Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova being disbarred

February 10, 2021
Shahla Humbatova. Photo: US State Department.

On 9 February 2021 Hamida Giyasbayli of OC Media reports that Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova has vowed to fight disbarment procedures against her despite what she says is a campaign of ‘harassment and threats’ from the Bar Association.

The Azerbaijani Bar Association has accused Humbatova of submitting a fake document as evidence during a civil case she was litigating, a criminal offence. They have also accused her of owing ₼460 ($270) in membership fees.  The association has taken her to court in an attempt to disbar her, which would strip her of the right to practice law.

Humbatova is well known in Azerbaijan for taking on high-profile human rights cases, including those of queer Azerbaijanis as well as blogger Mehman Huseynov. The move to disbar her follows the disbarment of dozens of other human rights lawyers in recent years, leaving few remaining lawyers taking on such cases. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/e761cd05-65b0-4a02-8abe-e8ce9c58faed]

Speaking with OC Media, Humbatova said the allegation she submitted fake documents was baseless, and that her defence had submitted evidence proving this.

She confirmed that she had owed eight months of membership fees, but insisted the association did not make any effort to notify her of this. ‘I learned about this from the media the day after the Board’s decision [to take me to court]’, she said.  She immediately made the payment, so when the Bar went to court with her disbarment request, there was no longer any debt. Emin Abbasov, a legal practitioner who also works on human rights cases, criticised the proceedings against Humbatova for being conducted behind closed doors and without any records.  Abbasov, along with four others, is himself appealing to the European Court of Human Rights after being denied certification by the Bar Association.                                                                                                                     

Humbatova told OC Media that the move to disbar her was a continuation of the policy of dismantling human rights defenders in the country.  ‘It is lawyers and human rights activists who are fighting against politically motivated arrests, torture, repression of dissidents and those who simply demand their rights, and informing the public and international organisations. Therefore, they are being neutralised’, she stated.

In December 2019, 42 member organisations of the Human Rights House, a global rights group, called on the Azerbaijani Bar Association to ‘halt reprisals against a number of human rights lawyers, including Shahla Humbatova and Elchin Sadigov’. Sadigov is Humbatova’s current lawyer. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/

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