Afghanistan: UK Law Society ‘gravely concerned’ over plight of lawyers

The UK Law Gazette writes..

he Law Society has said it is ‘gravely concerned’ about the collapse of the justice system in Afghanistan and the persecution of legal professionals by the ruling Taliban.

This warning comes as Marzia Babakarkhail, a former family court judge from Afghanistan, speaks on behalf of the Law Society at the United Nations today.

As a family court judge, Babakarkhail specialised in violations against women’s rights and challenged discriminatory practices against women. Due to her work supporting vulnerable women, she became a target of the Taliban and was forced to flee to the UK in 2008.

Since then, Babakarkhail has advocated for the protection of women judges and their families in Afghanistan, as well as those stuck in Pakistan since fleeing the Taliban.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: ‘The situation for lawyers and judges in Afghanistan is of significant worry and we are grateful to Marzia Babakarkhail for raising these concerns. Marzia’s story highlights the plight of legal professionals under Taliban rule as lawyers and judges are unable to exercise their profession freely and have become targets of the state.

‘Many face death threats, harassment, attacks, enforced disappearances and unlawful killings’, Emmerson said. ‘Others are forced to flee the country or go into hiding. Female lawyers and judges also face increasing domestic violence and forced marriage.’

The persecution of lawyers and judges is further exacerbated by the erosion of the justice system, Emmerson added. ‘The judiciary has been dismantled, as the state only appoints Taliban members as judges. The Taliban likewise has complete control of who may be licensed as a lawyer. Women are excluded from any participation in the legal system, whether as lawyers, judges or claimants. There has been a collapse of access to justice.’

The Law Society is urging UN member states to call on Afghanistan to protect the lives of legal practitioners, ensure that lawyers are able to exercise their profession freely and independently, restore the rights of women in the justice system and adhere to international human rights standards.