IBA appeals to UN for denunciation of Taliban take-over of Afghanistan Independent Bar Association
In late November the IBA wrote an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, expressing grave concern over the Taliban take-over of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA).
The IBA 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; and condemn the seizure of the AIBA bank account and forfeiture of funds.
On 23 November 2021, the Taliban forcefully broke up a meeting being held in the AIBA office and took control of the Association. The Taliban has also announced that it will incorporate the AIBA into its Ministry of Justice (MoJ). These developments mean that the Taliban now has access to the AIBA database, which 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’.
Podcast series on torture
The Human Rights Law Committee has launched a podcast series looking at both obvious and overlooked aspects of litigating and documenting torture, in an ‘A-Z’ format.
Although the obligations under the Convention against Torture are of a jus cogens nature, the scope of these obligations, and the range of physical and psychological torture/cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, tend to be understood or construed narrowly.
Prohibited practices are regrettably ‘normalised’ through the frequent use of such conduct (eg, prolonged isolation, incommunicado detention or enhanced interrogation techniques) and too often political circumstances lead to courtrooms being infiltrated by the fruits of torture.
The podcast series aims to address these issues – and illustrate the deleterious effects of torture on individuals and society – in a clear and accessible manner.
Leading this project, and featured in the first episode, are Alka Pradhan and Melinda Taylor, Co-Vice-Chairs of the IBA Human Rights Law Committee. Alka is a US human rights lawyer who has represented Guantanamo Bay detainees, civilian drone strike victims and other torture victims. Melinda is an Australian international criminal defence lawyer who has worked on defence cases before tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, and engaged in prominent human rights litigation concerning torture and arbitrary detention.
The first episode covers arbitrary detention, as both a form of torture and environment which renders individuals susceptible to torture; beatings – physical torture; and ‘confessions and clean teams’.
IBAHRI marks Day of the Endangered Lawyer
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) marked the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24 January 2022 with a webinar entitled ‘Discussion on the UN Guidelines for Lawyers in Support of Peaceful Assemblies’. The webinar was organised in conjunction with several organisations, including the Geneva Bar Association, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
A key theme of the event was how legal practitioners can play a role in ensuring the rights of peaceful assembly are respected. The webinar also served as a launch event for the ‘UN Guidelines for Lawyers in Support of Peaceful Assemblies’, which were presented at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The Day of the Endangered Lawyer was set up in 2010 to call attention to human rights lawyers who have been threatened and focuses on a different country every year.
IBAHRI supports CoE vote to launch infringement proceedings against Turkey over failure to release activist
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has welcomed the Council of Europe (CoE)’s decision to vote in favour of launching infringement proceedings against Turkey over its failure to release Osman Kavala, a human rights defender, from arbitrary detention. The decision is in line with a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and as Turkey is a member of the CoE, its failure to abide by the ECtHR’s judgment has caused diplomatic tensions.
IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, said that the move by Turkey is ‘a great injustice and clearly aimed at dissuading him, and other human rights defenders, from their work’ and that ‘through judicial harassment and manipulation of the justice system public dissent is being silenced’. She also added that ‘through [Turkey’s] actions of curtailing Mr Kavala’s freedom and disregarding the ECtHR ruling, the Turkish authorities are making a mockery of the rule of law’.
If the Court confirms that Turkey has failed to implement its 2019 ruling, the Committee of Ministers may then take additional measures which could include suspending Turkey’s voting rights or membership from the CoE.
Mark Stephens CBE, IBAHRI Co-Chair, has said that ‘Turkey has a legally binding obligation to comply with the ruling of the ECtHR’ and that ‘strong measures’ were required to ‘protect the rule of law which includes the release of Osman Kavala and other human rights defenders’.
Hina Jilani receives 2020 Stockholm Human Rights Award
Hina Jilani, lawyer, pro-democracy campaigner and civil rights activist, was awarded the 2020 Stockholm Human Rights Award on 6 December 2021 in an online ceremony. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the in-person ceremony was postponed and Hina Jilani was instead presented with the award via a livestream. The virtual event also included an interview conducted by IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis.
Dr Ellis said: ‘Ms Jilani’s accomplishments are numerous and ground-breaking, inspiring people beyond her native Pakistan. I am delighted that she has been selected as the 2020 awardee.’
The Stockholm Human Rights Award is bestowed annually by the Swedish Bar Association, the IBA and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC). The award, which was established in 2009, recognises a person or an organisation’s outstanding services in the support of human rights and the rule of law.
New appointments announced to the leadership of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom
The Rt Hon Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury has appointed Can Yeğinsu and Catherine Amirfar to serve as the Deputy Chairs of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom (the Panel). The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) acts as Secretariat to the Panel, which is an independent body established in July 2019, and comprises a group of 15 leading lawyers and jurists from around the world.
Yeğinsu is a barrister at 4 New Square Chambers in London, and is recognised as one of the UK’s leading lawyers practising in civil liberties and human rights, public international law and in international arbitration and commercial litigation. He also teaches international law at Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and Koç University Law School.
Amirfar is Co-Chair of the International Dispute Resolution Group and the Public International Law Group at Debevoise & Plimpton. Her practice focuses on public international law, international commercial and treaty arbitration and complex international commercial litigation. She has argued before courts in the United States, and international courts including the International Court of Justice.