Reliable sources in Afghanistan told JURIST Sunday that the Taliban Ministry of Justice has summoned the lawyers who organized a press conference earlier in the day to protest the recent Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) and the removal of lawyer licensing authority from the AIBA to the Ministry of Justice. The press conference, orchestrated by a group of young Afghan lawyers comprising both women and men, had been planned for 10 AM AFT but was called off at the last minute when heavily-armed Taliban soldiers arrived at the hotel where it was to have taken place and ordered proceedings to stop even before they had started. The lawyers, several wearing their professional robes, were briefly seen outside the hotel afterwards before they were arrested and held for a brief period.
Speaking in Dari on a video seen by JURIST, one of the lawyers said later (JURIST translation): “Today, the defense lawyers were scheduled to protest the merger of the Bar Association with the Ministry of Justice in the form of a press conference. This merger is unjust and illegal, and the Bar Association is an independent association all over the world. And here, the members of the Islamic Emirate did not allow us to hold our press conference at the designated place. Even hundreds of meters away we were not allowed to gather and almost an immoral behavior took place and they scattered us all.”
The exact whereabouts of the lawyers who organized the abortive Sunday press conference are unknown at this time. The International Bar Association (IBA) and other international bar bodies representing lawyers have vigorously protested the Taliban takeover of the AIBA. In a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres dated November 30, the IBA said that it “completely compromised the independence of the legal profession in Afghanistan” and called upon the United Nations to denounce the action as contrary to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.