friend and assistant Mohammed Thatha left Khalil Ma’touq’s home in a suburb of Damascus, for work in the city. However, the two men did not arrive at the office and it is believed that they were detained at a government controlled checkpoint en route to work. It is believed that Khalil Ma’touq was arrested as a direct result of his human rights work. His whereabouts are still unknown.

Razan Zaitouneh in Syria

Razan Zaitouneh is a prominent human rights lawyer who has won several awards for her human rights work. On 9 December 2013, Razan Zaitouneh, along with her husband, Wa’el Hamada, and two colleagues, Nazem Hamadi and Samira Khalil, were abducted by unknown individuals from a joint office of the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) and the Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) in the Damascus suburb of Douma. Razan Zaitouneh’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Buzurgmehr Yorov in Tajikistan

Buzurgmehr Yorov is a civil and criminal lawyer and the chairman of the Bar Association of Dushanbe. It is the Law Society’s understanding that Buzurgmehr Yorov was arrested and detained on 28 September 2015. Human Rights Watch notes that his arrest occurs in the context of a worsening government crackdown on lawyers who take on politically sensitive cases. Human rights organizations believe that his arrest and detention are a direct result of his representation of members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

Nguyen Van Dai in Vietnam

Nguyen Van Dai is a human rights lawyer and a well-known defender of religious freedom. He is the co-founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Centre. It is the Law Society’s understanding that on 6 December 2015, Nguyen Van Dai and three human rights activists were attacked and severely beaten by an estimated 20 masked men. On 15 December 2015, 25 police officers arrested Nguyen Van Dai at his home in Hanoi. Human rights organizations believe that his attack, arrest and arbitrary detention are as a result of his human rights work.

Tran Thu Nam and Le Luan in Vietnam

Tran Thu Nam and Le Luan are human rights lawyers who provide legal support to the victims of alleged police brutality and other human rights abuses by the authorities. They are currently supporting the family of Do Dang Du, who died on 10 October 2015, in police custody after being held there for two months on a charge of theft. It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on 3 November 2015, Tran Thu Nam and Le Luan were attacked and beaten by eight masked men. Human rights organizations believe that they were targeted as a result of their human rights work.

The Law Society is also sending letters to government officials and other organizations as appropriate, urging action and adherence to the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.