Back Incongruent democrats. Maurici Pérez Simeón and Ainhoa Gómez López
Incongruent democrats. Maurici Pérez Simeón and Ainhoa Gómez López
Maurici Pérez Simeón and Ainhoa Gómez López, director and coordinator of the UPF Legal Clinic.
On 15 August 2021, Leila entered a state of panic when she learned that the Taliban were already in Kabul and had released all the criminals serving prison sentences. Leila – which is not her real name as we cannot disclose it for security reasons - was a prosecutor. For four years she had successfully charged terrorists, murderers and sex offenders and now all the people she had had put behind bars were free and some even belonged to the new government.
Despite being only 28 years of age, Leila was already a widow. Her husband, a lawyer, had died on 27 January 2018 in a Taliban suicide bombing, leaving her alone with a new-born baby. It was a hard blow, but she continued to fight on a daily basis for the Afghan judicial system to guarantee human rights, and women’s rights in particular.
The Taliban victory put an end to this dream. Fortunately, Leila, her son and her little sister managed to save their lives – for the time being - by entering Pakistan illegally. But this country is not a safe place. Pakistan has not ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention, and Afghan refugees without visas live there in fear of being deported to Afghanistan at any time.
In November 2022, Leila’s case reached the Legal Clinic of Pompeu Fabra University. The Clinic is a solidarity initiative in which teachers and students of the Faculty of Law collaborate with lawyers to defend, free of charge, real cases of special academic and social interest. On 25 November 2022, the Clinic asked the Spanish Embassy in Pakistan for urgent permission to move Leila, her son and her little sister to our country, to request asylum. This international protection procedure is provided for by law and is straightforward: the ambassador examines the documents, interviews the applicants and, if s/he considers that their physical integrity is at risk, authorizes their transfer to Spain. The problem is that the Embassy in Islamabad has hundreds of applications on the table and processing takes many months. There are cases like Leila’s that cannot wait.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must immediately reinforce the personnel at the Spanish Embassy in Pakistan and prioritize cases that involve aspects of undeniable risk (being a prosecutor) and personal circumstances of special vulnerability (being a single woman with a child in Pakistan).
The tragedy in Afghanistan gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that our commitment to human rights is not merely rhetorical, but that as a country and as a society we know how put words into action. Western democracies lose credibility in emerging countries if we leave the people who have risked their lives to defend the rule of law to their fate. Nothing suits the cause of tyranny more than incongruent democrats.