The continuation of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, as well as in the context of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War should be assessed as a turbulent period for both the legal profession and for the activities of the Azerbaijani Bar Association. In particular, due to the provision of professional legal aid to the people and the limited work of the courts impacted the activities of the lawyers as well.
As it is known, by the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated December 25, 2019, it was decided to celebrate December 28 every year in Azerbaijan as “Lawyer's Day” as a professional holiday.
It should be noted that in connection with the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which outbroke in September of this year as a result of Armenian provocation, the Bar Association prepared two different reports in English and Russian, containing legal and factual grounds of the conflict. The reports were sent to a total of 230 international organizations and 40 officials of higher authorities, including the legal community, calling for an assessment of the environmental and cultural terrorism perpetrated by Armenia and strong condemnation of these actions.
Also, on the eve of the conflict, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, bar associations of different regions of Turkey, mayors sent letters to the Azerbaijani Bar Association for support of our country with regard to the conflict, and even these organizations expressed their intention to provide financial support to our compatriots affected by the conflict.
Also, as a result of friendly relations between the Azerbaijani Bar Association and the Bar Association of the Republic of Pakistan, representatives of the Bar Association of Pakistan, Bar Association of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Islamabad High Court Bar Association, Lahore Supreme Court Bar Association met with Azerbaijani Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Ali Alizadeh, and expressed their willingness to support our country in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
It should be noted that 8 members of the Azerbaijani Bar Association participated in the financial assistance to their family members of lawyers who were recruited during their entire service in the military. In particular, it is noteworthy that by the orders of the President, lawyers Farhad Azad oglu Karimov was awarded the "Brave Warrior", Azimov Rauf Nariman oglu and Maharramov Elvin Zamin oglu were awarded the medals "For the release of Jabrayil" and "For the release of Gubadli".
At the same time, the Board of the Bar Association decided to provide free legal assistance to the families of martyrs and wounded veterans by lawyers, as well as ensure representation in court proceedings free of charge. In addition, legal assistance was provided to the families of martyrs by visiting their homes without the need for them to go to a lawyer's office.
As for the work done by the Board of the Bar Association during the pandemic, it should be noted that the Board of the Bar Association established the Support Fund against Coronavirus up on the call of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. 50,000 manats were transferred for that purpose.
During the period of the pandemic, lawyers were released from membership fees (July, December and January 2021 of the current year), as well as lawyers aged 60 and over, from March 24 to June 1, 2020. Members were completely exempted from membership fees, and measures were taken to prevent lawyers aged 60 and over from being on duty in bars during the quarantine period.
Recently, the Board of the Bar Association addressed an appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers in order to make the Azerbaijani Bar Association responsible for the organization of professional protection of human rights and freedoms in our country, to carry out unlimited advocacy activities in this direction, and thus to ensure the free movement of Board members. Taking into account the need mentioned in the appeal of the Presidium, according to the decision of the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers, the issue of free movement of lawyers in the country on the basis of membership cards was resolved. In addition, the Legal Aid and Training Center of the Bar Association provided free online legal assistance to citizens in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.
In addition, 6 lawyers suffering from coronavirus and other diseases received financial assistance from the Lawyers Development Fund of the Azerbaijani Bar Association.
As we know, a working group was established to establish the Mediation Council in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On deepening reforms in the judicial system" dated April 3, 2019. The working group members are represented by the representatives of the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of Justice, the Small and Medium Business Development Agency, the Supreme Court, the State Agency for Citizen Services and Social Innovations, the Bar Association, the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers) and the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan. In this context, for the first time in the history of our country, one of the two founders of the Mediation Council was the Bar Association, which is accompanied by the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers).
As for the activities of the Board, 20 meetings of the Board in 2020, and a conference of the members of the Bar Association held every 3 years in accordance with the requirements of the Law "On Lawyers and Advocacy" were held on 28.12.2020. The report of the Board for the past period was presented at the conference, a number of documents regulating the activities of a lawyer profession were amended, new members of the Presidium and the Disciplinary Commission was elected. Candidate for lawyer Elvin Maharramov, who took part in the "Patriotic War" and was awarded the medals "For the release of Jabrayil" and "For the release of Gubadli", was sworn as a lawyer during the Conference.
At the meetings, information was provided on the measures taken by the Board, the forthcoming tasks, as well as decisions and legal documents related to the activities of the Board were adopted.
Thus, at the meetings held in 2020, by the decision of the Presidium, regulations ob "The system of internal control over the legalization of criminally obtained money or other property and the financing of terrorism by lawyers, bar associations and individual lawyers", “Internal control system of the Azerbaijani Bar Association on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing”, “Inventory rules of fixed assets of the Board of the Azerbaijani Bar Association”, “Accounting policy of the Azerbaijani Bar Association”, "Rules for the use of funds in the insurance bank account of lawyers" and "Payment to lawyers by the Azerbaijani Bar Association for legal assistance provided at the expense of the state", “Instructions on conducting documentation work on overcoming procedures” were adopted and partly amended.
Unlike previous years, in 2020 a number of new activities were added to the list of tasks of the Bar Association. As it is known, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated 03.04.2019 “On deepening reforms in the judicial system” determined the allocation of funds directly to the Bar Association for the state-funded legal aid provided at the expense of the state budget from 2020.
A total of 2,664,167 manats were used for this purpose, which is 48% of the funds allocated for this purpose from the state budget. The percentage of executed payment decisions to the legal aid lawyers was 100 percent.
During the current year, the Bar Association executed 88 payment documents, which shows that in previous years, the level of execution was more than 3.6 times compared to the local budget funding.
As of 30.12.2020, the Presidium received 2829 applications during the year. 1413 out of them were submitted by citizens, 159 by courts, 714 by bars, 37 by international organizations, 253 by lawyer candidates. The number of outgoing correspondence by the Board was 1215.
The Board continues its work in the field of innovations. As part of the done work, the work is underway with the e-Government Development Center to obtain lawyer inquiries in the electronic form. Also, in the near future, the "Electronic Lawyer Order" and "Continuing Education" electronic platforms will be made available to lawyers. In addition, due to the pandemic, a mobile application "LegalAid" was developed and made available to citizens, taking into account the quarantine regime.
Regarding the measures taken for admission to the Bar Association, it should be noted that due to the pandemic, in 2020 only one test examination for admission to the bar was held, as well as online verbal interviews were held with the lawyer candidates. As a result, the number of lawyers in the country increased from 1,708 to 1,844. This should be considered as a 100% increase in the number of lawyers compared to 2017.
As for the continuing education of lawyers, the Legal Aid and Training Center and the Academy of Justice jointly organized training events for candidates, lawyers, and lawyer assistants. 625 lawyers participated in those training events. As for mandatory (membership entrance) training events, 872 lawyer candidates have participated in initial mandatory training events in the last two years. The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Council of Europe and the International Committee of the Red Cross are among the international organizations that support the Board's educational activity. In particular, with the support of UNICEF and UNFPA, book-guides on child rights and domestic violence have been prepared for lawyers’ use.
Regarding the setting up the law offices, it should be noted that over the past year, 2 new offices have been launched in the regions and 8 in the capital Baku, and the number of law offices in the country has reached 99.
Illegal "advocacy" cases have also been widely combated. At the same time, the "Hotline" established by the Board of the Bar Association in order to detect and prevent such cases continues.
This year, the Board of the Bar Association paid special attention to the development of international relations and cooperation with international organizations, and held many meetings. In particular, in February of this year, at the invitation of the Austrian Bar Association, Mr. Anar Baghirov, Chairman of the Azerbaijani Bar Association, visited Vienna, Austria to attend the conference of the Presidents of the European Bar Association.
In May, bar associations of Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Russian Federation jointly held online conference on digitalization of the law services. And several conferences with the organizations of the European Council of Bar Associations (CCBE), the German Federal Chamber of Lawyers, the Kazakh Bar Association, the International Bar Association Association (UIA) and the Asia-Pacific Law Association were participated in.
During this period, cooperation with the UN specialized agencies, the International Organization for Migration, the Commissioners for Human Rights and Children's Rights, the Council of European Bar Associations (CCBE), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the Council of Europe, the European Union and the World Bank was continued, strengthened. A memorandum of cooperation with the Small and Medium Business Development Agency. Several conferences were attended with the participation of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Azerbaijan, German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce, etc.
At the same time, representatives of the Bar Association participated in 12 international events via online due to pandemic. The Chairman of the Azerbaijani Bar Association was directly attended in 5 of them. During 2020, the Azerbaijani Bar Association became a member of a number of international organizations specialized in the field of the lawyer profession. This year, the Bar Association was elected a member of the International Bar Association (UIA) and the Law Association of Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA).