AhmadrezaDjalali, father of two children and Professor of disaster medicine at the VrijeUniversiteitBrussel, has now been detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison for over fifteen months.
A joint urgent appeal was sent by the UN, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to the Iranian authorities. However, to this date, the Islamic Republic of Iran has still not given any answer to the matters raised in the letter, including those relating to guarantees of due process and fair trial.
Recently, a trial has finally been scheduled on the 2nd of August before the 15th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by Judge AbolqasemSalavati who is sadly well known for imposing harsh sentences in politically motivated cases.
How fair will this trial be?
During seven months spent in solitary confinement, Pr. Djalali has been subjected to intense interrogations and forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements and confessions. He has not only been insulted and threatened with the death penalty, but he has also been threatened multiple times with his wife’s and children’s lives. The HRL Foundation fears that the confession Pr. Djalali was forced to sign after months of interrogations and threats will be used as evidence in Court. Although the admission of statements obtained as a result of torture or of other ill-treatment as evidence in criminal proceedings renders the proceedings as a whole unfair, this consideration has unfortunately not refrained revolutionary courts to do so in the past.
Pr. Djalali has also been denied access to a lawyer during those seven months of isolation. After that, his right to communicate with and to be represented by a counsel of his own choosing has also been systematically denied.Judge AbolqasemSalavati has rejected three lawyers so far, including one that had been following Pr. Djalali’s case for months. A third lawyer has finally been appointed in June and accepted by the Judge. Why this one but not the others? The reason behind the Judge’s decision remains unclear. Finally, while the trial is planned to take place next week, Pr. Djalali has only met his counsel once to prepare his defence.
Pr. Djalali and his family are struggling a lot emotionally and fear that the trial will not be conducted fairly next week. Let their voice be heard and spread their call for help !
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On 4 July 2017, the Court granted leave to intervene both to the Foundation and to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, with whom the Foundation will submit joint written observations, in the case of Lakatos v Hungary, Application No21786/15. In this case, the applicant alleges that repeated and unfounded extensions of his pre-trial detention, amounting to a period of over three and a half years,occurred in violation of Article 5 protecting the right to liberty and security of the person.
On 6 July 2017, the Foundation also received permission from the Court to intervene as a third party in the case of Tomov and Others v Russia, Application No 41234/16, in which the applicants complain under Article 3 about the appalling conditions of transfer of prisoners between detention facilities. With the collaboration of Russian human rights organisation Public Verdict Foundation, the Foundation has received extensive information about the occurrence of such transfers and will be able to provide the Court with an accurate and up-to-date depiction of the reality on the ground.
These two cases were specifically selected by the Foundation as they represent deep-rooted problems that require deep-rooted solutions. Lakatos follows a long line of cases where the Court found Hungary to have breached Article 5 for excessive pre-trial detention orders, and there are several pending applications containinganalogous complaints. Tomov similarly is but one case among several in which prisoners allege being subjected to inhumane treatment in the context of prisoner transfers.In light of the possibility that both cases are symbolic of a “structural or systemic” problem at national level, the Court, in communicating these cases to the respective governments, asked the parties whether each case called for the application of the pilot procedure contained in Rule 61 of the Rules of the Court.
The Foundation’s objective is to provide the facts and legal arguments necessary to prove that these cases are patentlyrepresentative of a widespread problem and thus lend themselves to the pilot procedure.In using the pilot judgment procedure as a strategic litigation tool, the Foundation will not only contribute to ensuring that the contours of this novel procedure are more clearly delineated. Importantly,the Foundation will stress that the pilot procedure is the only way that truly meaningful and concrete change can be achieved at national level, that only through the adoption of general measures will we be sure that these violations will not continue to be perpetrated in the future.
On 13 June 2017, the governing parties led by Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban passed the Law on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Foreign Funds. This widely-criticised law requires civic groups receiving over €24,000 in foreign funding to register as “foreign-supported” and announce in most of their online and printed publications that they are foreign-funded. Non-governmental organisations will also have to list any foreign sponsors granting them more than €1,600 a year. Failure to comply will carry the risk of fines or closure.
While the government cited the need to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism as the basis for the legislation, the international community has expressed grave concern that this is purely an attempt to hinder NGOs’ work in Hungary and that it is in clear violation of Hungarian Fundamental Law and EU law, in particular freedom of association as protected in the European Convention of Human Rights. Amnesty International described the law as a “vicious and calculated assault on civil society”, claiming that the true aim of the law is to intimidate organisations critical of the government. By forcing NGOs to label themselves as “foreign funded”, the government hopes to discredit their work. The Venice Commission also published a Preliminary Opinion on the Draft law, pointing to the fact that only minimal changes were made to the law based on its recommendations.
Unfortunately, this move is not unprecedented. Hungary already passed a law in 2011 imposing extensive reporting requirements on NGOs. Other countries have also used similar legislation as a guise to stifle dissent. Russia passed a ‘foreign agents’ law in 2012 which is strikingly similar to that adopted in Hungary and led to nearly 30 organisations being closed since its adoption. In October 2016 Bangladesh adopted the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, imposing burdensome limitations on the work of civil society in Bangladesh.
Many organisations in Hungary rely on foreign funding and several receive support from Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, a Hungarian-born American philanthropist who appears to be the main target of this legislation. One of the organisations that will be strongly affected by this legislation is the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), with whom the Human Rights Litigation Foundation recently established a collaboration in the preparation of a joint intervention before the European Court of Human Rights. The HHC conducts credible and crucial work in Hungary and its continued functioning is essential to ensure that Hungary complies with its human rights obligations. The Foundation stands in solidarity with the HHC in these trying times and supports any attempts it will make to have the law reviewed. Click here for more information on the steps the HHC plans to take in response to the adoption of this law.
9 May 2017
The Human Rights Litigation Foundation has the honour to announce that the European Strategic Litigation Programme (ESLP) has launched into action as of 2 May 2017 with the commencement of its first large-scale project: third-party interventions before the European Court of Human Rights.
Pursuant to Rule 44(3)(a) of the Rules of the Court, “any person concerned” may, with permission of the President of the Chamber, submit written comments or, in exceptional cases, take part in a hearing as a third-party. Third-party interventions are a powerful tool in the Strasbourg system. As a third-party, one may shed light on legal developments and assist the court in reaching the most legally accurate conclusion, as well as give contextual information allowing the Court to view the case against a broader background. However, there are also important confines to such interventions. Strict timelines must be respected, requiring daily review of communicated cases, and most importantly, a third-party may not comment on the facts or the merits of the case. The Foundation, in its capacity as third-party, must remain an unbiased observer: it is an amicus curiae, a friend of the Court.
The ESLP’s project has a specific objective which informs the cases it selects for third-party intervention. This objective is to identify, and if viable, intervene in, cases which reveal a systematic pattern of violations of a particular right in a particular country. In proving the existence of such a pattern, the Foundation will have a basis upon which to prompt the Court to trigger the “pilot procedure” envisioned in Rule 61 of the Rules of the Court. A pilot judgment allows the Court to take the matter beyond that individual case and order that general measures be implemented at national level. Through this vital procedure, the Court is able to address widespread violations and prevent their reoccurrence in the future.
With the above aims in mind, the ESLP team is currently monitoring communicated cases before the Court which involve violations of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and prioritizing those which reveal a systematic and structural shortcoming. Cases currently being considered are Lakatos v. Hungary, App No 21786/15, concerning the excessive length and unfounded nature of pre-trial detention in Hungary, and Tomov and Others v. Russia, App No. 41234/16, in which detainees have complained about the inhumane and degrading conditions they suffer during inter-prison transfers. In assessing the viability of potential interventions, the ESLP team is contacting lawyers, non-governmental organisations and other actors on the ground to gain as much first-hand information as possible and to ensure that our submissions are accurate, complete, up-to-date, and most importantly, able to give a voice to those who are affected by these violations but not in a position to be heard by the Court. Following favourable verdicts delivered on these selected cases, the ESLP team will monitor their implementation and execution in the responding Governments.
We invite organisations and other actors directly involved in monitoring systematic human rights violations in their home countries to contact us at [email protected] should they wish to provide any relevant information which will support our call for pilot judgments.
President of the HRLFoundation
On the 17th of February 2017, the Human Rights Litigation Foundation has submitted its first communication to the United Nations in application of its United Nations Programme.
Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali
The alarming situation of Mr. Ahmadreza Djalali, Professor in disaster medicine at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, was reported in the press on the 3rd of February 2017.
Mr. Ahmadreza Djalali was arrested on the 25th of April 2016 while he was visiting his family in Iran. Since then, he has been detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison. It is believed that his arrest and detention are based on false suspicions of collaboration with “enemy States”. During his detention, Mr. Djalali has spent three months in solitary confinement where he has been subjected to intense interrogations and has been forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements and confessions.
Mr. Ahmadreza Djalali has been denied access to a lawyer for over seven months. The lawyers he appointed afterwards have both been rejected and Mr. Djalali is therefore still without counsel today. Additional elements indicate that the fundamental guarantees of fair trial and due process are at serious risk of being grossly ignored by the Iranian authorities.
In addition, as Mr. Djalali is facing national security-related charges, he may be sentenced to the death penalty. To protest against his arbitrary detention and against the systematic denial of access to legal assistance of his own choosing, Mr. Djalali has also conducted several hunger strikes. The longest lasted 49 days and was followed by the next only three days later. On the 24th of February, he cut off both food and water. Mr. Djalali’s health has therefore seriously deteriorated and his life is now gravely at risk.
Communication to the United Nations
Considering Mr. Ahmadreza Djalali’s life-threatening situation, the Human Rights Litigation Foundation has submitted a communication to the United Nations requesting that a joint urgent appeal be sent to the Iranian authorities by the relevant Special Procedures:
– The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;
– The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;
– The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In doing so, the Foundation hopes that the Islamic Republic of Iran will communicate information on the allegations made and that it may take steps to bring the situation of Mr. Djalali into conformity with the human rights standards and principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (that the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified on 24 June 1975).
Although the success of an urgent appeal highly depends on the State’s willingness to co-operate, the Foundation hopes that it may lead the Iranian authorities, in particular, to :
– Take the measures necessary to ensure that Mr. Djalali’s rights to life, and to physical and mental integrity are respected;
– Ensure that Mr. Djalali has access to qualified medical personnel;
– Take appropriate measures to ensure that Mr. Djalali’s right to a fair trial before an independant and impartial tribunal is respected, notably by ensuring that he has regular contacts with an independent lawyer of his own choosing to prepare adequately his defence;
– Release Mr. Djalali if there is no evidence against him.
If you want to get involved and support us in our efforts to liberate Dr. Djalali, please make a donation via our “Donate” tab.