Rule 9(2) submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning the implementation of the Namazov group of cases v Azerbaijan (Appl. No. 74354/13)

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), and Independent Lawyers Network (ILN) lodged submissions pursuant to Rule 9(2) of the Committee of Ministers’ Rules for the Supervision of the Execution of Judgments in respect of the Namazov group, consisting of three cases:

  • Namazov v Azerbaijan (Appl. no. 74354/13)
  • Aslan Ismayilov v Azerbaijan (Appl. no. 18498/15)
  • Bagirov v Azerbaijan (Appl. no. 81024/12)

The three judgments in the Namazov group concern Azerbaijani lawyers who were disbarred from the Azerbaijani Bar Association (ABA) and were deprived of their ability to practise legal profession. Mr. Bagirov’s case also concerns his suspension as a member of the Bar for one year.

The Committee of Ministers (CM) has already called upon the Government of Azerbaijan to ensure that ‘the proceedings against the applicants are re-opened with a view to rectifying the shortcomings identified by the Court’ in its decision of 16 September 2021. According to the Government’s report of 5 November 2021 to the CM, however, the proceedings were only re-opened in Mr. Ismayilov’s case. No information was provided on the two other cases in the group, or any explanation as to why the proceedings were not re-opened in respect to these cases.

We provide the following recommendations aimed at the Government of Azerbaijan and/or the Azerbaijani Bar Association:

Re inadequacy of legislative and other regulatory framework relating to the legal profession and the operation of the Azerbaijani Bar Association

  1. The Law on Advocates and Advocacy Activity should be amended to include specific grounds as a basis for exclusion of lawyers from the ABA and to ensure that the Law is clear, foreseeable and that adequate legal safeguards against arbitrary application are introduced. The legislative process should be conducted with the involvement of the civil society and the legal community in Azerbaijan;
  2. The ABA should repeal and significantly improve the Rules of Conduct for Lawyers as they currently contradict the international standards and limit lawyers’ freedom of expression; Regarding application of disciplinary measures against ABA members in practice
  3. The ABA should put an end to violations of procedural guarantees of lawyers subjected to disciplinary proceedings and ensure that their rights, such as the right to be heard, access to case materials and a right to defence, are clearly established and ensured in laws and in practice. Strong legal safeguards against arbitrary denial of such rights should be introduced.

Regarding the need to strengthen institutional independence of ABA and its growing control over the legal profession

  1. The Law on Advocates and Advocacy Activity should be amended to ensure that the ABA and its governing bodies are formed with the direct participation of all its members and not the representative voting system, which is underregulated and under strong control of the Presidium of the ABA;
  2. The Law on Advocates and Advocacy Activity should be amended to ensure that the governing and disciplinary bodies of the ABA are elected by the General Assembly of the ABA and not appointed by the executive body of the ABA;
  3. The Law on Advocates and Advocacy Activity should be amended to ensure that the Qualification Commission is consisted of a majority of members of the legal profession appointed by the Bar Association;
  4. The ABA should ensure transparency by publication of minutes and agendas of the ABA Presidium meetings and financial reports, in particular with regard to disciplinary decisions.
  5. The ABA should amend its rules to remove the non-transparent and biased permission system for the establishment of legal bureaus and apply the notification system;

Regarding reinstatement of disbarred lawyers

  1. The Government should take feasible measures to ensure timely and adequate execution of the ECtHR’s judgments concerning lawyers’ disbarment, and ensure the maximum possible reparation for the violation found by the Court;
  2. The Plenum of the Supreme Court should reconsider the domestic court decisions regarding disbarment of lawyers on the basis of ECtHR judgments as a ‘new circumstance’ in line with the domestic law and its established timeframe;
  3. The ABA should demonstrate its commitment to protect its members and the independence of legal profession by revoking its decisions to seek for disbarment of lawyers in cases where ECtHR has found violations of the affected lawyers’ rights, and seek for reopening of the cases by the Plenum of the Supreme Court;
  4. The ABA must demonstrate that it has ended the practice of disbarment and other disciplinary sanctions of lawyers on politically motivated grounds.

Read the submission here.