HRC53 – Item 3 – Interactive Dialogue – Independence of judges & lawyers
26 June 2023
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We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report and its emphasis on responding to serious challenges facing human rights lawyers, as well as her desire to focus on the Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.
In Azerbaijan, human rights lawyers face the prospect of prosecution and even disbarment for their work defending dissidents and working on cases that are politically sensitive. We highlight the case of Elchin Sadigov, a human rights lawyer who was charged with “complicity in bribe taking” and could face a twelve year prison sentence. We already have concerns that he is unlikely to have a fair trial.
Our partner organisations are tracking the growing use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) across the wider European region, including in Croatia and Serbia. Such lawsuits are being filed against critics such as journalists, activists, or human rights defenders often with the intention to burden the defendants with cost and effort, thereby deterring future criticism. We urge the Special Rapporteur to devote energy to look at how such lawsuits can be deterred.
Finally, we urge the Special Rapporteur to pay close attention to the role of political interference in the role of the judiciary, as in Georgia and Poland, which has the effect of undermining public confidence in the judicial system as a whole.
We ask the Special Rapporteur whether she has recommendations for the Council in relation to judges and lawyers that have had to flee their country, as is the case with many individuals fleeing Belarus and Russia in recent times?