GENEVA (AA) – The collapse of the rule of law and judicial independence in Afghanistan is a human rights catastrophe, UN experts have warned.
“Lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and other actors involved with the legal system in Afghanistan face grave risks to their safety, and those still practising must navigate a deeply challenging, non-independent legal system,” the experts said in a statement.
On the occasion of International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights in Afghanistan and the independence of judges and lawyers issued a joint statement expressing concern.
“International actors should provide protection and safe passage to lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and other actors involved with the legal system, especially women, who are at risk of reprisal and attacks by the Taliban and others,” they said. “We are gravely concerned by the extreme exclusion of women from the legal system. In an act of brazen discrimination, the Taliban have attempted to effectively ban all women — including women judges, prosecutors, and lawyers — from participating in the legal system.”
The experts are Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan.
250 women judges removed
They said more than 250 women judges and hundreds of female lawyers and prosecutors were removed.
“Prosecutors have been systematically sidelined, and some face grave risks because of work they previously undertook investigating and prosecuting members of the Taliban and other individuals.”
More than one dozen prosecutors, the majority men, reportedly have been killed by unknown individuals in Kabul and other provinces. Many remain in hiding.
“By suspending the 2004 Constitution, ousting all judges from the bench, stripping the Office of the Attorney General of its key role, and undertaking other similar steps, the Taliban has precipitated the collapse of the rule of law and judicial independence in Afghanistan,” said experts. “… It is a human rights catastrophe.”
Legal professionals have faced “unimaginable obstacles” since Taliban assumed control of Afghanistan and have persisted in their efforts to meet Afghan people’s legal needs, according to the experts.
“We call on the de facto authorities to… take the necessary steps to ensure the right to a fair trial for all Afghans.”