The Afghan legal Fraternity members said that “ In our assistance, we must publicly express our solidarity with them”. Unfortunately, women judges have been the hardest hit, but anxiety has spread across the board. Fortunately, organisations in various regions of the world have raised awareness of their suffering, and hopefully, positive outcomes will result from these actions.
The number of female judges in Afghanistan is unknown; however, it is estimated to be between 200 and 250. Many of them are said to have fled the country or are residing in refugee camps. Those who stay in Afghanistan face constant danger and live in constant worry for their lives.
Unidentified assassins massacred two female Supreme Court judges while they were on their way to court on January 17, 2021. While this sent shockwaves throughout the country, the perpetrators have yet to be identified, either individually or as a group. This should have provided a foretaste of what was to come, and preventative and defensive measures should have been implemented far in advance.
Unfortunately, the situation has worsened since the Taliban assumed control of the government. Apart from gender concerns, one of the main causes is the universal amnesty granted to inmates, many of whom owe allegiance to the Taliban.
Judges, particularly women judges, have expressed great fear and concern about revenge killings as a result of this. In fact, once one of these individuals was convicted and punished, he threatened to exact retribution after his release.
Women judges have attempted to flee Afghanistan as a result of events like this. While some have been successful, others have been forced to seek sanctuary in refugee camps in a neighbouring country, where they will hopefully be rehabilitated after several months of living in abject poverty. Those who are unable to leave the nation are staying with friends and family, but they are continuously moving.
In order to find them, some of the fighters have harassed and blackmailed their neighbours, threatening to expose the whereabouts of these female judges. As a result, not only the judges are in danger, but also their neighbours, friends, and families.
Judges’ homes have been searched and their bank accounts have been suspended. They have received threatening texts and have been the target of physical harassment on several occasions. Prosecutors’ lawyers have not been spared; they have all been subjected to some type of intimidation.
On behalf of women judges and lawyers, the international community has taken up arms. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego Garcia Sayan, has written to the President of the European Commission, expressing out that the situation in Afghanistan has been defined as a “human tragedy” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He has urged the European Commission to take proactive steps to ensure the protection of female judges and lawyers.
The International Bar Association (IBA) and the International Bar Associations Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) have also published a statement, citing tales of amputations, executions, and the hunt for citizens who worked with Afghanistan’s former administration. They have advocated for faster and better coordination in providing safe havens, expediting visas for the judiciary, legal experts, and human rights defenders, and expediting visas for transfer and resettlement. Sternford Moyo, President of the IBA, has urged for more respect for the rule of law and individual human rights. Justice Michael Kirby, the co-chair of the IBAHRI, has emphasised the need of upholding and preserving universal human rights, as well as Afghanistan’s international human rights duties and duty to the rule of law.
The International Association of Judges and the International Association of Women Judges have published a joint statement, which begins, “Judges in Afghanistan are in grave danger.” In terrorism, security, and other criminal cases, these judges have defended the rule of law, according to the joint statement. In a variety of cases, they ruled against men. Some of these guys were Taliban members, and “the Taliban does not agree that women have the ability to judge men,” according to the report.
As members of the legal profession, we owe it to the Afghan judges, lawyers, and legal professionals to voice our support during these challenging times. We must make our voices are known, as well as the voices of others, in order to prevent the culture of violence from escalating. Let us emerge from our cocoons to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters. Remember that in Jharkhand, a judge was recently killed in a revenge killing.