The 24th of January marks the annual International Day of the Endangered Lawyer. On 24 January 1977, 4 lawyers and a co-worker were murdered in Madrid. Since 2010, this date is remembered as The Day of the Endangered Lawyer with the purpose of increasing awareness about lawyers across the globe who are being harassed, silenced, pressured, threatened, persecuted and tortured because of their profession.
The 2023 edition aims to shed some light on the challenges faced by lawyers in Afghanistan.
The fall of the Taliban regime in November 2001 prompted the reconstruction, reform and modernisation of the war-torn Afghan judicial system and the legal profession. In 2008, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (“AIBA”) was established. The AIBA administered the licensing and regulation of lawyers, promoted excellence and equal opportunity in the legal profession, trained future lawyers, and advanced the rule of law and social justice.
When the Afghan government fell in August 2021, two decades of progress were erased and the country’s judicial system collapsed. In November 2021, the Taliban’s Ministry of Justice issued a decree depriving the AIBA of its independence and its authority to grant licences to lawyers. Taliban forces started targeting lawyers who had previously worked on “sensitive” cases (e.g., cases involving the defence of human rights, including women’s rights, and other similar matters).
According to the AIBA, 7 lawyers have been killed since the dissolution of AIBA and 146 lawyers have been arrested or investigated.
The decree of November 2021 also stated that only Taliban-approved lawyers are allowed to appear before the courts. Because of their previous involvement in cases against the Taliban regime, human rights issues and their relationships with international organisations, former AIBA-registered lawyers are automatically denied a license and are no longer allowed to practice. The Taliban regime has destroyed the Afghani judicial system and has brought about radical changes to the legal profession. Many Afghani lawyers have left the country. Lawyers who remain in Afghanistan no longer have the independence which is essential in a society governed by the rule of law. Their only hope is to be able to leave the country.
In this context a report was drafted about the situation of lawyers in Afghanistan which includes a call to the international community and the Afghan government to improve the position of lawyers in Afghanistan.
Here a list of some of the initiatives and events organised in relation to the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2023:
- Webinar organised by the US National Association of Women Judges and the International Association of Women – 24 January, Online
- Press conference organised by the Council of bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA), the International Bar Association (IBA) and the French Speaking Brussels Bar – 24 January from 10:00 to 11:30 CET at the Press Club Brussels Europe (Rue Foissart 95, 1040 Brussels).
- Journée de l’avocat en danger – soutien aux avocats Afghans – event organised by ‘Le Syndacat des Avocats pour la Démocrati’ (SAD), together with Les Avocats Européens Démocrats (AED), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), l’Institut des Droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Bruxelles, l’Ordre français du Barreau de Bruxelles, le Barreau de Charleroi, and Avocats Sans Frontières – 24 January from 13:00 to 14:30 at the Roundabout Robert Schuman, 1040 Brussels
- Speech from Afghan Judges – event organised by the Bar of Ireland Human Rights Committee – 24 January from 16:30 to 18:00 (Irish Time)
- Roundtable on Afghanistan and Ukraine organised by the Barreau de Lille (in French) – January 24 from 11:00 to 13:00 CET
The AIJA Human Rights endorses the report and encourages all AIJA members to participate in any of these activities around the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2023.