In an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the International Bar Association (IBA) expressed grave concern over the Taliban take-over of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) and has appealed for the ‘unparalleled voice’ of the UN to publicly:
- Denounce the violation of the independence of the legal profession;
- Raise concern about the appropriation of the AIBA database, which includes details relating to AIBA registered lawyers, staff and committee members; and
- Condemn the seizure of the AIBA bank account and forfeiture of funds.
Following a recent public announcement by the Taliban stating that it would incorporate the AIBA into its Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the IBA was informed that on 23 November 2021 the Taliban forcefully broke-up a meeting being held in the AIBA office and took control of the Association. As a consequence of this directive and meeting intrusion, the Taliban now has access to the AIBA database that contains the personnel and professional records of Afghanistan’s estimated 2,500 lawyers, as well as AIBA staffers and committee members. The Taliban now also controls the non-governmental organisation’s bank account and funds.
IBA President Sternford Moyo, Chair of the IBA Bar Issues Commission Kimitoshi Yabuki, and IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, state in the letter that the incorporation of the AIBA into the Taliban’s MoJ has ‘completely compromised the independence of the legal profession in Afghanistan’, and that ‘[t]he ramifications on the Rule of Law, the administration of justice and the further contraction of the rights of women and girls cannot be overestimated.’
The letter states that the AIBA has been stripped of the ‘authority to issue Afghanistan’s lawyers with licences to practice their profession and has demanded that all lawyers that currently hold a licence reapply to the Taliban’s MoJ’, and that ‘those who do not submit applications as directed by the Taliban will be prevented from practising’.