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IBA appeals to UN for denunciation of Taliban take-over of Afghanistan Independent Bar Association

Wednesday 15 December 2021

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’.

When the AIBA was established in 2008 it was hailed as a symbol of hope for the legal system in Afghanistan; a non-governmental organisation founded in collaboration with Afghan lawyers, it upheld the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. Referencing the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the letter reiterates that ‘lawyers must be able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference’. The Taliban take-over of the AIBA violates this principle and in so doing negatively impacts the whole of Afghan society because without an independent legal profession there can be no justice for anyone.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor​​​​​​​

  1. Click here to download a copy of the letter from the IBA to the UN.
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  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. ​​​​​​

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.​​​​​​​

    ​​​​​​​The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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