Collapse of justice system in Afghanistan leaves countless at the mercy of the Taliban

The erosion of the justice system in Afghanistan has left countless at the mercy of the Taliban, including lawyers, prosecutors and judges. This is particularly true for women, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

The Law Society has raised its concerns with the United Nations (UN) as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).*

Law Society President Nick Emmerson said: "The complete collapse and dismantling of the legal system, which began after the resurgence of the Taliban in 2021, remains a significant worry.

“The Taliban have dismissed all previously appointed prosecutors and judges, as well as abolished the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association and the Attorney General’s Office, which has undermined the rule of law and access to justice.

“Countless lawyers have also had their licenses revoked and are prohibited from practising. Women lawyers are excluded from taking their qualifying examinations, renewing their licenses, or appearing in court.

“Only Taliban-approved men lawyers are allowed to appear in court, where they are required to pledge loyalty to the state and comply with the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of sharia law.

“Having effectively banned all women lawyers, prosecutors, and judges, the Taliban have seriously restricted access to justice for women. Judicial bodies will not accept women’s petitions or allow women to appear alone in court.”

The dismantling of the legal system has also led to the systematic persecution of legal practitioners.

Nick Emmerson concluded: “Many legal professionals who worked in the legal system prior to the Taliban takeover have become targets of the Taliban.

“Lawyers, prosecutors, and judges have faced harassment, torture, ‘revenge’ attacks, enforced disappearances, and execution. Due to the serious and continuing threats to their lives, many have gone into hiding or fled the country.

“In the absence of an independent legal profession and a functioning legal system, it is clear that countless people are left at the mercy of the Taliban.

“We urge the UN 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.”

Notes to editors

  • *The UPR reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States. They take place every four to five years. Find out more.
  • Our Universal Periodic Review (UPR) can be found here under ‘October 2023’: Lawyers at Risk | The Law Society

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact:  Shanzeh Haque | 07706 989843

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS