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Legal community backs calls for Afghan assistance

The Law Council of Australia, Australian Bar Association and the Australian Association of Women Judges have joined the international legal community in expressing grave concern following the fall of Afghanistan’s Government to the Taliban.

Law Council (LCA) President Dr Jacoba Brasch QC and Australian Bar Association (ABA) President Matt Howard SC released a statement yesterday saying that, among the pressing issues requiring urgent attention by the Australian Government, were:

  • assisting Australians who are at risk and need to leave, along with Afghans who supported Australia’s defence and humanitarian work in the country, and
  • attending to the grave risk to those who have worked to defend and uphold the rule of law, and to support and establish democratic and justice institutions over the past 20 years, including in particular women participating in the legal profession.

“Among Afghans at terrible risk are judges and lawyers – many of whom have courageously worked to defend and uphold the rule of law, and to support and establish democratic and justice institutions over the past 20 years,” their statement said.

“We are particularly concerned for the safety of all Afghan judges, but in particular, the women judges who previously heard trials against members of the Taliban, and lawyers who worked for the fallen Government.

“We urge the Australian Government to continue to work with its international allies to protect and assist vulnerable Afghans, including by offering asylum and working to ensure safe passage of Afghans seeking to leave Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Australian Association of Women Judges (AAWJ) President Fleur Kingham and Secretary/Treasurer Robyn Tupman also issued a statement yesterday supporting efforts to evacuate Australian personnel and Afghan citizens who worked alongside them.

“In addition, we urge the Australian Government to consider the plight of women leaders, who have made substantial contributions to their nation over the last 20 years and are at risk because of their roles and gender, including women judges,” the AAWJ statement said. 

“Some 270 women serve as judges in Afghanistan. They have played a significant part in developing the rule of law and respect for human rights, adding to the overall capacity building in Afghanistan that Australia has supported as part of its mission there.”

The AAWJ said it joined with the International Association of Women Judges (which released a statement earlier this week), the International Association of Judges and the Australian Judicial Officers Association in their calls for urgent, meaningful and sustained support for the judiciary in Afghanistan, especially the women judges.

“One meaningful step would be to offer humanitarian visas to women judges at risk because of their role and gender,” they said. “The AAWJ is encouraged by news this morning that Minister Dutton is considering Humanitarian Visa Options for Prominent Women and calls on the Australian Government to play a part in securing safe passage and refuge for Afghan women judges and their families who are facing this existential crisis.”

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