Former Afghanistan judge illustrates dire state of justice system under Taliban rule

The Law Society of England and Wales is gravely concerned about the collapse of the justice system in Afghanistan and the persecution of legal professionals by the Taliban.

This warning comes as Marzia Babakarkhail, a former family court judge from Afghanistan, speaks on behalf of the Law Society at the Afghanistan UPR pre-session in the United Nations today (February 15).*

As a family court judge, Marzia specialised in violations against women’s rights and challenged discriminatory practices against women.

Due to her work supporting vulnerable women, Marzia became a target of the Taliban and was forced to flee to the UK in 2008.

Since then, Marzia has tirelessly 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.**

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.

“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.

“With the dire state of the justice system in Afghanistan, countless people are left at the mercy of the Taliban.

“We urge the 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.”

Notes to editors

*The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) assesses the human rights records of all UN member states. They take place every four to five years. Our UPR on Afghanistan can be found under ‘October 2023’: Lawyers at Risk.

**Since the Taliban resurgence in August 2021, it is reported that seven lawyers have been killed and 146 have been arrested or investigated, and 30 prosecutors have been killed and 11 injured in attacks. See statistics on lawyers and statistics on prosecutors.

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Press office contact: Shanzeh Haque | 020 8049 4138

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