Lawyers are collaborating in an urgent bid to secure the evacuation of a female judge who worked on women’s rights protection in Afghanistan.
Barristers Michael Polak and Simon Myerson QC, Daniel Berke from Manchester firm 3D Solicitors, and the anonymous Twitter user @crimegirl said today they are working alongside a team of pro bono lawyers trying to secure the unnamed judge a visa. She is said to be in hiding in the country following the withdrawal of allied troops and the takeover of power by the Taliban. Direct appeals were made overnight to foreign secretary Dominic Raab and prime minister Boris Johnson to intervene and secure her safe passage out of Afghanistan.
An update on social media by @crimegirl said that a legal team had served letters before action on the Treasury Solicitor in respect of the Foreign Office, Home Office and Ministry of Defence. The British government has been given until 2pm tomorrow to issue visas to the judge and a female MP and their families, otherwise the issue will be taken to court.
Polak told the Gazette that rapid action from the government could save the lives of both women. He added: ‘These are women who have spent their careers fighting for women’s rights and against corruption. There is no time to spare, and we ask that those with the ability to do so issue visas for these incredibly brave women immediately.’
The plight of the 250 women who served as judges in Afghanistan under the previous regime has been a constant source of concern for the legal community.
Earlier this month, Sir Bob Neill, chair of the justice select committee, said in a Commons debate these women could become targets for the Taliban and called for them to be given priority in being brought to safety.
Neill said: ‘Judges, lawyers and prosecutors—part of the attempt to build a civilised society—were already being targeted for assassination even before the Taliban swept into power. They and their families now have to be in hiding. We have to help them.’
The Law Society has urged that judges and other legal professionals working in Afghanistan must be supported by the UK government and offered safe passage, safety and – wherever possible – asylum in this country.
A United Nations resolution passed this week says it ‘expects’ the Taliban to honour a commitment to allow Afghans to leave the country.
Foreign secretary Raab said the resolution was a ‘strong signal’ of the determination of the international community about the expectations of the new Afghan government.
He added: ‘The resolution calls for safe passage for all those who wish to leave, urgent humanitarian access and respect for human rights, and insists that Afghan territory must not be used to threaten or attack any other country or to shelter and train terrorists.’