Reliable sources in Afghanistan told JURIST on Sunday that the Taliban Justice Department summoned lawyers who held a press conference earlier today to protest the Taliban’s recent takeover of the Association of Afghanistan Independent Bar (AIBA) and the abolition of the AIBA lawyer licensing authority at the Ministry of Justice. The press conference, orchestrated by a group of young Afghan lawyers comprising both women and men, was scheduled for 10 a.m. AFT but was canceled at the last minute when heavily armed Taliban soldiers arrived at the hotel where it had to take place. and ordered a stay of proceedings before they even began. The lawyers, several of whom were in their professional attire, were briefly seen outside the hotel afterwards before being arrested and detained for a brief period.
Speaking in Dari on a video seen by JURIST, one of the lawyers later said (JURIST translation): “Today the defense lawyers had to protest against the merger of the Bar with the Ministry of Justice under the form of a press conference. This merger is unfair and illegal, and the Bar is an independent association around the world. And here the members of the Islamic Emirate did not allow us to hold our press conference at the designated location. Even hundreds of yards away we were not allowed to assemble and almost immoral behavior took place and they scattered us all. “
The whereabouts of the lawyers who organized Sunday’s abortive press conference are unknown at this time. The International Bar Association (IBA) and other international bars representing lawyers have vigorously protested the Taliban’s takeover of AIBA. In a letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres on November 30, the IBA said it “completely undermines the independence of the legal profession in Afghanistan” and called on the United Nations to denounce the action as contrary to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.