In every region, there is a growing risk for human rights defenders — the lawyers, judges, politicians, and activists trying to protect vulnerable people. TrialWatch is monitoring multiple cases of lawyers arrested for their work defending the human rights of others.
“Cambodia should stop using vague laws and mass trials to prosecute critics.”
Human rights lawyer Theary Seng is facing charges of conspiracy to commit treason and incitement—seemingly for her criticism of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, although the authorities have yet to explain the basis for the charges.
“It appears that Ms. Kazak was prosecuted for her work defending an opposition leader, in violation of guarantees against abuse of the judicial process.”
Human rights lawyer Lyudmila Kazak, who at the time was representing opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, was grabbed by three men while on her way to a hearing and forced into an unmarked car. Initially told she was being charged with participating in an ‘unauthorized protest,’ she was eventually charged and convicted of disobeying police orders. Her case is one among fifteen unfair post-election cases in Belarus that were monitored by TrialWatch; but it’s also exemplary of Belarus’s crackdown on the lawyers who take on the authorities, as she was subsequently disbarred based on this conviction, precluding her from representing Ms. Kolesnikova.
“The courts should not be weaponized against those who are themselves protecting the fair trial rights of vulnerable individuals targeted by the authorities.”
Mikhail Benyash, a human rights lawyer who frequently represents protesters, was arrested prior to a protest at which he planned to offer legal services. The arresting officers did not identify themselves and after an altercation in the unmarked car in which he was being transported, sparked by Mr. Benyash’s fear that he was being kidnapped, he was thrown to the ground with his hands cuffed behind him, causing injuries. Nevertheless, it was Mr. Benyash who was convicted of assault, despite the fact that the arresting officers did not report any injuries in their initial report. While his conviction was vacated on one of the grounds identified in the TrialWatch report on his case, he faces potential retrial.