The establishment of the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA)

AIBA member casting his vote at the AIBA General Assembly in Kabul 2011

The first ever Afghan bar association, AIBA, came to fruition on 30 July 2008 at a General Assembly in Kabul. The IBAHRI has been working in Afghanistan since 2004, helping to establish AIBA under a grant from the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the assistance of the International Legal Assistance Consortium. The IBAHRI was instrumental in drafting the legislation for creating the bar association in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and also played a key role in explaining the legislation to parliamentarians during debates.

‘The IBA had an important role in the creation of the AIBA... and is still playing a vital role in its operations’

Ruhullah Qarizada, President of the Afghan Independent Bar Association

Since the General Assembly, the office has been open to business, with a democratically elected executive committee, and many Afghani lawyers are now registered. AIBA has moved from strength to strength, membership numbers have increased dramatically and it has started to speak out as an independent voice in Afghanistan on controversial cases. AIBA is one of the few bar associations in the world  in the world to have a minimum requirement for the number of women in executive positions in its governing body, and requires all attorneys to conduct three cases on a pro bono basis each year as a condition for registration.

The IBAHRI continues to support AIBA with the placement of a legal specialist in Kabul, funded by the UK’s Foreign and  Commonwealth Office.As well as continuing with capacity building for the bar, there will now be a focus on revising the bar exam, developing legal aid initiatives and supporting a women’s group to look at the particular problems faced by women in the Afghan legal system.  

Filmed interview with AIBA president Rohullah Qarizada, 2013 speaking on the past, present and future of the AIBA

The IBAHRI legal specialists in Kabul have liaised with local and international stakeholders to ensure understanding and acceptance of the legislation with the ultimate goal is a non-political, independent association which will both protect and promote the legal profession as well as promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan. This was acknowledged at a conference in Rome on 3 July when President Karzai declared the establishment of the Bar Association to be a fundamental part of the government’s policy in promoting the rule of law.

At the end of October 2011, the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) held its second ever General Assembly (GA), on 13-16 OCtober 2011 in Kabul. The first GA took place in 2008, establishing the first independent Afghan bar association. During the GA Members debated and passed amendments to the AIBA By-Laws and elected a new Executive and Leadership Council. 

The Assembly was run with assistance from the IBAHRI and donors, but largely by the AIBA itself, indicating that it is starting to function for itself without external support. At the first GA there were 400 lawyers registered in Afghanistan. There are now over 1200 and the AIBA has set up committees dealing with continuing legal education, women and children’s rights, and corporate law.  The AIBA is one of the few bar associations in the world which stipulates a minimum percentage of women lawyers to be on its Leadership Council and which requires all lawyers to perform three cases per year pro bono as a requirement for annual registration. The IBAHRI legal specialist, based at the Bar Association in Kabul, and IBAHRI Co-Director Phillip Tahmindjis provided technical assistance in the lead up, and during the GA.

View photo gallery  

Democracy and the Legal Profession in the Afghan Context: Challenges and Opportunities

In January 2014, the IBAHRI published a thematic paper on the opportunities for democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan and the challenges the country faces in regard to these concepts. Authored by IBAHRI Director Dr Phillip Tahmindjis AM, Democracy and the Legal Profession in the Afghan Context: Challenges and Opportunities, provides a unique perspective from someone who has worked with the Afghani legal profession since 2004.

For more information on the programme in Afghanistan please contact


Legal specialists 2004 -2011