Farid Ershad/ Unsplash / 2021
November 23, 2021
On Tuesday, November 23, 2021, fifty armed Taliban took control of the Afghanistan Independent Bars Association (AIBA) by force. During their violent intrusion, they ordered the verification of all contracts signed by the Bar Association with foreigners. The Taliban also seized funds belonging to the 2,500 lawyers who finance the Bar Association. These actions seriously jeopardize the integrity of the Bar Association and professional secrecy.
AIBA is one of the only bar associations in the world that has a quota of women on all executive committees and at least one vice president must be a woman. At this time, it is unclear what impact the “nationalization” of the Afghanistan Bar Association will have specifically on women leaders of the Bar Association.
This attack against the bar is part of the process of deconstruction of the rule of law in Afghanistan since the seizure of power by the Taliban on August 15, 2021, and follows in particular the takeover of the Ministry of Justice on access to the profession. Indeed, from now on, all lawyers in the country who have a license with the AIBA will have to acquire a new license from this ministry. The Ministry has warned lawyers that if they do not obtain a new license they will not be allowed to practice their profession.
This decision is intended to allow the Taliban government not only to control the licensing of lawyers but also to register them, thereby exposing them to major risks of persecution.
By doing so, the Taliban directly undermines the independence of the legal profession in the country. In 2007, the Afghanistan Independent Bars Association (AIBA) was established by a law called the “Advocate Law” passed in Parliament. This law aimed to provide lawyers with a non-governmental and independent body to regulate and coordinate the access, life and activities of the profession and to guarantee the rights to defense.
This law regulates the practice and activity of the legal profession. The Ministry of Justice has not given any information about a possible modification of this law or of the procedure for issuing licenses. For the time being, therefore, the Ministry is limited, in violation of the law, to controlling access to licenses to become a lawyer.
The Observatory strongly denounces this governmental interference in the exercise of the legal profession in Afghanistan and demands the immediate respect of all the rules inherent to the free and independent exercise of this profession.
The Observatory wishes to recall that the independence of lawyers is one of the essential foundations of the Rule of law.
The Observatory also wishes to recall that, according to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers adopted in Havana in 1990, in particular principles 16 and 25 :
16.Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
25.Professional associations of lawyers shall cooperate with Governments to ensure that everyone has effective and equal access to legal services and that lawyers are able, without improper interference, to counsel and assist their clients in accordance with the law and recognized professional standards and ethics.
The Observatory brings all its support to the Afghan lawyers.