Lawyers in peril
Other Urgent Appeals
LAWYERS IN THE WORLD
MURDERED FOR THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS
Europe March 1999
The HRIBB - HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
Two lawyers and human rights defenders killed in march 1999
Murder of Bajram Kelmendi
Kosovo Human Rights Attorney
On march 25th, murder of the prominent Kosovo human rights lawyer, Bajram Kelmendi, and his two sons. The three men were arrested by Serbian police in Pristina and found shot dead today just outside the capital. The men were taken from their home early yesterday morning. Mr. Kelmendi was beaten in front of his family before he and his sons were forced away in his own car. Serbian police refused to provide Mr. Kelmendi’s wife with information about her family’s whereabouts. Their bodies were found at a gas station southwest of the capital. Their deaths were reported by the Humanitarian Law Center, an independent human rights monitoring organization in Yugoslavia. Kelmendi was associated with the Pristina-based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), a group that provides legal representation to ethnic Albanians facing politically motivated charges in Serbian courts.
"The death of Bajram Kelmendi is the latest in a series of attacks on rights in Kosovo and those who defend them," said Robert Weiner, Director of the Protection Program at the Lawyers Committee. "Kelmendi’s death highlights the increasingly violent nature of reprisals against ethnic Albanian human rights lawyers by Serbian authorities. These murders are representative of the abuse Albanian lawyers have faced for several years in Kosovo." "It’s a classic example of ‘killing the messenger,’" said Weiner. "These lawyers are the Kosovars’ last line of defense against unchecked repression." Recognizing this problem, the United Nations recently enacted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which affirms that "[e]ach State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. (Source : LCHR & CDHRF)¤
The HRIBB - HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
NORTHERN IRELAND 1999
died as a result of injuries sustained in a car bomb blast outside her home
Rosemary Nelson, a leading human rights lawyer from Lurgan in Northern Ireland died as a result of injuries sustained in a car bomb blast outside her home on the morning of March 15, 1999. A dissident loyalist paramilitary group has claimed responsibility for the killing. No one has yet been charged in connection with the murder.
During her career, Mrs. Nelson represented clients drawn from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland. Her clients included those arrested and detained under Northern Ireland’s emergency laws, and those accused of politically motivated offenses. Among her clients was Colin Duffy, whom she successfully defended against the charge of murdering two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in Lurgan in 1997. Because of her work, Mrs. Nelson received numerous death threats from paramilitary organizations. She also alleged enduring systematic intimidation and harassment by RUC officers, including death threats.
Since 1995, Mrs. Nelson represented Garvaghy Road residents in Portadown in their campaign to stop Orange Order marches through their neighborhood. During the 1997 Marching Season, Mrs. Nelson alleged that she was assaulted and verbally abused by members of the RUC after she identified herself as legal advisor to the Residents’ Coalition. More recently, Mrs. Nelson represented the family of Robert Hamill, a Catholic killed in a sectarian attack on April 27, 1997. Eyewitnesses have reported that armed RUC officers watched from their vehicle and failed to intervene as Mr. Hamill was attacked by a loyalist gang. The Hamill family has been critical of the RUC investigation into the murder.
In October 1997, the Lawyers Committeefor Human Rights wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr. Marjorie ‘Mo’ Mowlam, expressing serious concern for the safety of Rosemary Nelson, and other lawyers in Northern Ireland. In that letter, the Lawyers Committee detailed a number of death threats received by Mrs. Nelson. It also noted that such incidents occurred in the context of a long-standing pattern of harassment of and attacks against lawyers in Northern Ireland who represent clients detained under emergency legislation.
In April 1998, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, published a report following an extensive fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland. In that report, concerning the intimidation and harassment of lawyers, the Special Rapporteur concluded inter alia that "the RUC has engaged in activities which constitute intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference," and expressed particular concern that "the RUC has identified solicitors with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions," contrary to Principle 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
On September 29, 1998, Mrs. Nelson appeared before the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. She testified that "[s]ince I began to represent such clients [detained under emergency laws] and especially since I became involved in a high-profile murder case, I have begun to experience difficulties with the RUC. These difficulties have involved RUC officers questioning my professional integrity, making allegations that I am a member of a paramilitary group and, at their most serious, making threats against my personal safety, including death threats." According to Mrs. Nelson, RUC threats were conveyed to her through her clients during their initial interrogation, which routinely occurs without counsel under the emergency laws.
The Rosemary Nelson Campaign Call To Action We are calling upon all concerned persons to join the Campaign's demand for an international, independent investigation and an international, independent judicial enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Rosemary Nelson. What You Can Do : Print out the petition supporting the call for a truly independent, international inquiry Sign the petition on line. Please include your name and location. View the list of people who've already signed the petition. If you are a member of the legal profession, please visit the Legal Professionals' section for information packets and legal petition. See the the Rosemary Nelson Campaign web page :
Make a donation to help support the Campaign's efforts.
Phone, fax, and email the US, British and Irish governments and various media outlets. If you have a website and would like to support this campaign, please email the webmaster so we can add you to the list of supporters.
Call To Action
We are calling upon all concerned persons to join the Campaign's demand for an international, independent investigation and an international, independent judicial enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Rosemary Nelson.
What You Can Do :
Print out the petition supporting the call for a truly independent, international inquiry Sign the petition on line. Please include your name and location.
View the list of people who've already signed the petition. If you are a member of the legal profession, please visit the Legal Professionals' section for information packets and legal petition.
See the the Rosemary Nelson Campaign web page :Rosemary Nelson Campaign
UNITED KINGDOM / NORTHERN IRELAND 1989
Official collusion' in killing of human rights lawyer
Police Informer Arrested and Charged with the Murder
On February 12, 1989, Northern Ireland lawyer Patrick Finucane was shot dead in his home, in front of his family. A loyalist paramilitary organization, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), claimed responsibility. In 1992 the Lawyers Committee reported that it "found credible evidence suggesting collusion between elements within the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the Finucane murder." To date no one has been successfully prosecuted for this murder. The Lawyers Committee has called for an independent judicial inquiry into the murder and evidence of official collusion.
A confidential report handed to United Kingdom (UK) and Irish governments in February 1999 alleged that members of the intelligence branches of the police and the army actively colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries in Pat Finucane's death.
Although the authorities have known about this for the last nine or 10 years, they have refused to bring any prosecutions, contributing to allegations of an official cover-up. These fears were heightened in April when a senior UK police officer announced a criminal investigation into the killing of Pat Finucane amid concerns that this was intended as a substitute for an independent judicial inquiry.
Recently, further new evidence has emerged that suggests that British security forces colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in connection with the murder. Most importantly, Mr. William Stobie was arrested and detained on June 22, and charged on June 23, 1999 with the murder of Patrick Finucane. His response to the charge was read out in Belfast Magistrate’s Court the following day: "Not guilty of the charge that you have put to me tonight. At the time I was a police informer for Special Branch. On the night of the death of Patrick Finucane I informed Special Branch on two occasions by telephone of a person who was to be shot. I did not know at the time of the person who was to be shot."
The arrest and charge resulted from a newly opened police investigation led by senior English policeman Mr. John Stevens. At the hearing, Mr. Stobie’s lawyer made a number of points on behalf of his client, including the assertion that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had possessed the information on which the charge is based for some time.
Mr. Stobie had been charged with possession of firearms and was brought to trial at Belfast Crown Court in January 1991. In the first instance, a mistrial was declared when a police officer made the elemental mistake of mentioning that Mr. Stobie had prior convictions. At the retrial, the Crown offered no evidence, and not guilty verdicts were then entered on both counts. This was highly unusual because in such cases (possession of weapons) the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. Mr. Stobie claims that he threatened to reveal publicly what he knew about the killing of Mr. Finucane, and that this explains the Crown’s action.
An article appearing in Ireland’s Sunday Tribune, dated June 27, 1999, provides further information on Mr. Stobie’s involvement in Patrick Finucane’s murder. According to that article, Mr. Stobie told journalist Ed Moloney about his involvement in the killing so that if he ever feared that his life was in danger, his story would be made public. Information contained in the article includes allegations that Mr. Stobie informed the RUC Special Branch "that an Ulster Defense Association (UDA) ‘hit’ against a high level target was planned, that the identity of the UDA commander in charge of the operation was known, and that there was full official awareness of the precise route through which the UDA gang was going to get the murder weapons." The article also alleges that the RUC had knowledge of the plan to dispose of the weapons following the murder.
In addition, since Stobie’s arrest, three more men were arrested and questioned in connection with the murder. Two of them have been released without charge and the third has been charged with a relatively minor offense, apparently unrelated to the Finucane murder.
Concern about systematic intimidation and harassment of lawyers in Northern Ireland has been raised for years by AI and other non-governmental organizations. In a report published last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers concluded that the Northern Ireland police force was engaged in activities "which constitute intimidation and harassment" of lawyers, and called for an independent investigation into these practices.
Recommended Action :
Amnesty International :Please write, urging the UK government to implement the Special Rapporteur's recommendation for an independent inquiry into the killing of Patrick Finucane. Ask also that it institutes an independent judicial inquiry into allegations of intimidation of defence lawyers.
The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights :Please write politely worded letters to the UK authorities listed below requesting the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane, including questions of official collusion, which have been raised again most recently by the arrest and charge of Mr. Stobie. Please send a copy of your letter (not noted on the original) to Mary Beth Kaufman at the Lawyers Committee. To receive future Lawyer to Lawyer Network alerts via e-mail please contact Ms. Kaufman at (212) 845-5298 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rt. Hon. Dr. Mo Mowlam, MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Belfast Road 4
Fax: 44-1232-528 201
The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair,
The HRIBB - HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
Eduardo UMAÑA MENDOZA
Eduardo Umaña Mendoza, 50, a well-known Colombian criminal law expert and human rights lawyer, was murdered in his home by a death squad on April 18. Three persons posing as a TV journalism crew gained entry to his apartment, which also served as his law office. They tied up his secretary and shot Umaña three times with weapons equipped with silencers. The secretary was able to free herself a few minutes later, but found Umaña dead and the attackers gone.
Eduardo Umaña had a longstanding relationship with the Lawyers Committee and was a crucial source for much of our work on Colombia's notorious "faceless court" system. In 1992, he was among those honored at the Committee's annual Human Rights Award Dinner. Umaña helped to organize one well-known human rights law office, the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados " José Alvear Restrepo " as well as MINGA, a human rights NGO. He specialized in cases involving controversial clients, including imprisoned members of the guerrillas and labor unions accused of links to guerrilla groups. Umaña was well-known for a number of cases, including the legal defense of oil union leaders accused of links to attacks on oil installations; the defense of state communications union (Telecom) members charged with terrorism-related offenses in the "faceless courts"; and his representation of the families of the victims in the 1985 Palace of Justice attack, in which the military killed more than 100 occupants of the Supreme Court building, including numerous hostages, after the M-19 guerrilla group seized control of the building. Recently, Umaña had reportedly managed to obtain judicial orders for the exhumation of victims of the attack. The World Organization Against Torture—on whose executive council Umaña served—alleges that his murder may also have been related to his recent call to reopen investigations into the 1947 murder of Liberal Party presidential candidate Jorge Gaitán, which touched off a decade-long bloodbath known as "La Violencia."
Umaña had survived at least two prior attempts on his life in the last decade. On the first occasion, in 1991, Umaña received a series of death threats culminating in a call informing him that his killers were on their way to his office, from which he narrowly escaped. (See Lawyer-to-Lawyer Network Appeal, October 1991). On another occasion, Umaña escaped an attempted assassination or abduction in a Bogotá cafe. The week before Umaña's murder, one of his secretaries was reportedly beaten by a man who claimed the attack was motivated by her continuing to work for Umaña. According to Daniel García Peña, one of two peace commissioners appointed by Colombian President Ernesto Samper, Umaña had learned of a fresh plot to assassinate him and had reported this to authorities in February. The plans, according to García Peña, allegedly involved state security officials as well as security officials at the state oil company, Ecopetrol.
In the last year there have been three similar death squad murders of Colombian human rights activists. In May 1997, armed men gained entry to the Bogotá home of Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado of the human rights organization CINEP (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular) by posing as agents of the Prosecutor General's office. Once inside, they machine-gunned everyone in the home except the couple's young child, who hid in a closet. In February 1998, 16 armed individuals walked across a tightly controlled downtown area, in the midst of a massive military and police security operation, and surrounded the workplace of human rights lawyer Jesús María Valle Jaramillo of the Comité Permanente de Derechos Humanos "Héctor Abad Gómez." Three men then went, unmolested, to Valle Jaramillo's office, tied up the secretaries, executed him, and left the area without incident. The day before Eduardo Umaña's murder, human rights activist and Communist Party member María Arango was surprised at her door and shot to death, according to press reports.
The Colombian government has offered a large reward (approximately $370,000) for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the murder of Eduardo Umaña. The continued ease with which death squads target and murder human rights activists, and their ability to escape prosecution, calls into question the commitment and ability of Colombia's police forces to respond to "dirty war" tactics believed to result from collusion between governmental and non-governmental forces. The National Police are recipients of significant amounts of U.S. security assistance.
The HRIBB - HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
Assassination of Neelan THIRUCHELVAM
a prominent constitutional lawyer
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expresses great shock today over the assassination of Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, a prominent constitutional lawyer and moderate opposition member of parliament. Dr. Thiruchelvam was murdered in a bomb explosion. The advocate was a strong believer in constitutional reforms and actively supported the devolution process as one of the means for ending the ethnic and political conflict that has devastated the island for many years.
Dr. Thiruchelvam was an outspoken human rights activist and a well known parliamentarian. He was also the head of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka. The constitutional reform process which he strongly supported is likely to come up in the Parliament next month. This assassination constitutes a setback to the entire peace process.
The assassination of Dr. Thiruchelvam is sadly reminiscent of the series of attacks suffered by people who were envisaging a democratic peace process in any manner different from the one proposed by LTTE. This cowardly act underscores the urgent need for the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite the peace process and negotiations with all the concerned parties as soon as possible. The perpetrators of this ghastly act should be brought to justice.
Neelan Thiruchelvam, a member of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), was killed on his way to work at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies when a suicide bomber threw himself at his car. His bodyguard and driver were wounded.
The nature of the attack suggests it could be linked with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in which case it constitutes a clear breach of international humanitarian standards.
A constitutional lawyer , Neelan Thiruchelvam entered parliament in August 1994 as a member of the TULF, a moderate Tamil party. He was a member of the parliamentary select committee on constitutional reforms, which devised an autonomy devolution package for north-eastern Sri Lanka. The package was aimed at settling the 16-year-old armed conflict between the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE, who are fighting for a separate Tamil state called Eelam in north-eastern Sri Lanka. The LTTE, who were not consulted at the initial stages, have opposed the peace plan.
The attack comes amidst speculation that a new constitution, which would include the devolution package, could be presented in parliament within the next two months. Progress on the devolution package, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, has been slow due to the withdrawal of support for it by the opposition United National Party (UNP) in October 1997.
The LTTE have recently stepped up their intimidation of MPs and public officials. In May this year the Tamil Tigers ordered government employees in Jaffna to abstain from work on Tuesdays and Fridays. This order was subsequently withdrawn. In June, five MPs from different political parties, and who represent Sri Lanka's eastern Batticaloa district, were ordered by the LTTE to restrict their public activities. In 1998 the LTTE was held responsible for killing two mayors of Jaffna Town.
(Source : International Commission of Jurists, Genève, July 28 1999
and Amnesty International, July 30 1999)
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