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Public Statement: Russia (February 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the risk of disbarment and charges against lawyer Emil Kurbedinov
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the risk of disbarment and charges against lawyer Emil Kurbedinov.
 
Emil Kurbedinov is a Crimean human rights lawyer who has represented Crimean Tatar activists, along with civil society activists and journalists. He provides people with legal aid and raises awareness to human rights violations in Crimea through social media and international conferences. Emil Kurbedinov is also the founder and a member of the Crimean Bar Association. The Law Society has previously intervened on his behalf, on May 10, 2017, after he was arrested, detained and convicted for exercising his legitimate professional duties.
 
According to credible reports, Emil Kurbedinov was arrested and detained on December 6, 2018 by Russian authorities on his way to his office in the Crimean capital Simferopol on charges of “public distribution of extremist materials”. On December 7, 2018, he was sentenced to five days of administrative detention for a 2013 social media post about a meeting in Crimea of Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters, which he published one year before Russia’s military presence in Crimea beginning in 2014. Emil Kurbedinov had previously spent time in detention in 2017 after being sentenced on the same charges and for the same post published on a different social media site. Credible reports state that Emil Kurbedinov did not contest the fact that he published this post in 2013. These reports also indicate that the Hizb-ut Tahrir is a prohibited organization under Russian law, whereas under Ukrainian law, the Hizb-ut Tahrir, a group that is opposed to violence, is not a prohibited organization.
 
Reports state that he was released on December 25, 2018. Shortly thereafter, Emil Kurbedinov received a letter on January 10, 2019 from the Crimean Directorate of the Russian Federation (Ministry of Justice) ordering his expulsion from the Crimean Bar Association by March 1, 2019 because of his alleged involvement in “extremist activities”. The letter also notes the two convictions against Emil Kurbedinov for his social media posts. Reports indicate that he intends to appeal the order for his expulsion.
The Law Society is seriously concerned by credible reports of Emil Kurbedinov’s situation and urges Russia to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
 
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 18 states:
 
Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.
 
Furthermore, Article 23 states:
 
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
 
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 
Article 9 states:
 
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
 
Article 11 states:
 
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
 
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
 
Article 19 states:
 
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
 
Moreover, Article 20(1) states:
 
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 
 
The Law Society urges the Government of Russia to:

  1. immediately retract the order to expel Emil Kurbedinov from the Crimean Bar Association;

  2. provide restitution to Emil Kurbedinov for his unlawful incarceration and ensure that all lawyers, including those who uphold the cause of human rights and support marginalized individuals, are free from arbitrary arrest and/or detention;

  3. ensure that Emil Kurbedinov can appeal the order rendered against him through an independent and impartial court proceeding that is open to the public and in which all rules regarding due process are observed;

  4. guarantee all of the procedural rights that should be accorded to Emil Kurbedinov in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and all the guarantees necessary for the defence of everyone charged with a penal offence;

  5. ensure that all lawyers in Russia can carry out their professional duties and activities, including maintaining membership with bar associations, without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human rights violations;

  6. ensure that lawyers and judges shall not suffer, or be threatened with incarceration, prosecution or administrative, economic, or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics; and

  7. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.