Members of the Australian legal community have expressed grave concerns for those at risk in Afghanistan following the recent fall of the country’s government to the Taliban.
The Law Council of Australia, the Australian Bar Association, Human Rights Watch, the Refugee Council of Australia and the Australian Centre for International Justice have released statements calling on the Australian government to urgently assist in the crisis – including to help Australians to leave Afghanistan as well as Afghans who supported the defence and humanitarian work in the country.
One joint letter, penned by the Refugee Council of Australia, has received more than 300 signatories from organisations, businesses and community groups calling on federal MPs and senators to take urgent action on the situation.
“Members of the Afghan diaspora in Australia are desperately worried about their family, colleagues, and friends who remain in Afghanistan. Many of the people here in Australia also need certainty and safety, and the Australian Government has the power to offer protection and additional support in many ways,” said Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power.
President Jacoba Brasch of the Law Council of Australia and Matt Howard SC, President of the ABA, said the government should attend “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 twenty 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 twenty years. 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,” they said.
Elaine Pearson, Australia Director of Human Rights Watch, said the Australian government should “take urgent steps to address the human rights crisis in Afghanistan and help protect Afghan civilians at particular risk”.
“Civilians feared to be at particular risk include those who have worked to promote human rights, democracy, women’s rights, and education; academics, writers, journalists, and other media workers; and people who have worked for foreign countries; among other at-risk categories. Members of ethnic minorities and Shia Muslims, especially Hazaras, are also at greater risk,” she wrote.
“There are at least 4,200 Afghans on temporary visas in Australia and 53 in detention who doubtlessly are terrified of being sent back to Afghanistan. The Immigration Minister has said ‘no Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire.’ But the Australian government should immediately place a moratorium on all deportations and forced returns of Afghan nationals.”