Blinken Pressures Azerbaijani Bar to Reinstate Human Rights Lawyer
Speaking to a gathering in Chicago last year, Shahla Humbatova, a lawyer from Azerbaijan, joked that well-meaning human rights lawyers in her country greet each other by asking: “Have you been disbarred yet?”
Earlier this month, Humbatova herself was disbarred on the eve of International Women’s Day, allegedly for missing a fee payment to the Azerbaijani Bar Association, which Humbatova says she was not informed about prior to her disbarment.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department responded, implying that it was retaliation for her human rights work, a means of harassing and silencing her.
“Her work, and the work of other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, should be celebrated, not punished, and we call on those responsible to expedite her reinstatement to the Azerbaijani bar,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a written statement.
The statement said that the work of Shahla Humbatova has helped to protect fundamental freedoms and to usher in systemic reforms to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has a reputation among human rights observers for silencing critics and the lawyers who represent them.
A 2021 Freedom House Report that inspected the civil liberties and political rights of Azerbaijan described the judiciary as “corrupt and subservient to the executive.” It is a country awash in trumped-up charges against people pushing for change, according to the report.
In addition, women in the country face rigid gender roles. At the time she won the award, Humbatova was one of only two prominent female human rights lawyers in the country. She had faced backlash from her own family for stepping out of domesticity and into legal work.
Humbatova had won the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage award and was hosted by WorldChicago as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program last year.
Humbatova, who has practiced as a lawyer since 2013, had been picked out by the State Department for fearlessly tackling human rights issues, including defending bloggers, journalists, and youth activists.
At that Chicago event, commenting on the prospect of her own disbarment, the loss of her high-profile career, and her source of livelihood, she replied stoically.
“This is what I do,” she said. “It’s not courage—it’s responsibility.”
In The News
WASHINGTON- The U.S. should appoint a special envoy for the devolving situation in Myanmar, a former U.S. ambassador to the country said on Thursday morning. "We're seeing, little by little and step by step, in slow motion, the collapse of the country, and it's going to... Read More
TORONTO (AP) — Canada announced Monday it will begin letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens into Canada on Aug. 9, and those from the rest of the world on Sept. 7. Officials said the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived as of Aug. 9 for eligible travelers... Read More
WASHINGTON -- A proposal that would expedite visas for Afghans who assisted the U.S. military glided through a congressional hearing Monday as the urgency grows to save them. As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, some Afghans who helped the U.S. or NATO forces are facing death... Read More
WASHINGTON - The chants, loud and impassioned, could be heard every time someone opened the White House press room door. With a balmy, near tropical heat, settled over the nation’s capital, the sprinklers outside seemed to spray with added urgency to keep the lawn green outside... Read More
WASHINGTON - The recovery period for COVID-19 has raised a limited window for western countries to try to go after areas that need investment in Africa, according to a scholar at a D.C.-based think tank event this week. The virus dramatically illustrated Americans are not protected... Read More
WASHINGTON- A letter from Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., to President Joe Biden this week urged the administration for firm plans to safeguard Afghans who worked with American troops during the War on Terror. As American troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan observers fear that Afghans who... Read More