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.