Position of lawyers in Tajikistan
Lawyers working on politically sensitive cases are identified with their clients and subject to improper interference by public prosecutors and members of law enforcement agencies. Interference comes in the form of arbitrary arrests, imprisonment (often long-term), intimidation, and death threats against them and their families. Many lawyers who have defended members of the political opposition have been charged with national security-related offenses or have had to flee the country for fear of reprisal, and those who have been arrested and prosecuted have faced closed, unfair trials resulting in harsh prison sentences. These unprecedented risks make lawyers increasingly wary of taking on political cases or cases involving complaints against agents of the state. Changes introduced by the new Law “on Advokatura” (and amendments) of 2015 are also depriving the legal profession of its independence and reducing significantly the number of practising lawyers (which have to date been cut by half).
Legal Practice in Tajikistan
Before 2015 there was a dual system to qualification, either through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) or by self-governing Collegia. Since November 2015 there has been a unified Bar Association controlled by the MOJ through the Qualification Commission. All lawyers are now required to renew their
licenses with this Commission, and to retake the bar examination every five years. There are many grounds on which a candidate can now be barred from qualifying as a lawyer and the bar exam itself now includes questions on many non-legal subjects, including history and politics.
Rules for lawyers
Under the 2015 Law “on Advocacy” the Qualifying Commission, which administers professional exams and awards licenses, is directly controlled by the Ministry of Justice. There are restrictions on who can now practice as a lawyer and those who can must reapply for admission to the bar and complete a five-yearly “attestation”. Many rules that should have been implemented to ensure lawyers’ independence from state control have still not been developed.