Policy Paper on the Results of the Abolition of the Institute of Representation in Azerbaijan
The research group of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives (IDI) has prepared a policy paper on the prevention of legal representation by non-bar lawyers and practitioners in Azerbaijan.
The policy paper talks about a brief overview of the concept of the representation, the history of the institute of representation in Azerbaijan, as well as the Law of October 31, 2017, and its results. That law significantly diminished the rights of representatives, and thus the representation of individuals in court proceedings was monopolized by advocates.
The process of abolishing the representation, its results, and reports of international organizations on the issue are examined in the section of amendments to the legislation.
It is concluded that the bill was adopted without public discussion, which shows that the bill is not aimed at increasing the independence, self-regulation, and integrity of practical legal activity, as well as contradicts international standards.
According to the policy paper, the abolition of the institute of representation in Azerbaijan has created a number of serious problems in regard with the population’s access to legal assistance.
Thus, the access to effective legal assistance for low-income persons was diminished significantly, the lawyers and non-lawyers were deprived of the right to engage in practical legal activities, and the independent persons dealing with the protection of human rights in the country excluded from court proceedings.
The imbalance between the population of the country and the number of members of the Bar is analysed in terms of people’s access to legal assistance. If we compare the number of the population residing in the regions and the very small number of advocates operating there, it becomes clear that the abolition of the representation has affected negatively the access to legal assistance in the regions.
The analysis of the written and oral stages of the entrance examination to the Bar, the non-objective aspects of the examination, and, in particular, opinions on the purpose of the interview stage are mentioned in the policy paper. It is concluded that the interview stage is aimed at preventing the admission of "undesirable” persons to advocacy.
The legal state of representation and admission to advocacy in Georgia, as well as the procedure for admission to advocacy in Estonia, one of the former European countries of the USSR, is also examined in comparison with Azerbaijan.
Since Georgia is located in the Caucasus region and Estonia is a post-Soviet country of the European Union, they were selected for comparative analysis. During the analysis, it concluded that the participation of representatives is more widely established in the Georgian legislation. Furthermore, the process of admission to advocacy in Georgia and Estonia is more transparent.
The recommendations given in the policy paper are as follows:
•The institute of representation must be restored;
•The interview process in the admission procedure to the Bar Association should be transparent and objective;
•A law should be adopted to provide legal assistance at the expense of the state in civil, administrative, and commercial cases;
•The amount paid to lawyers for legal assistance at the expense of the state should be increased.