Category: Human Rights News

Child spies used by police at risk of severe harm, high court told

Child spies used by police at risk of severe harm, high court told

Children recruited to spy on drug dealers, gangs, terrorists and paedophiles have fewer safeguards when handled by investigators than those arrested for minor offences such as shoplifting, the high court has heard.

At a judicial review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, campaigners challenging the use of children as covert human intelligence sources (CHISs) argued the lack of safeguards violates children’s human rights and puts them at risk of severe harm.

Introducing the case against the Home Office on Tuesday, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, acting for Just for Kids Law, told Mr Justice Michael Supperstone that safeguards for children recruited as CHISs were inadequate. 

“This case concerns children who may be recruited and deployed as CHIS in the most extreme circumstances,” Gallagher said, referring in particular to one case revealed in a House of Lords debate of a 17-year-old girl recruited to spy on a man who was selling her for sex.

Gallagher said: “A justification put forward is that some children are involved in or in close proximity to serious crimes which they could as a covert source help police to investigate and prosecute.

“That justification also demonstrates the acute need for stringent safeguards: keeping a child close to serious crimes may serve a compelling public interest, but it would appear to be antithetical to the child’s own interests.” 

Seventeen children have been recruited as covert sources since January 2015 – including one just 15 at the time – according to figures released by the investigatory powers commissioner in March.

The powers under which they are used have existed for nearly two decades, but they came to light only last summer after a House of Lords committee raised the alarm over proposals to make recruitment and deployment easier.

Ministers had sought to increase the length of time that child spies could be deployed before re-authorisation from one month to four, and to broaden the range of people who could act as an “appropriate adult” when being interviewed with police. The new rules came into effect shortly after.

Just for Kids Law’s judicial review hinges on a claim that the rules governing the use of child spies fail to comply with the home secretary’s obligations to comply with article 8 of the Human Rights Act – guaranteeing children’s right to a private or family life – and article 3.1 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child – stipulating that the interests of the child should be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect them.

Gallagher warned that the extension of the length of time a child spy could be authorised had come about for the “administrative convenience of the authorities concerned.” Because the orders involve covert operations, officers are not required to check with other agencies about vulnerability, histories of domestic abuse or mental health issues of the child spies.

“The decision is made in a very closed circle,” she said.

The court heard evidence from Neil Woods, a former police officer who spent years undercover investigating drugs gangs, that such work posed the risk of severe physical and psychological harm to young people.

In a written statement read out in court, Woods said he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences undercover with drugs gangs, which included proximity to extreme violence, including torture and maimings of those considered to be working with police.

“I developed the ability to suppress my emotions at times of great stress when I was witnessing very grave things,” Woods said in his statement.

“It causes me great concern that a child could be asked to maintain a lie for any length of time and suffer the psychological harm that I have suffered … I question the legitimacy in allowing police to recruit child spies at a time when police are just beginning to recognise the lasting harm caused to adults in doing the same thing.”

Sir James Eadie QC, responding on behalf of the home secretary, emphasised the many layers of approvals and safeguards involved in recruiting children as CHISs.

The hearing lasted one day and Supperstone reserved his judgment, which he will hand down at a later date.

Britain has a duty to help Hong Kong out of this dark moment

Britain has a duty to help Hong Kong out of this dark moment

It took something out of the ordinary to provoke a million people in Hong Kong to take to the streets to demonstrate against proposed new extradition rules. Roughly one-sixth of the population demonstrated peacefully: families, young and old, lawyers, academics, students, professionals and manual workers.

What caused such an outpouring against a piece of legislation? Quite simply, the people of Hong Kong – not British, but Hong Kong Chinese – have seen their government connive with the Communist regime in Beijing to undermine their way of life and freedoms.

Britain’s departure from Hong Kong in 1997 – a colony we acquired in woeful circumstances – was done on the basis of a brilliantly imaginative proposal put forward by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Hong Kong would return to the control of mainland China, but on the basis of “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong’s high degree of local autonomy would continue to be based on the rule of law and on the freedoms associated with a plural open society. 

By and large things did not go too badly in the 10 years or so after the UK left Hong Kong. China, on the whole, kept its word which had been incorporated in a document called the joint declaration, which was lodged as an international treaty at the United Nations. The idea was that Hong Kong would remain as it was until 2047. Some things were unsatisfactory. The Communist party, for example, throttled back on the promises it had made about Hong Kong’s nascent democracy. But overall there was not too much to grumble about, and when the local government pushed too hard to do Beijing’s bidding – for example over introducing more “patriotic” themes into education – public protests forced a change of mind.

But two things have happened in recent years. First, Xi Jinping was made party and state leader and given greater powers. He has exercised these to row back on many of Deng’s reforms, to increase central control and tackle any signs of dissent within China. Second, the leadership was plainly rattled by the massive demonstrations that took place in 2014 against further efforts to prevent democracy flowering in Hong Kong.

Since then things have gone from bad to very bad to even worse. The leaders of the demonstrations in 2014 have been pursued – even five years after the event – with reckless, vengeful enthusiasm, using ancient and often obscure colonial-era public order legislation. People with the “wrong” views have been banned from political activity. Freedom of speech has been whittled away in the media and in universities. Beijing has even abducted individuals from Hong Kong and taken them back to the mainland.

This is the background to the current row over a law that would allow extradition to the mainland of those Beijing does not like.

 

 

 

One Step Closer to Justice for MH17 Victims

One Step Closer to Justice for MH17 Victims

At a press conference in the Netherlands this afternoon, international investigators announced that the Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands would prosecute four people for bringing down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

International warrants have been issued for the arrest of the suspects, three of whom are Russian, and one is Ukrainian. They will be tried on murder chargesbefore a Dutch court in March 2020.

Investigative website Bellingcat published their own report identifying twelve militants they allege are linked to the downing of MH17.

Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight was shot down during one of the periods of intense fighting in the ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has to date claimed at least 13,000 lives. The civilian death toll is estimated at 3,331 as of May 2019.

The criminal inquiry, carried out by an international Joint Investigation Team (JIT), coordinated by the Netherlands and including law enforcement authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine, has been progressing steadily, if slowly, since 2014.

In 2015, a report by the Dutch safety board established that the plane was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile. In 2018, the JIT investigators presented findings indicating that the missile that brought down the flight belonged to a Russian military unit. According to the report, the missile was transported from Russia into Ukraine on the same day the plane was shot down, launched from the area controlled by pro-Russian “separatists,” and then transported back to Russia. These findings were also made independently by Bellingcat.

As Russia continues to deny its involvement in the downing of the plane, relatives of the victims have been waiting to learn who is responsible for the attack, which claimed the lives of all 298 people onboard the plane. Hopefully, today’s findings bring justice and accountability for the MH17 victims one big step closer.

UN chief accepts independent report on Myanmar, highlighting ‘systemic’ failure surrounding Rohingya crisis

UN chief accepts independent report on Myanmar, highlighting ‘systemic’ failure surrounding Rohingya crisis

An independent review into how the UN System operated in Myanmar in the years leading up to the mass exodus of the Rohingya following serious human rights abuses, has concluded there were “systemic and structural failures” that prevented a unified strategy from being implemented.

The report by former Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister, Gert Rosenthal, a former UN Ambassador and top executive at the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that the UN System overall had been “relatively impotent to effectively work with the authorities of Myanmar, to reverse the negative trends in the areas of human rights, and consolidate the positive trends in other areas.”

The review, published on Monday, covers the period 2010-2018, encompassing the UN’s response to the systematic and brutal abuse of hundreds-of-thousands of mainly-Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state, by the national army and security forces, which began in August 2017, described by the UN human rights chief at the time as a text book example of ethnic cleansing. 

In his conclusions and recommendations, Mr. Rosenthal writes that responsibility for the grave abuses rests mainly with the Government. But although the UN’s systematic failures are not down to any single entity or any individuals, “clearly there is a shared responsibility on the part of all parties involved in not having been able to accompany the Government’s political process with constructive actions, while at the same time conveying more forcefully the United Nations’ principled concerns regarding grave human rights violations”.

He also notes the UN Security Council should bear some responsibility, “by not providing enough support to the Secretariat, when such backing was and continues to be essential”.

Mr. Rosenthal said that the key lesson, was “to foster an environment encouraging different entities of the UN System to work together” to reinforce a “broader, system-wide strategy”.

The UN Spokespersons’ Office, reacting to the report, said that UN chief António Guterres was “grateful to Mr. Rosenthal for producing a candid, forthright and useful report. The entire report, including its conclusions and recommendations, has been transmitted to the Member States”.

Mr. Guterres said he was accepting the recommendations “and is committed to implementing them so as to improve the performance of the United Nations system. This review is valuable for the Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team in Myanmar, as well as in other countries where the UN operates in similarly challenging conditions.”

The UN chief noted that no individual or agency was being singled out, and said it was useful for analyzing how the UN can work more effectively, “on the ground and possible lessons learned for the future.”

“The Secretary-General notes the report’s assessments are in line with the Secretary-General’s own efforts to put a greater emphasis on prevention, and also to improve the performance and accountability” of the UN at a country level, “by creating a new generation of UN country teams and more adapted structures at the headquarters level”, said the Office of the Spokesperson.  

Mr. Guterres indicated he would be following up to ensure that the recommendations are implemented.

 

UN must provide redress for minorities placed in toxic Kosovo camps, says rights expert

UN must provide redress for minorities placed in toxic Kosovo camps, says rights expert

An independent rights expert appointed by the Human Rights Council has called on the United Nations to “provide justice and remedies” to displaced people who suffered lead poisoning after being housed in UN camps on toxic wasteland in Kosovo.

The appeal on Wednesday by Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics, Baskut Tuncak, follows a UN panel report on alleged human rights violations by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.

Among the cases reviewed by the Human Rights Advisory Panel was a complaint submitted by 138 individuals from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities that they suffered lead poisoning and other serious health consequences after their relocation to internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps in northern Kosovo, between 1999 and 2013.

Taking into account the panel’s findings, the office of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, announced in May 2017, the establishment of a Trust Fund to implement community-based assistance projects.

The statement said that the Secretary-General “believes that it is our shared duty to support the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo and ensure that they receive the assistance that they need.  In this connection, the Organization will make every effort, in consultation with Member States, to mobilize the necessary resources in support of the Trust Fund.”

However, to date, the Fund has not received any contributions from Member States, Mr. Tuncak maintained, adding that lead poisoning is believed to have contributed to the deaths of several children and adults.

‘Fundamentally flawed’ solution

“I am deeply disappointed by the inertia surrounding this case,” he said, “and that the solution offered by the UN is an inoperative and fundamentally flawed Trust Fund, which will neither provide justice, nor the necessary elements of an effective remedy for the victims.”

According to the Special Rapporteur, around 600 people lived in the camps -following their displacement during conflict between the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Kosovo Albanian rebels who were supported by NATO airpower – between 1999 and 2013. Approximately half were children under the age of 14.

Reports of lead poisoning among residents were available as early as 1999, Mr Tuncak said in a statement, noting that protective measures to prevent lead exposure were taken for peacekeeping personnel in 2000.

Such action was not carried out for residents until 2006, however, he said.

“After sobering discussions with victims and their families and assessing the facts of this tragic case, the circumstances demand individual compensation and a public apology by the United Nations, in addition to community-based projects,” Mr Tuncak said.

“The UN’s integrity is at issue,” he continued. “It should reform its approach and mobilise the necessary resources to fully implement the recommendations of its own Human Rights Advisory Panel without further delay.”

In addition to recommending compensation payments to 138 individuals, the panel also called for a public apology for failing to comply with human rights standards.

“Decades ago, UNMIK did not fulfil its mandate to promote and protect the rights of these children and their families,” the Special Rapporteur said.” Nothing will replace what these victims have lost, but now the United Nations has an opportunity to do what it can to atone for past mistakes.”

Drug laws must be amended to ‘combat racial discrimination’, UN experts say

Drug laws must be amended to ‘combat racial discrimination’, UN experts say

At every stage of the criminal justice system, people of African descent around the world are discriminated against, including death sentencing for drugs-related crimes, United Nations human rights experts said on Thursday, calling on Member States to do more to “combat racial discrimination”.

In fighting the global drug problem, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent underscored that States must acknowledge and amend the devastating impact of judicial policies on people of African descent, who are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, and harshly sentenced for drug crimes, in many countries.

“The global war on drugs has disproportionately targeted people of African descent and disregarded the massive costs to the dignity, humanity and freedom of individuals,” they stressed, ahead of a high-level meeting in Vienna of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which will review the Political Declaration and Plan of Action to combat the illegal trade in drugs.

Countries must redress racial discrimination in law enforcement and accepting stark racial disparities in prosecutions and incarcerations.

“The pretext of fighting the world’s drug problem has been used to justify excessive surveillance, criminalization and the targeting of people of African descent worldwide”, they argued.

According to the experts, people of African descent are “disproportionately penalized and denied access to treatment or alternatives to being locked up”.

Furthermore, despite decades of what they called “enormous investment of resources” worldwide, neither trafficking nor narcotics use have diminished.

The UN experts spelled out: “The war on drugs has operated more effectively as a system of racial control than as a mechanism for combating the use and trafficking of narcotics”.

The criminal justice system reflects racial disparities and stereotypes grounded in history, explained the UN experts, saying that concern over narcotics “cannot excuse racism in the development of policy or the deployment of resources”.

Moreover, many adolescents have had experiences with the criminal justice system that have rendered them permanently barred from employment, educational opportunities and a range of other benefits.

And these may be even more extreme in intersectional populations, including women; migrants and refugees; and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. 

“Member States should collect adequate data to measure these disparities and their potential improvement over time”, the experts advocated, adding that “evidence-based” treatment services that are respectful of individual rights should be ensured for all.

UN Middle East Coordinator strongly condemns ‘arrests and violence’ by Hamas security forces during Gaza protests

UN Middle East Coordinator strongly condemns ‘arrests and violence’ by Hamas security forces during Gaza protests

The UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has strongly condemned the violent response by security forces in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip during the past three days, towards Palestinian protests over the deteriorating economic situation there.

Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday and Friday, according to news reports, after months of disputes and deadlock both between the extremist Hamas faction, and the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, together with Israeli authorities, which control all access into Gaza under a years-long blockade policy.

Electricity supplies have been sporadic for months, with Israel also withholding fuel deliveries in retaliation for rocket attacks, and lately, Israel decided to withhold around $140 million in tax revenue transfers to Palestinians.

Hamas has imposed extra taxes on basic products across Gaza, one of the issues which also fuelled this week’s protests against the economic crisis there, where mainly youth-led marches reportedly displayed banners citing “down with price hikes”, and “the revolt of the hungry”.

“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days” said UN Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, in a statement issued on Sunday.

Alarm over ‘brutal beating’ of journalists

With news reports suggesting that the violent suppression of demonstrations by Hamas security forces included efforts to confiscate reporters’ phones and evidence of the heavy-handed response, Mr. Mladenov said that he was “particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the raiding of homes.”

News reports said that hundreds of those who took part in the demonstrations, were begin held in detention over the weekend.

“The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip”, said the UN Special Coordinator, adding that it was “their right to protest without fear of reprisal.”

Mr. Mladenov urged “Palestinian factions to engage in earnest with Egypt in order to implement the Cairo Agreement in full”, referring to the stalled deal in October 2017, between Hamas and Fatah, that it was hoped would end more than a decade of disagreement, beginning with Hamas’s victory at the polls in Gaza, in 2006.

“The United Nations will continue its efforts to avoid escalation, relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support reconciliation,” said Mr. Mladenov.

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

The election of President Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), marks “an extraordinary opportunity” for the country to advance civil and political rights, said a senior UN official, on Tuesday at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights (OHCHR), Andrew Gilmour, welcomed Mr. Tshisekedi’s inaugural speech in January, in which he made a “clear commitment” to respect citizens’ rights and end discrimination.

The president’s recent decree ordering the release of all political prisoners was also to be welcomed, Mr. Gilmour said, in anticipation of their actual release and the closing of all unofficial detention centres.

Mr. Tshisekedi’s unexpected election win on 30 December, despite a week’s delay due to logistical concerns, coming on top of a two-year delay due to former President Joseph Kabila’s reluctance to leave office, marked the first peaceful transfer of power in the country of more than 80 million, since independence from Belgium, almost 60 years ago.

Mr. Kabila governed DRC for 18 years, before agreeing to step down last year, although his former ruling coalition has a majority in the legislature.

In his inaugural speech in late January, according to news reports, the new president said he and his party were committed to building a modern, peaceful, democratic State, and pledged then to release all political detainees.

Mr. Gilmour said that “such measures, if fulfilled, would represent an exceptionally positive development towards the opening up of democratic space, which has been increasingly restricted in recent years.”

“During the electoral process, such restrictions were obvious. In the weeks just before and after the elections, the Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC documented the killing of at least 36 civilians in elections-related violence” said the OHCHR official, “most killed by security forces using disproportionate use of force, including the use of live ammunition.”

The Assistant Secretary-General’s comments coincided with the publication of a report into DRC violence and rights abuses, in 2018.

It found that more than 1,100 people were killed in conflict-related violence, almost 900 were subjected to sexual violence in a war-setting, including 279 children.

On the continuing inter-communal violence in the province of Mai-Ndombe, around Yumbi town, that left hundreds dead last December following an orchestrated and well-planned massacre, Mr. Gilmour urged the authorities to extend the rule of law throughout the country.

There is an urgent need to take measures to defuse tensions and promote reconciliation in the region and avoid further bloodshed, he said, and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted.

In reply, Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, Minister of Human Rights in DRC, said that those responsible for the Mai-Ndombe killings, in the west of the country, on the banks of the Congo River – and earlier massacres in the Kasais – would be prosecuted.

And she confirmed that 36 people have been convicted in association with the killing of UN experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan in Kasai on 12 March 2017.

The highly-regarded experts on the region, were brutally murdered while investigating reports of mass atrocities in the Kasais, around conflict between the Kamuina Nsapu militia and Government forces. The fallout from the case continues, with a Congolese army colonel, reportedly arrested in connection with the killing of the two UN monitors, early in December.

Venezuela: ‘A worrying destabilizing factor in the region’, Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Venezuela: ‘A worrying destabilizing factor in the region’, Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Expressing deep concern at the “magnitude and gravity of the human rights impact” of Venezuela’s current crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Wednesday that the country had become “a worrying destabilizing factor in the region.”

Amid a protracted crisis from a faltering economy, political instability and violent anti-Government demonstrations, a technical team of five OHCHR staff members are currently touring the country, which rights chief Michelle Bachelet, described as “a positive first step”.

She highlighted “dramatically” deteriorating “economic and social rights”, exacerbated by the recent electricity blackout and expressed concern about the “continued criminalization of peaceful protest and dissent”.

The UN rights chief cited reports of numerous violations and abuses by security forces and pro-Government armed groups, including the excessive use of force, killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, threats and intimidation.

She said her Office was continuing to investigate reports of “possible extrajudicial executions by security forces”, naming the Special Actions Force or FAES, as reportedly responsible for killing “at least 205 persons. A further 37 were reportedly killed in the course of January 2019 in Caracas”, she added.

“It appears that some of these killings have followed a similar pattern. They take place during illegal house raids carried out by the FAES, which subsequently reports the death as resulting from an armed confrontation – although witnesses report the victims were unarmed,” said Ms. Bachelet.

I am also concerned about increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press in Venezuela,” she said, “and the allegations that the authorities have arbitrarily used the law against hatred, adopted in November 2017, to prosecute journalists, opposition leaders and anyone expressing dissenting opinions.”

Divisions are exacerbating an already critical situation” the rights chief said, arguing that there was “a need for common agreement on a political solution by all stakeholders, with actions to improve a wide range of urgent human rights issues. I call on the authorities to take steps to demonstrate their real commitment to addressing the many challenging issues reported across the country.”

Minimal progress on accountability in Sri Lanka

Turning to Sri Lanka, Ms. Bachelet said that despite progress on some issues, “there has been minimal progress on accountability” including on setting up a special judicial mechanism to deal with the worst crimes committed during the 2009 conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country.

“Continuing impunity risks fuelling communal or inter-ethnic violence, and instability”, she spelled out, calling for the establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a vetting process to remove officers with questionable human rights records.

“This Council continues to have an essential role in accompanying the Government and people of Sri Lanka in their journey towards realizing the dignity, and rights of all members of society, irrespective of their sex, ethnic origin or belief”, she concluded.

A ‘glimmer of hope’ in Yemen’s ‘dire situation’

On Yemen, Ms. Bachelet noted that while the fragile ceasefire in Hudaydah presents “a glimmer of hope”, the situation across the rest of the country is “dire’.

More than 24 million people need aid, with 14.3 million in acute need, she told the Council. Moreover, basic resources have become “a luxury that few can afford”.

“Salaries of teachers, doctors, nurses and other public employees have gone unpaid for years” she stressed.

Meanwhile, “periodic airstrikes, shelling and landmines continue to kill and maim civilians” and children continue to be conscripted or enlisted into armed forces or groups, she added.

The UN rights chief expressed particular concern about a recent escalation of hostilities in Hajjah governorate, where preliminary reports indicate that 22 people were killed earlier this month and thousands of families displaced.

“All States, including those not involved in the armed conflict, have the obligation to take measures to ensure that parties to a conflict respect the Conventions”, she stated, calling “conditioning, limiting or refusing arms transfers” one such measure.

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran human rights lawyer jailed for 38 years, say family

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran human rights lawyer jailed for 38 years, say family

A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in Tehran, her family say.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was charged with several national security-related offences, all of which she denies.
Rights groups strongly criticised the “shocking” sentence against the award-winning human rights activist.
Ms Sotoudeh is known for representing women who have protested having to wear the headscarf.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights and speaking out against the death penalty,” Philip Luther from Amnesty International said.
“It is utterly outrageous that Iran’s authorities are punishing her for her human rights work.”

Ms Sotoudeh’s husband confirmed her sentence on Facebook, after a brief phone conversation with her from prison, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Her lawyer said she was charged with spreading information against the state, insulting Iran’s supreme leader and spying.

Who is Nasrin Sotoudeh?

She is among at least seven human rights lawyers who were arrested in Iran last year.

Prior to her arrest in June, she represented a number of women arrested for appearing in public without a headscarf, or hijab – a punishable offence.

She reportedly faced nine charges in two trials – one was held without her being present. She has been given the long prison term and the sentence of lashes as a result.

Ms Sotoudeh is also a former political prisoner – she was jailed between 2010 and 2013 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security.

She denied those charges and while in prison the European Parliament gave her the Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought for her work representing opposition activists.