The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s Independent Bar Association (AIBA) has attracted strong condemnation from the global legal profession. According to the association’s exiled president, Rohullah Qarizada, on 23 November ’50 armed Taliban’ stormed a meeting of AIBA officials in their office in Kabul.
Meanwhile a Taliban cabinet directive has stripped the AIBA of powers to license lawyers and required licence holders to re-apply to the Ministry of Justice. The government has taken over the association’s bar account and now has access to the personnel and professional records of 2,500 lawyers, as well as AIBA staff members and committee members.
In a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations, the International Bar Association said today that the move ‘has completely compromised the independence of the legal profession in Afghanistan’.
The AIBA was established as an independent organisation in 2008.
The IBA’s letter requests that the UN add its voice to a public statement denouncing the violation of the legal profession’s independence. It says that the ramifications of the takeover for the rule of law, the administration of justice and the further contraction of the rights of women and girls ‘cannot be overestimated’.
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.”
With a constantly evolving and fast-paced news agenda, human rights issues do not always make the front page. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is committed to highlighting human rights abuses across the world and holding those accountable to justice. At the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC48), the IBAHRI joined other non-governmental organisations in statements condemning international human rights violations, with a particular focus on lawyers under attack, facing arbitrary detention or suppression of their professional activities.
Afghanistan: Since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, gross and systematic human rights violations continue to occur in Afghanistan, including attacks against female lawyers and judges. In partnership with a number of other NGOs, the IBAHRI released a joint open appeal to UN Member States to urge the adoption of a resolution creating a Fact-Finding Mission, or other independent investigative mechanism, for Afghanistan. The IBAHRI welcomes the new agreement of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to appoint a special rapporteur on Afghanistan to probe human rights violations by parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, as an important first step towards achieving oversight, accountability, justice and reparation for the ongoing crisis.
Belarus: The legal profession in Belarus is under threat, with attacks against lawyers on the rise. Most recently, Maxim Znak, lawyer for a former candidate for the Belarusian Presidency, was sentenced to a ten-year prison term following a closed-door trial. During the UN Interactive Dialogue the IBAHRI delivered an oral statement on behalf of several NGOs on the human rights situation in Belarus. The IBAHRI condemned the deterioration of the situation on the ground and stressed that the HRC must take action to prevent a further decline. The IBAHRI would welcome full support for the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus through adequate funding, as well as an examination of the situation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
#Endangeredlawyers#Afghanistan Lawyers and the members of the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) are currently in danger because of their efforts to ensure the respect of the rule of law and their work with international organisations and partners, trying to maintain their independence. The CCBE urges the EU and its Member States, in their diplomatic efforts towards the Taliban regime, to do everything in their power to ensure the maintenance of an independent legal profession and bar in Afghanistan, through the existing AIBA. The AIBA as well as all Afghan lawyers, including women lawyers, must be able to carry out their professional duties in order to ensure the integrity of the administration of #justice and the #ruleoflaw.#Avocatsendanger
Les avocats et les membres de l’Association du barreau indépendant afghan The Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) sont actuellement en danger en raison de leurs efforts pour assurer le respect de l’état de droit et de leur travail avec les organisations et partenaires internationaux, en essayant de maintenir leur indépendance. Le CCBE exhorte l’UE et ses États membres, dans le cadre de leurs efforts diplomatiques envers le régime des Talibans, à faire tout ce qui est en leur pouvoir pour assurer le maintien d’une profession d’avocat et d’un barreau indépendants en Afghanistan, par le biais de l’AIBA existante. L’AIBA ainsi que tous les avocats afghans, y compris les femmes avocates, doivent être en mesure d’exercer leurs fonctions professionnelles afin d’assurer l’intégrité de l’administration de la #justice et de l’#étatdedroit.
The President of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, Rohullah Qarizada, went on Twitter Wednesday appealing for international assistance after armed Taliban took over the Association’s offices in Kabul. He said “fifty armed Taliban came in AIBA and forcibly took over Bar.” The incursion occurred Tuesday in the wake of a Taliban cabinet directive authorizing the Ministry of Justice to strip the AIBA of its lawyer licensing authority and vest that instead in the Ministry.
Commenting on the takeover of the AIBA office, Qarizada insisted: “The bar is independent, non-governmental, and non-political. The Bar did not receive any funding from the government.”
A JURIST correspondent in Kabul says a Ministry of Justice letter to the AIBA shown in Qarizada’s tweet refers to the Taliban Cabinet Decision No. 10 dated November 14, 2021. According to the letter the Ministry of Justice should regulate affairs related to the AIBA, especially the issuing of licenses. Our correspondent adds: “But the Cabinet decision does not state anything regarding the structure of AIBA. The Ministry interpreted the decision as authorizing it to bring AIBA under its structure and requested lawyers to obtain licenses from them. The person appointed as the new AIBA head is said to be part of the Ministry of Justice but has no relevant experience.”
The Afghanistan Independent Bar Association was formed in 2008 with the assistance of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and previously received support from USAID. At last count, before the Taliban takeover, the Association had more than 2,500 registered lawyers practicing in the Afghan courts. According to the IBAHRI, the AIBA is “the only bar association in the world to have a quota for women on all executive committees and at least one vice-president must be a woman.” At this time it is uncertain what impact AIBA “nationalization” will have on women in the Association’s leadership or member ranks.
he Law Society says it is continuing to receive ‘desperate messages’ from judges and lawyers in Afghanistan and is urging the Home Office to open a new resettlement scheme immediately.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘We have received scores of desperate messages from people who dedicated their lives to building Afghanistan’s justice system and upholding the rule of law and are now in hiding with their families.
‘Judges, lawyers, prosecutors and others who worked in the justice system tell us they are receiving death threats from the Taliban and prisoners they helped convict – many of them terrorists – who are now roaming the country seeking revenge on those who brought them to justice.
‘Our Afghan colleagues are terrified, without work or money, and moving with their families from hiding place to hiding place in fear for their lives. These champions of justice tell us they feel abandoned by the international community, including the UK, with which they worked with so closely to establish law and order in pre-Taliban Afghanistan.’
The Society has been working closely with the government and international partners to assist in evacuating lawyers at risk. However, Boyce said it was unacceptable that the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme was still not open more than three months after Kabul fell.
‘Judges, lawyers, and prosecutors must be eligible for resettlement under this scheme and considered within the first 5,000 to be granted indefinite leave to remain under it,’ she added.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We undertook the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping over 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan who we are continuing to support. The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme is one of the most generous schemes in our country’s history and will give up to 20,000 further people at risk a new life in the UK. We continue to work at pace to open the scheme amid a complex and changing picture, working across government and with partners such as UNHCR to design the scheme.’
The Gazette understands that the scheme will not have an application process. Instead, like the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, eligible people will be prioritised and referred for resettlement to the UK.
Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul offers his observations on a Taliban move to take direct regulatory control of defense lawyer licensing, shifting that from the country’s bar association. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our Correspondent’s name. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
The Taliban have changed the regulatory authority of the defense lawyers from the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association to the Ministry of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice of the Taliban announced yesterday that all defense lawyers and those who had a license from the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association should come to the Ministry of Justice for obtaining a license. Affairs related to the defense and licensed lawyers used to be regulated by the “Advocate Law” in the country. The Advocate Law provides that the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association shall issue licenses for the applicants. In Afghanistan, those who graduated from law and sharia are eligible for a license.
According to the Advocate Law, obtaining a license in Afghanistan is subject to an exam like other countries.
The Ministry of Justice has warned licensed lawyers and those who are applying to obtain a license to come to this ministry for the license, otherwise they will not be able to work as a defense lawyer.
Bringing the defense lawyers under the structure of the Ministry of Justice means that the Taliban are looking to further regulate this area in the country. The Ministry of Justice have not provided any information whether or not the Advocate Law will be amended and/or the procedures for issuing the license will be changed.
The Ministry of Justice already have the Legal Aid Directorate under its structure and that is meant to provide legal assistance for the people who cannot afford hiring a lawyer to represent them before the courts. Adding a new department to regulate affairs related to the defense lawyers from the Bar Association, in my opinion, will decrease the donor funds and international assistance to this entity.
The Law Society is a proud founding partner of the Irish Justice Community Response to Afghan Crisis. We are joined in this collaborative initiative by our colleagues in the Judiciary, led by International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and the Association of Judges in Ireland (AJI), The Bar of Ireland, and Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI).
We are pleased to share that the Irish State has secured safe passage and protection for 11 Afghan female judges and their families arising from the dangers they would otherwise face by remaining in Afghanistan. Their arrival in Ireland is imminent.
This initiative represents a unique demonstration of solidarity with our Afghan judicial and lawyer colleagues who have faced enormous challenges in recent months. As we know the position of female legal professionals in particular, judges and lawyers, is precarious under the Taliban regime.
The coalition of the above parties is inviting all members of the legal community to assist as part of a collaborative, justice sector-wide effort to support their safe transition to and settlement in Ireland. The Law Society is urging on members of the solicitors profession, those in a position to do so, to respond to this urgent call.
Legal Community Sponsorship: How we can help
The best and most fitting model of support is one based on community sponsorship. This is where local colleagues assist in practical, social and professional ways to welcome and integrate those arriving, along with their families.
This model of support has proved successful elsewhere, and we believe is an effective way for the Irish legal community to lend its urgent support to our colleagues.
TheInternational Bar Association, through itsHuman Rights Institute, has been assisting women at risk, and other vulnerable individuals, in Afghanistan. Through our efforts, and that of a number of other non-governmental organisations, more than 100 women judges, journalists, lawyers and other human rights defenders, plus their families, have been evacuated from Afghanistan. This effort is in addition to assisting the leadership of the now-defunct Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (which the IBA, together with Afghan lawyers, established in 2008) in leaving Kabul.
The vast majority of the evacuees are now in Greece. However, 70 of the families do not yet have final destinations. The Greek authorities have provided them with temporary visas to remain in Greece for a short period. We are currently working to ensure that these families find, and are transferred to, more permanent residences as soon as possible. This is where we need assistance.
We are seeking lawyers who are willing to assist these families by advocating for them in securing passage to their ultimate location. We are not seeking financial assistance; we are looking for lawyers ready to give pro bono time to assist the families.
Please let us know if you can assist by contacting us at Afghan.Appeal@int-bar.org. We will then contact you directly as to the next steps of engagement. Thank you in advance for your support!
A human rights defender who spoke to Amnesty International emphasized that “journalists, activists and anti-Taliban intellectuals, writers/artists, female journalists, former police, army, and intelligence officers, as well as female athletes, judges, advocates and singers, are all at immediate risk”