A global initiative to support endangered lawyers has been launched by The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe.

The Bar Council is encouraging barristers in England and Wales to offer their support to specific colleagues who have been targeted simply for doing their job.   

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, said: ‘Lawyers should be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, intimidation, and harassment. The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe has drawn our attention to a small number of individuals who are at serious risk. They are lawyers who have been detained, targeted and even imprisoned or disappeared. We want to be able to raise awareness of their plight and offer some support.’

Members of the Bar in England and Wales may wish to support the individuals identified as at risk by raising concerns with the relevant country representatives based in the UK.

Turkey: Turan Canpolat

Lawyer Turan Canpolat was convicted in January 2016 and remains in detention. Turan Canpolat was sentenced to ten years under anti-terror laws. He has been in solitary confinement for 22 months and has two pending applications before the Constitutional Court since the start of 2020. Several irregularities have been identified in relation to his arrest, detention and the legal proceedings including the falsification of court orders and documents added to the prosecution file; a clear lack of evidence and false accusations made against the lawyer without proper indictment.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe are calling on the Turkish authorities to release Turan Canpolat. Lawyers in Turkey should be able to carry out their professional duties without
fear of reprisals including imprisonment.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Turan by contacting the Turkish Embassy in London via email: embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr

Burundi: Tony Germain Nkina

Lawyer Tony Germain Nkina was arrested while carrying out his professional duties on 13 October 2020 when he was visiting a client in Kabarore commune. He has been charged with endangering internal state security and was later convicted on 15 June 2021 for 'collaborating with rebels who attacked Burundi'. On 29 September 2021 the Court of Appeal of Ngozi upheld his conviction to a 5-year prison sentence.

The prosecution did not produce any credible evidence against Tony Germain Nkina and no prosecution witnesses appeared in court. In the first trial the prosecution accused him, among other things, of travelling to Rwanda to give information to Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons. It appears that his imprisonment is politically motivated and based on his human rights work.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe are calling on the authorities in Burundi to release Tony Germain Nkina immediately and allow lawyers to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisals including imprisonment.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Tony by contacting the Burundi Embassy in London via email: info@burundiembassy.org.uk 

Iraq: Ali Jaseb Hattab AI Heliji

The current whereabouts of lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab Al Heliji still remain unknown. Two years ago, on 8 October 2019 he disappeared after armed men abducted him in Ammarah. His abduction appears to be linked to his legal work representing anti-government protestors.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe are calling on the authorities in Iraq to take urgent steps to find lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab AI Heliji and ensure his safety.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Ali by contacting the Iraqi Embassy in London via email: lonemb@mofa.gov.iq

Belarus: Natalia Matskevich

Lawyer Natalia Matskevich was disbarred by a decision of the Belarusian Bar Association on 27 October 2021 following disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Justice of Belarus. She was suspended from exercising her professional duties by order of the Ministry of Justice on 12 October 2021. The case brought against Natalia Matskevich is linked to her legal representation of public figures in high-profile cases.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe is calling on the authorities in Belarus to refrain from exerting political pressure and influence on the Belarusian Bar to disbar members of the legal profession. In addition, the authorities in Belarus need to introduce sufficient mechanism to protect lawyers and ensure their professional independence in country.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Natalia by contacting the Embassy of Belarus in the UK via email: uk.london@mfa.gov.by

Lebanon: Mohammed Sablouh

On 23 September 2021 the Lebanese authorities contacted a detainee at the Fakhr El-Din facility and pressured them to testify that previous allegations of torture were fabricated. Subsequently, the Military Prosecution sent a letter to the Tripoli Bar Association requesting authorisation to prosecute lawyer Mohammed Sablouh for false accusations. These actions appear to be in response to his professional advocacy against torture and the ill-treatment of prisoners.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe is calling on the Lebanese authorities to take the appropriate steps to protect the professional independence of lawyers including Mohammed Sablouh and ensure that he can exercise his duties freely without harassment. All lawyers in Lebanon should be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance or
intimidation.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Mohammed by contacting the Embassy of Lebanon in the UK via email: ambassadorofficeuk@lebanon-embassy.org

Bangladesh: Shahanur Islam

Lawyer Shahanur Islam faces prosecution and continuous harassment in relation to his legitimate activities as a lawyer, including in relation to his work in defence of LGBTQI+ rights.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe are calling for a full and impartial investigation into the attacks on Shahanur Islam, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards. The authorities must also take steps to ensure the safety of Shahanur Islam and his family.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Shahanur by contacting the Bangladesh High Commission in London via email: info@bhclondon.org.uk

Venezuela: Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas and Engels Puertas

On 6 October 2021, lawyers Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas and Engels Puertas were accused of defamation by the authorities in the state of Mérida and were threatened with arrest. Both lawyers are apparently part of the defence team in the case of two individuals who have been arbitrarily detained, and they have allegedly been tortured in prison.

It appears the threats directed at the lawyers are in response to their criticisms of the judge presiding over this case for alleged violations of due process.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe are calling on the authorities in Venezuela to ensure that lawyers Juan Carlos Barroeta Rivas and Engels Puertas can exercise their professional duties freely and independently without undue hindrance.

Barristers in England and Wales can show support for Juan and Engels by contacting the Embassy of Venezuela in London via email: info@venezlon.co.uk