Tajikistan: officials must end intimidation of lawyers, including the Bar Association Chairperson
The ICJ today expressed concern that a Government anti-corruption agency has engaged in acts of intimidation against the Chairperson of the Union of the Lawyers of the Republic of Tajikistan, Saidbek Nuritdinov, and 15 other lawyers.
The intimidation apparently relates to the lawyers’ defence of Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda, a lawyer facing trial on charges of fraud, who was allegedly ill-treated in detention by officers of the city Department of the Agency for Financial Control and Combating Corruption of the Republic of Tajikistan (Anti-Corruption Agency).
After the lawyers representing Abdurahmonzoda alleged that he had been ill-treated, the judge of the Sino district of Dushanbe city hearing the case, Ahmadzoda Farogat, requested the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the allegations.
Following the initiation of the inquiry of the allegations of ill-treatment, the Head of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Dushanbe, allegedly sent requests to a number of district courts of Dushanbe to obtain information about civil and criminal cases in which Saidbek Nuritdinov had participated as a lawyer.
The requests are said to seek information such as the names and, place of residence of clients: subject matter of civil cases, and details of the charges against his previous clients. In addition, it was reported to the ICJ that Judge Akhmadzoda Farogat, transmitted a list of the fifteen lawyers and copies of their official orders, the documents authorizing the representation of the lawyer, to the Anti-Corruption Agency at its request.
The ICJ notes, that while this information is not confidential per se, previous such investigations of the Anti-corruption Agency have led to criminal prosecution and conviction of lawyers.
“In this case, representation of a lawyer subject to criminal proceedings was undertaken by a group of his colleagues, including the head of the association of lawyers, in line with professional ethics, said Temur Shakirov, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ. “Such representation is consistent with international standards on the role of lawyers as well as national law of Tajikistan”.
“If the investigation is related to the lawyers’ representation in the case of Abdurahmonzoda, it would constitute a means of intimidation of the lawyers. And as such it should be ceased, and the lawyers should be able to continue to act freely and diligently in accordance with the national law and international law and standards on the role of lawyers”, Shakirov added.
The criminal case against lawyer Abdulaziz Abdurahmonzoda was initiated under article 247.2, of the Criminal Code (fraud) on 17 April 2019. At the court hearings observed by the ICJ, Abdurahmonzoda insisted on his innocence and alleged breaches of the criminal procedure in course of the preliminary investigation: initiation of a criminal case without legal grounds (the case was said to lack the victim’s statement about the fraudulent actions committed on the part of Abdurahmonzoda); violation of the procedure of the preliminary investigation and submission to the court of evidence knowingly obtained by illegal means. The ICJ is observing the trial.
According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments “shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” and they should not “suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”(Principle 16).
Furthermore, interference or obstruction of lawyer’s activity is prohibited by the Law of the Tajikistan on Lawyers and Lawyers’ Activities. According to the law, a lawyer cannot be held liable for any opinion expressed by him/her as part of his/her lawyers’ activity, with the exception of actions that may constitute a crime. The request from lawyers or lawyer’s unions of information related to the provision of legal assistance in specific cases is not allowed.
According to the Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (“Singhvi Declaration”), enable the Bar Association to fulfil its function of preserving the independence of lawyers, they should “be informed immediately of the reason and legal basis for the arrest or detention of any of its members or any lawyer practising within its jurisdiction”. In these cases, bar associations are “ entitled to be represented by its president or nominee to follow the proceedings and in particular to ensure that professional secrecy and independence are safeguarded”.NewsWeb stories