Human Rights Monitoring Group Update — January 2017
The Law Society’s Human Rights Monitoring Group is a group of appointed benchers, 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.
On January 30, 2017, the Law Society released public statements expressing grave concerns about the following human rights lawyers:
Imprisonment of lawyers Buzurgmehr Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov of Tajikistan
It has come to our attention that on October 6, 2016, prominent human rights lawyers Buzurgmehr Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov were convicted and sentenced to 21 and 23 years in prison, respectively, on charges of fraud, swindling, “arousing national, racial, local or religious hostility” and extremism. They have also been banned from practising law for five years following the completion of their prison sentences.
Human rights organizations believe that both lawyers’ arrests and subsequent convictions are tied to their representation of members of the Islamist Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (“IRPT”). The IRPT was banned by the government of Tajikistan in September 2015 and later declared a terrorist organization.
Arrest of lawyer Levent Piskin in Turkey
Human rights lawyer Levent Piskin was arrested by the Turkish police on November 14, 2016. He is alleged to have conveyed messages from his client, Selahattin Demirtas, to the German publication Der Spiegel. Although reports indicate that Levent Piskin was, on November 16, 2016, provisionally released pending the end of the investigation, we are concerned that the basis for his arrest remains unclear as no formal charges have been brought against him.
The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the government of Turkey to comply with Turkey’s obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Harassment of lawyer Elchin Sadigov in Azerbaijan
It has come to our attention that on November 2, 2016, Elchin Sadigov was threatened by an investigator from the Main Organized Crime Department (MOCD) of the Ministry of the Interior after he disclosed, in an interview, information about the alleged torture of his client, journalist Fikret Farmazoglu, by MOCD staff. Fikret Farmazoglu is currently detained at the MOCD. Reports indicate that the investigator told Elchin Sadigov that he would “pay a high price” for accusing the MOCD of torture.
Since the November 2, 2016 incident, Elchin Sadigov and his family have faced additional harassment and intimidation. The Law Society is deeply concerned about Elchin Sadigov’s case.
Harassment of lawyer Electra Koutra in Greece
Electra Koutra is a human rights lawyer who has experienced harassment as a result of her advocacy on behalf of several Syrian refugees. It has come to our attention that on September 27, 2016, several Syrian refugees between the ages of 13 and 16 were on their way to a cultural centre to take part in a theatrical performance about their lives in Syria when they were intercepted by Greek police and taken into custody on suspicion that they were members of an armed group.
Electra Koutra represented the children and their parents as they attempted to report the incident and file a complaint. When precluded from doing so, she posted a statement on her Facebook page, disclosing that the children had been ill-treated by the police and that their attempt to lodge a complaint had been blocked. The Facebook post went viral and culminated in an order for a criminal pre-investigation into the incident. Shortly thereafter, Electra Koutra experienced several acts of harassment.