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NEWS

Fair Trials signs joint letter on Azerbaijani law restricting work of lawyers

editor - November 8, 2017 - access to a lawyer

Fair Trials has recently co-signed a letter from international civil society coalition Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), voicing concerns over a new Azerbaijani law that would prevent non-bar lawyers from representing their clients in any kind of lawsuit. Read below an abstract from the letter.

Constitutional_Court_of_Azerbaijan_RepublicThe Azerbaijani government’s proposed amendments to the Code of Civil and Administrative Procedure and the Bar Act were approved by parliament on 31 October 2017. The amendments, which were first proposed on 17 October, were initially rejected at first reading by the national parliament. However, the fact that they have now been approved causes serious concern about the lack of legislative transparency and the real motivation behind them. According to the bill, practising lawyers who are not yet members of the Bar Association will be prohibited from appearing in court, or representing clients in any kind of lawsuit. Only affiliated Bar members will have the right to appear in court and represent clients.

Earlier in October, in response to the draft bill, a group of lawyers set up a campaign group entitled “Group of Practising Lawyers” to denounce the amendments that would significantly restrict the work and activities of independent lawyers in Azerbaijan. The group identified three types of legal representation in Azerbaijan: bar lawyers, non-bar lawyers, and practitioners, and argued that, if approved, the bill would prevent the few lawyers working on political and religious cases from participating in court proceedings or legal representation of any kind. In Azerbaijan, only bar members are allowed to plead in the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. Although non-bar lawyers were previously not allowed to defend criminal suspects or represent people accused of quasi-criminal regulatory offenses they were allowed to represent clients in civil court cases and administrative disputes provided that they had notarised power of attorney. As of today, this will no longer be the case. In the context of Azerbaijan where basic human rights and freedoms are frequently violated, where there are severe restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression and where the number of political prisoners is on the rise, the proposed bill is a clear sign of the continuing downward trend. The Azerbaijan Bar Association, which is closely tied to and influenced by the government, has limited the bar to only 934 lawyers, most of whom refuse to take politically sensitive cases. This situation attests to the government’s disregard of fair trial standards in cases of political and religious prisoners, as well as the ability of Azerbaijani citizens to find affordable and adequate legal representation.

The proposed amendments directly contravene Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations and we urge the parliament and government of Azerbaijan to repeal them as they would severely hinder the functioning of independent lawyers as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and the right to fair trial in the country. The proposed changes threaten both the independence of the legislative branch from the executive and the independence of the legal profession. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, the government of Azerbaijan must respect the premises of both conventions and guarantee that lawyers are able to carry out their professional activities unimpeded.

You can read the full letter here.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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