International Association of People's Lawyers

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  Dissent Special Issue - Defending Lawyers

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7th Endangered Lawyers' Day, January 24, 2017: Focus on China

Media Release by the International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers

The IAPL condemns the Chinese government for the continuing serious repression of the rights of human rights lawyers in that country, and the rights of lawyers’ families, professional colleagues and staff. It is also clear that we must condemn the repression of the rights of the lawyers’ clients.

This is the 7th Day of the Endangered Lawyer and we congratulate those who have worked so diligently to make these Days a success, in particular the Foundation for the Day. Each day brings the attention of the world to the continuing and increasing attacks on lawyers, especially those who defend human and environmental rights.

In the 709 Crackdown, which commenced on 7 July 2015, the Chinese government has used many forms of repression against those who carry out their duty as legal professionals but whom the government has essentially labelled enemies of the state. The repression is comprehensive and violates the Chinese Constitution, the Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedures Law, and the Rules of the Peoples’ Court.

 In addition, it violates numerous international law norms, including the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, various conventions on social, political, cultural and economic rights, conventions against discrimination and the protection of human rights.

Further, the government of China seems unwilling to recognize its duties under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In a recent interview with a human rights lawyer, who, during his 558 days of detention, suffered from torture, he confirmed reports of the extensive use of torture against the lawyers (and others) The torture included, but was not limited to, the following: (1) dangling chair, (2) fatigue interrogation, (3) sleep deprivation, (4) intimidation, (5) beating, (6) smoking with cigarettes, (7) deprivation of food and water; (8) deprivation of medical treatment; (9) deprivation of purchasing daily necessities, (10) social isolation. Others detained have suffered electric shocks sufficient to make them unconscious.

Almost the entire community of human rights lawyers has been rounded up and accused of a number of false charges such as “inciting public disorder”, “divulging state secrets” and “inciting to state subversion” as well as “subverting state power”, “assembling to disrupt public order”. Frequent charges have also been laid under the Measures for the Administration of Law Firms and the Measures for the Administration of Lawyers’ Practice, e.g. for ”divulging information that should not be divulged” or which “might have serious consequences”

Punishments, in addition to torture, have included physical threats, intimidation and harassment to them, their family, colleagues and staff; restriction of travel for them and their relatives; illegal detention for lengthy periods, disappearance and revocation of their license to practice as a lawyer.

We call upon the Chinese government to:

1.      Fulfil its legal duty to respect and observe the rule of law according to its own laws ,its  Constitution and international law.

2.      Release all lawyers (and others) unlawfully detained, convicted and sentenced.

3.      Ensure the full protection of the law and rights of all lawyers (and others) arrested or held as criminal suspects or as defendants including but not limited to; right of access to a lawyer of their own choice; adequate medical treatment; opportunities for visitation; freedom from torture and other inhuman treatment; and freedom from the coercion to confess, i.e. recognize the right not to incriminate oneself.

4.      Cease all harassment, intimidation and threats and collective punishment against lawyers’ families, colleagues, friends and legal staff and ensure that rights of all citizens are guaranteed to them.

5.      Restore the licences to practice that have been unjustly revoked.