Open letter on disciplinary measures against Shahla Humbatova
In an open letter to the Presidium of the Azerbaijani Bar Association Lawyers for Lawyers together with several other organizations expressed concern about the disproportionate disciplinary measures against lawyer Shahla Humbatova. She is now facing suspension and pending disbarment.
Humbatova has defended numerous high profile Azerbaijani political prisoners and is currently representing several defendants in the Ganja Case, where her clients’ accounts of brutal torture, forced confessions and fabricated evidence have attracted widespread attention.
The Presidium of the Bar decided to suspend Humbatova on the basis of a complaint from a past client and the alleged failure to pay several months of Bar membership dues. Humbatova admits to accidentally falling behind in her bar payments, and rejects the rest of the accusations. The decision to suspend her license and seek her disbarment are an unambiguously disproportionate punishment. The case is seen as a part of the relentless persecution of independent lawyers in Azerbaijan. In recent years, a growing number of independent lawyers have been subjected to harassment, criminal prosecution and disbarment in retaliation for their work on high profile and politically sensitive cases, especially those concerning human rights violations.
Lawyers for Lawyers, together with the co-signatories of this appeal, urges the Azerbaijani Bar Association to reinstate Humbatova’s license and those of other human rights lawyers who have been disbarred on arbitrary grounds, and to protect, rather than undermine the independence of the legal profession in Azerbaijan. We also call on the government of Azerbaijan to comply with international standards on the protection of the legal profession, including those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Read the full letter here.
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