In a new report published today in three languages, the ICJ finds systemic weaknesses in the legal profession in Azerbaijan have undermined its independence, leading to harassment of independent lawyers and preventing them from playing their role in the protection of human rights.
The report Defenseless Defenders: Systemic Problems in the Legal Profession of Azerbaijan concludes that the internal problems in the organization of the legal profession undermine its independence.
It finds that the Bar Association does not act as a self-governing institution of lawyers that protects the independence of the profession or upholds high ethical standards.
Its subsidiary bodies are not elected in a timely manner and the Bar Association does not use the tools of self-regulation which it has at its disposal.
There are serious failings of transparency and accountability to its members.
The report identifies problems in the qualification procedure for lawyers which suffers from a lack of objective criteria for evaluation and has resulted in an acute shortage of lawyers in the country.
The disciplinary procedure is a particularly weak point for the legal profession and is abused as a means of harassment of lawyers.
The report documents multiple cases of harassment of lawyers, contrary to international law and international standards on the independence of the legal profession.
It makes recommendations to address these problems, based on an analysis of international human rights law and standards.
It also emphasizes that the independence and role of lawyers must be respected by all institutions of government: executive, legislative and judicial, and by all public authorities.
The report recommends that the Bar Association should reconsider its role of the governance of the profession, and should initiate, through a consultation process, a reform based on the principle of independence and high ethical standards of the profession.
The qualification process should ensure that there is a sufficient number of lawyers to uphold the principle of access to justice and an effective remedy for violations of human rights.
In regard to the disciplinary procedure it must be fair, objective and should aim to support the independence of lawyers in Azerbaijan; it should not be used for any purposes other than ensuring high professional standards, integrity and independence of lawyers.
The report is available in Azeri, English and Russian and can be downloaded below.
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