Human Rights Monitoring Group Update – June 23, 2016
The 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.
Today, the Law Society released public statements expressing grave concerns about the following human rights lawyers:
Harassment of lawyer Negad El-Borai in Egypt
Negad El-Borai is a human rights lawyer and director of the United Group – Attorneys-at-law, Legal Advisors (“United Group”) in Egypt. According to the information received, Negad El-Borai was summoned to an investigation on 17 May 2016 in relation to a complaint filed by the High Judicial Council. The summons of 17 May 2016 was the fifth of its kind: Negad El-Borai was summoned to four previous investigations in the same case. On 17 May 2016, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the “Observatory”) published a letter condemning the ongoing judicial harassment of Negad El-Borai. Furthermore, the Observatory expressed its concern that human rights defenders and organizations fighting against torture in Egypt are being increasingly targeted by the authorities. The letter also noted that the criminalization of anti-torture work comes in the context of a dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt, which has been marked by a crackdown on civil society and an increase in reported cases of torture, deaths in detention and disappearances.
Harassment of human rights lawyer Nabeel Adib Abdallah in Sudan
Nabeel Adib Abdallah is a prominent lawyer and rights activist in Sudan. The Law Society has received reports that on 5 May 2016, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents raided Nabeel Adib Abdallah’s office, confiscating property and arresting several university students. The raid came after the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum reportedly shut down the university indefinitely and dismissed 17 students for their involvement in recent human rights demonstrations. The students went to Nabeel Adib Abdallah’s office in order to engage him to challenge the dismissal decision when they were arrested. The authorities have provided no justification for the raid and have not cited any specific charges, nor any other information about the removal of Nabeel Adib Abdallah’s property.
Murder of lawyer Jean Kisumbule Muteba in Democratic Republic of Congo
On 27 February 2016, Jean Kisumbule Muteba, a lawyer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was murdered at Bandalungwa, Kinshasa. The motivation for the crime remains unknown. Edouard Mukendi Kalambayi, president of the Bar Association of Kinshasa/Gombe, called on national authorities to investigate the crime and bring the responsible individuals to justice. On 2 March 2016, Kalambayi issued a press release reporting that Congolese authorities had made several commitments regarding Jean Kisumbule Muteba’s murder. This movement followed protests from lawyers about the circumstances of the murder of Jean Kisumbule Muteba and about the safety of lawyers in general. On 7 March 2016, the International Association of Lawyers (UIA) sent a letter to Kalambayi expressing its support for a fulsome and impartial investigation. In their letter, the UIA noted the recent increase in the number of assaults on lawyers and human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Harassment and imminent expulsion of lawyer Taimoor Karimi in Bahrain
Taimoor Karimi is a Shi’ite Muslim lawyer who took part in Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests in 2011 and defended some of the prominent activists who were jailed afterwards. In 2014, Taimoor Karimi was one of 10 individuals whose Bahraini citizenship was withdrawn without due process. Bahraini authorities have obstructed Taimoor Karimi’s right of appeal and refused to justify the decision to revoke his citizenship. Taimoor Karimi has fought the order for three years, during which time he has lost his government-issued identification, job and bank account. On 10 August 2014, the public prosecutor issued a court summons to Taimoor Karimi for “violations of asylum and immigration law” that include remaining in Bahrain without the residence licence that all non-nationals over 16 are required to have. Since the Appeal Court in Manama upheld his sentence on 23 May, he has been at imminent risk of expulsion from Bahrain.
Harassment of lawyer Juan Carlos Gutiérrez in Venezuela
Juan Carlos Gutiérrez is a lawyer and counsel to Venezuelan opposition leader and political prisoner Leopoldo López. On 25 April 2016, Mr. Gutiérrez filed a formal complaint before the National Prosecutor’s Office, stating that he was subjected to several humiliating practices by military authorities at the Ramo Verde Prison where Mr. López has been detained since February 2014. The impugning conduct includes: strip searches; verbal and physical assaults; and intrusive and inappropriate touching. Juan Carlos Gutiérrez asserts that his ability to represent his client has been impeded by unjustified restrictions on his communications with his client. Moreover, he alleges that prison authorities have eroded solicitor-client privilege by recording all of his meetings with his client and by reading, and occasionally confiscating, confidential lawyer-client communications without permission. Juan Carlos Gutiérrez alleges that prison authorities have photographed him without consent and have accessed information on his mobile phone.