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Fresh efforts to overcome civil service inertia to save the lives of Afghan judges and lawyers

Posted on 23 September 2021

Urgent UK Government intervention needed to save the lives of members of the Afghan judiciary and legal profession

UK lawyers have today pushed ahead with action to tackle the inertia of the UK civil service as they attempt to secure visas for members of the Afghan judiciary and legal profession and their families.

Lawyers from Mishcon de Reya and barristers from Garden Court Chambers are gathering further evidence to reject claims by Government representatives that their Afghan clients are not eligible for visas and point to the grave danger that members of the Afghan judiciary find themselves in. Should these applications be refused again, the legal team could issue a Judicial Review on the basis that the refusal decision was illegal and irrational.

This follows extensive delays and stonewalling by representatives from the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Ministry of Defence.

Government lawyers have repeatedly failed to offer helpful responses to the previous request to issue urgent visas. Up to this point, officials have either stated the need to apply to visa routes not yet open, or stated that visas could not be granted as applications should be made at visa application centres in Afghanistan (closed due to the Allied evacuation).

As central figures in upholding the liberal judicial system implemented after the Allied invasion, these people – whose must remain anonymous for their own safety - are now in an increasingly perilous position, with many being targeted by the Taliban and other criminal and insurgent groups.

The judges represented have been instrumental in imprisoning key members of known terrorist networks, drug traffickers; and those accused of violence again women. As a direct result of these criminals being released from jail by the Taliban, the judges who sentenced them are in hiding to save their lives. 

Many of the judges are female judges who passed sentences to free women from abusive marriages and actively campaigned on the importance of educating girls and allowing women to forge careers. The Taliban ideology does not allow females to work and certainly not in any positions of power. The female judges are being actively hunted by the Taliban and they are running in fear and hiding to protect themselves and their children.

Maria Patsalos, Immigration Partner at Mishcon de Reya, said:

"Our clients are facing death threats and property raids, they are having to move daily to evade capture and as their bank accounts have been frozen by the Taliban they have dwindling resources and limited hiding places. They are in grave danger."

"Despite their intrinsic links to the British justice system and their mentoring with British legal professionals, they have effectively been abandoned by the UK civil service. Publicised statements that Afghan citizens will be protected and helped are not yet true and the Government Legal Department has failed to consider a number of options that could be utilised to protect the lives of our clients"

"We are calling on the Government to use all the powers at their disposal, acknowledge the urgency in which action must be taken and remove the roadblocks in place. This Government must meet its moral obligations to members of the Afghan judiciary and legal profession and their families."

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