Dozens of Taliban gunmen stormed the offices of Afghanistan’s Independent Bar Association (AIBA) in Kabul last week and ordered its staff to stop their work.
In a decree issued a day earlier on November 22, the Taliban put the AIBA under the control of its Justice Ministry, stripping the organization of its independence.
Taliban Justice Minister Mullah Abdul Hakim also declared that only Taliban-approved lawyers can work in their Islamic courts, effectively revoking the licenses of some 2,500 lawyers in Afghanistan.
His order has raised deep concerns about the impartiality and fairness of criminal trials under the Taliban, which seized control of the country in August after toppling the internationally recognized government.
Those fears have been exacerbated by the Taliban’s brutal form of justice. Under their tribal interpretation of Shari’a law, Taliban judges have routinely ordered public executions and amputations for convicted criminals.
Legal experts say the Taliban’s decree flouts international norms meant to ensure that people accused of crimes have access to impartial legal assistance in order to receive a fair trial.
“The [Taliban’s] grip is tightening,” says Samiullah Hamidee, a civil activist from the southern province of Helmand who founded the Organization for Social and Economic Development (OSED) before the Taliban takeover. “Access to independent legal [assistance] will soon become a thing of the past.”
“[The] lines are blurring,” Hamidee warned on Twitter. “A lawyer, prosecutor, and judge can be the same person at the same time.”
The Brussels-based Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) says the moves means that all women are now excluded from the legal profession in Afghanistan, as well as “any lawyer with a legal education that is not in line with Shari’a or with the Taliban regime.”
Lebanon must immediately cease the threats and intimidation of Mohammad Ahmad Samir Sablouh, a human rights defender and lawyer who has worked to assist victims of torture, arbitrary detention and Syrian refugees facing deportation, a UN human rights expert said today.
Mr. Sablouh has been targeted by the General Security Directorate and the Government’s Commissioner to the Military Court in relation to his legal work and inputs for a report by Amnesty International on Syrian refugees who had allegedly been arbitrarily detained on terrorism-related charges and tortured in Lebanon.
Military prosecutors requested that Mr. Sablouh’s immunity as a lawyer be lifted, in order to prosecute him under Article 403 of the Lebanese Penal Code for allegedly making false accusations. He and his clients have also been regularly questioned in relation to his work assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“I am extremely concerned at the use of threats and intimidation that risk undermining the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the legitimate work of lawyers,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
“The unimpeded work of human rights lawyers and human rights defenders in exposing these violations is crucial.”
The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor the case and is in contact with the Lebanese authorities on the matter.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted default bail to lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case.
However, the court rejected the bail applications of the eight other accused: Sudhir Dawale, Dr P Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira – all of them arrested between June and August of 2018.
The HC directed Bharadwaj to be produced before the Special National Investigation Agency court on December 8 to decide the conditions of bail.
A two-judge division bench had reserved Bharadwaj’s bail plea for judgement on August 4 and the criminal application by eight others on September 1. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for NIA sought a stay on the operation and implementation of the order in view of two recent Supreme Court judgements. However, the court refused relief saying it has already considered the orders in its judgement.