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HFHR intervenes in case of Azerbaijani lawyer

The Helsinki Foundation sent a letter to the Chair of Poland’s Bar Association and the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Azerbaijan to discuss the case of Aslan Ismayilov, the Azerbaijani advocate deprived of the license to practise by the Azerbaijani Bar Association.

According to the local human right defenders, the Bar’s decision was politically motivated and is the response to Mr Ismayilov’s criticism against the Azerbaijani government and his work on cases involving human rights violations in that country.

In its letter to the Polish Ambassador the HFHR calls for requesting Azerbaijani authorities to explain actions taken by the local Bar Association.

The Foundation also asked the head of the Polish Bar to condemn the decision of its Azerbaijani counterpart organisation and express solidarity with Azerbaijani advocates. “Mr Chairman, we call you to publicly condemn the actions taken by the Azerbaijani Bar Association for they take away the ability to practise the advocate profession from persons actively involved in protecting rights of individuals”, reads the letter to the Polish Bar Association.

Disregard for the freedom and independence of advocates in Azerbaijan is a problem raised by many local lawyers. In their opinion, judicial system bodies present a hostile approach towards advocates and intentionally hinder their contacts with clients.

Joanna Smętek, HFHR lawyer comments: “Such actions target advocates representing opposition activists, human right defenders or lawyers appearing in controversial, political cases.” Ms Smętek recalls a 2011 case which involved the advocates Khalid Bagirov, a litigator defending opposition figures and journalists, and Elchin Namazov, a lawyer representing activists arrested in the wake of peaceful demonstrations. Both jurists have not been afforded an opportunity to directly respond to the charges made against them.

According to HFHR Deputy President, Dr. Adam Bodnar, “The case of Aslan Ismayilov exemplifies the wider problem of hindering work of Azerbaijani advocates engaged in human rights protection and the general disregard for human rights in Azerbaijan. In consequence, the HFHR decided to publicise Mr Ismayilov’s case in Poland and further bring the issue to the attention of international legal organisations.”

Pursuant to international standards, advocates should enjoy full freedom and independence in performing their professional duties. A failure to adhere to this rule will deprive suspects and defendants of the ability to fully exercise their rights.

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