Azerbaijan: Lawyer Irada Javadova disbarment decided in unfair proceedings

Today, the ICJ expressed concern at the recent disbarment of Irada Javadova, a high-profile lawyer in Azerbaijan and a former member of the Board of the Azerbaijan Bar Association.

The ICJ called on the Bar Association to reopen the disciplinary proceedings to afford Irada Javadova a chance to fully present her case in fair proceedings.

The ICJ also called on the Bar Association to reform their disciplinary procedures and practice with a view to ensuring fairness.

Disciplinary proceedings should not be used as a means of harassment of lawyers or as reprisals for lawyers’ defence of the human rights of their clients.

On June 11 2018, the Presidium of the Bar Association decided to disbar Irada Javadova, based on the information provided by a person who sought her legal assistance (K.M.). According to K.M.’s submission, Javadova made statements in the media concerning K.M.’s case, without her consent and without having a notarized power of attorney.

After receiving a request from K.M’s mother to inquire about the whereabouts of her daughter, in an open letter, Javadova had raised concerns at the possible arbitrary detention of K.M. This triggered disciplinary action against the lawyer.

The ICJ notes that contrary to the procedure established by the Law on Lawyers and Advocates Activities, Irada Javadova had no opportunity to present her case at the summary disciplinary hearing before the Presidium.

She did not receive a copy of the opinion of the Disciplinary Commission submitted to the Presidium, and evidence that she provided to it not considered or evaluated.

Irada Javadova is the latest of several Azerbaijan lawyers to be disbarred after publically raising concerns about possible human rights violations of their clients. Such disbarments represent an alarming trend and have a chilling effect on lawyers’ work to defend human rights, including by attempting to assist relatives of missing persons.

In its report on the independence of lawyers in Azerbaijan, the ICJ concluded that disciplinary procedures for lawyers “suffer from a lack of objective criteria, predictability and transparency. There are also concerns regarding the lack of clear criteria in law, practice or guidance, for the imposition of the most severe disciplinary penalty, disbarment. These gaps in standards lead to problems in practice, opening the way for … arbitrary victimization of lawyers through disciplinary proceedings.”

The ICJ stresses that, in accordance with the right to a fair hearing and with international standards on the role of lawyers, disciplinary proceedings against lawyers must be fair, must protect against arbitrariness, and must provide guarantees for the independence of lawyers.

Lawyers should be able to present their case and should be able to introduce evidence to be considered and evaluated in good faith.

In accordance with these principles, the ICJ calls on the Azerbaijan Bar Association to ensure that lawyers subject to disciplinary proceedings obtain copies of all relevant documents in the proceedings, in order to be able to prepare their arguments prior to the hearing in the Presidium.

Background information

Irada Javadova is a lawyer based in Baku. She has been a member of the Azerbaijan Bar Association for 13 years. From 2012-2017 she was a member of the Presidium of the Bar Association and is known for her work as a human rights lawyer.

Irada Javadova represented K.M. who was a suspect in a fraud-related case. K.M. concluded a contract with Javadova and was on her way to notarize it. After K.M. had left the lawyer’s office she was apprehended by people in plain clothes and was brought to the Main Organized Crime Department of the Ministry of Interior.

Subsequently, K.M.’s mother contacted Javadova asking her to take up the case and find out about the whereabouts of her daughter.

Acting upon the request of K.M.’s mother, Irada Javadova applied to the responsible State authorities urging them to provide information about her client. Having obtained no response, Javadova published an open letter addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs. After the open letter had been published, K.M. was released.

However, later K.M. complained about the actions of her lawyer, stating that she did not have a power of attorney to represent her and that the statement made by Irada Javadova in the media was false and slanderous.

Irada Javadova, in turn, denies the allegations and states that she has all the evidence to prove that she acted based on a contract signed with K.M. and in the best interest of her client. On 12 June, Javadova met with representatives of the Presidium of the Bar Association to submit her evidence.

She was informed that there would be an appeal to Baku Administrative Economic Court No. 1 and that she could defend her claims in court.

AdvocacyPosition papers