IPHR urges Azerbaijan to respect rights of lawyers

Two lawyers who work on politically sensitive cases recently had their licenses suspended.

The International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) has called on Azerbaijan to respect the rights of lawyers.

“IPHR calls on the government of Azerbaijan to guarantee that all lawyers are able to carry out their professional activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals,” says a


released on 16 May. “IPHR urges the government of Azerbaijan to fully respect and protect the human rights of lawyers and implement in law, policy and practice protections provided for by international law and standards, including those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.”

On 31 October 2017, the Azerbaijani parliament passed a law banning non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in court. It came into force on 1 December. “The bill significantly restricted the work of the handful of lawyers working on political and religious cases,” IPHR said in their statement on Wednesday.

While the amendments were still being debated, a

group of lawyers

explained in a brief that in 2003-2004, after joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan agreed to amend the Bar Act to expand the role of non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners in the courts. In a country where the Bar Association is heavily politicized, this system has allowed many human rights lawyers to continue their work despite government pressure.

On 23 April 2018, Azerbaijan’s Bar Association announced that it was suspending the licenses of two lawyers – Nemat Karimli and Asabali Mustafayev. Karimli defended Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist currently in prison for allegedly crossing the border illegally, smuggling $10,000 into the country, and resisting the police. Mustafayev defended Gozal Bayramli, deputy chairwoman of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan Party, who is in prison for allegedly smuggling $12,000 into Azerbaijan.

Karimli and Mustafayev are the latest lawyers who handle politically sensitive cases to face disciplinary actions from the Bar Association. Other lawyers who have been disbarred include Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, Yalchin Imanov, Elchin Namazov, Aslan Ismayilov, Muzaffar Bakhishov, and Alaif Hasanov.

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