Mistreatment of lawyers has chilling effect on human rights in Azerbaijan

The UN Committee Against Torture will conclude its examination today (24 April) of Azerbaijan’s compliance with its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.*

The Law Society of England and Wales submitted written evidence and made an oral statement to the committee based on our research on lawyers at risk in Azerbaijan.**

The submission highlights a range of harassment and intimidation lawyers face in Azerbaijan, including arbitrary disciplinary action, disbarment, attacks by law enforcement officials and unlawful surveillance.

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said: “The targeting of human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan interferes not only with their ability to represent clients effectively, but with their own rights too.

“This has detrimental repercussions on the adherence to the rule of law and human rights in Azerbaijan.

“When lawyers face reprisals due to their human rights work, they are unable to safeguard clients who may be susceptible to torture and ill-treatment in detention. Clients are also unable to have access to justice and a fair trial.

“In order to ensure access to justice for all, lawyers must be allowed to practise their profession freely and independently.

“Lawyers who speak out against violations of their clients’ rights – or even their own rights – have faced disciplinary action, during which they are often denied procedural guarantees, preventing them from effectively defending themselves.

“Disciplinary actions against lawyers have also led to arbitrary disbarments. With fewer available lawyers, clients lack timely access to representation.

“We urge the government of Azerbaijan to comply with human rights norms by ending its harassment of lawyers, preserving the independence of the legal profession and strengthening access to justice.

“We hope the Committee Against Torture recognises the climate of fear and insecurity that lawyers face in Azerbaijan and uses this evidence to call for an end to the interference with lawyers and their work.”

Notes to editors

*Learn more about the Committee Against Torture’s Consideration of the Fifth Periodic Report of Azerbaijan at its 79th Session. We made our oral statement to the committee in Geneva.

**Read our submission to the Committee Against Torture on our Lawyers at Risk page under ‘April 2024’.

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