Written by National Association of Women Judges|August 15, 2021|News
NAWJ is the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges, an organization which NAWJ founded, developed and helped grow. NAWJ joins the IAWJ in expressing our grave fears for the basic human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan as the Taliban advance and take control of large parts of the country. In particular, the women judges have disclosed that because they have followed their country’s laws, conducted trials, and administered sentences to the guilty, many of whom are members of the Taliban, they will soon be targeted for assassination. The AWJA judges have served in criminal, anti-corruption and narcotics courts, developed in conjunction with the United States over many years. Through their efforts, they have implemented rule of law and anti-corruption principles which are central to the mission statements of NAWJ and IAWJ.
At a virtual meeting of the AWJA last month, at which a number of NAWJ members were present, the Afghan judges spoke about the dangerous and difficult conditions in which they live and work. Some judges have lost their lives in terrorist attacks and several of the judges present had received death threats. Some have already been forced to flee their posts in the provinces with their families because it was too dangerous to remain. Their fears are not theoretical. In January, two women judges traveling to their jobs at the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, were murdered in the street. Now, the prisons housing convicted terrorists have been opened, and sentenced prisoners are contacting their judges threatening reprisals and revenge.
As a chapter of the IAWJ, an organization comprised of over 6500 women judges from more than 100 countries and territories worldwide, NAWJ wants to draw particular attention to the situation of Afghan women judges, given the special role they have played in upholding the rule of law and human rights for all, and the particular dangers they face as a result. We honor their commitment and their courage. Today, some 250 women serve as judges there.
Today, it is reported that the Afghan government has collapsed. The President of Afghanistan has fled the country. The United States Department of State is currently prioritizing visas for employees of the United States, including interpreters, as the United States reaches its date for final withdrawal from Afghanistan. NAWJ urges the Department of State to include the Afghan women judges and their families, who are in such a desperate and precarious position, in facilitating travel and processing visas in the same manner that special measures are being extended to interpreters, journalists and other personnel who provided essential service to the foreign military forces in Afghanistan. NAWJ urges our government to consider the fate of the women judges. By serving as judges and helping develop the Afghan judicial branch, women judges have helped establish the rule of law in their country, an essential pillar of a democratic state. Allowing them to be at the mercy of the Taliban and insurgent groups, given what they have sacrificed and contributed working side by side with the United States would be tragic indeed.
Hon. Karen Donohue