IBAHRI calls on Azerbaijani court to overturn disbarment of lawyer Khalid Bagirov

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on Azerbaijan’s Baku Court of Appeal to revoke the Nizami District Court’s decision of 10 July 2015 to disbar the prominent human rights lawyer Khalid Bagirov from legal practice.

The Presidium of the Azerbaijan Bar Association (ABA) has initiated disbarment proceedings against Mr Bagirov following disciplinary measures taken against him for alleged inappropriate conduct in court. In recent months the ABA has moved to disbar a number of lawyers who have represented human rights defenders and activists. Reports indicate that the persecution of journalists, civil society and human rights defenders continues in Azerbaijan.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Hans Corell said: ‘The disbarment of Mr Bagirov and other lawyers defending human rights activists is of serious concern to the IBAHRI. It questions the independence of lawyers in the country and the ABA’s ability, or even intention, to protect the interests of its members. Mr Bagirov appears to have been targeted for carrying out his legitimate professional duty as a defence lawyer, which should be protected by Azerbaijan’s code of professional ethics for lawyers. The actions of the ABA and the Nizami District Court have without doubt halted Mr Bagirov’s defence of a number of high-profile human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.’

In relation to the disbarment, Mr Bagirov filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights in January 2015, citing that his freedom of expression had been violated under Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. On 13 July 2015, Mr Bagirov was officially notified by the ECtHR that it would review his case despite domestic remedies being unexhausted. Priority has been given to his application in accordance with Article 41 of the Rules of Court, which allows the ECtHR to determine the order in which cases are dealt with according to the importance and urgency of issues raised, on the basis of certain criteria.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy stated: “The IBAHRI contends that the disbarment of Mr Bagirov contravenes any disciplinary process of an independent judicial system and is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The IBAHRI urges Azerbaijan’s judiciary to observe the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, especially with respect to meeting disciplinary proceedings principles, upholding guarantees for the functioning of lawyers, and ensuring unrestricted freedom of expression”.-0-

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