OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2018
September 12, 2018
Working Session 4
The Systematic Repression of Lawyers in Central Asia and Eastern Europe
Freedom House is gravely concerned by an apparent systematic crackdown on the legal profession by a number of OSCE participating States. Since 2017, restrictive legislative changes and punitive measures targeting individual lawyers were especially egregious in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Crimea. The intense persecution of the legal profession undermines individuals’ essential right of equal access to justice, especially those who openly call for government accountability, such as human rights defenders, journalists, social and political activists. Often, legal action is the only available recourse for individuals and associations to seek redress for violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
Due to governments’ threats both to lawyers and their would-be clients, the number of lawyers able to take on human rights cases is dwindling. Without a strong, independent judiciary and lawyers free from harassment, however, governments cannot claim to be fulling their obligations to protect the fundamental human rights of their citizens. Attacking the legal profession appears to be the final step in dismantling a system in which citizens can find recourse against unjust treatment by their own governments within the existing legal framework.
In Azerbaijan, the national parliament amended the ‘Code of Civil and Administrative Procedure’ and the ‘Bar Act’ in October 2017 to state that only members of the…