It is not self-evident that citizens have access to legal assistance from a lawyer and in some countries lawyers are in great danger.
The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in March and April 2021 sent 18 letters and joined several initiatives in support of endangered lawyers in Bahrain, Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Myanmar, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela (they write in the latest newsletter). The CCBE letters of support to endangered lawyers and other joint initiatives can be consulted on the CCBE Human Rights portal “Defence of the defenders”.
During the memorial event of the Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik, who passed away after a hunger strike, the CCBE President held a speech.
Independence of lawyers
In Europe lawyers may not be in physical danger, but there are other topics on the agenda, like the independence of lawyers and Bars as an indispensable component of the independence of justice systems and of the rule of law. Read CCBE’s article in the recent newsletter:
CCBE Contribution for the Rule of Law Report 2021
This contribution was adopted in response to the invitation of the European Commission and the public consultation that was launched. In its submission, the CCBE highlights the most important rule of law developments and concerns involving the profession of lawyer which were identified by its members, and calls for the recognition of independence of lawyers and Bars as an indispensable component of the independence of justice systems and of the rule of law. In addition, the CCBE referred to its CCBE statement on the 2020 Rule of Law Report which was published in December 2020 after intensive internal discussions and exchanges following the publication of the first annual Rule of Law Report.
The independence of lawyers is also an element of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. CCBE:
30th Anniversary of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers
On 13 March 2021, the CCBE President, Margarete von Galen, spoke at the International symposium organised by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA) and the National Group of Japan, International Association of Penal Law (AIDP) on the 30th Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
In her speech, she underlined the importance of these UN Basic Principles for the legal profession and more broadly for the rule of law. She then presented the CCBE’s experience with the UN Basic Principles in the implementation of its missions. Finally, she elaborated on the current challenges and how to improve the situation. In particular, she reiterated the CCBE’s strong support for the work carried out by the Council of Europe on a future European Convention on the profession of lawyer and that such a specific binding instrument is needed in order to preserve the independence, integrity of the administration of justice, and the rule of law.
Legal instrument on the profession of lawyer
In another article in the newsletter they write on a legal instrument on the profession of lawyer:
State of play at the Council of Europe level
On 31 March 2021, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the “Feasibility study on a new, binding or non-binding, European legal instrument on the profession of lawyer – Possible added-value and effectiveness” as well as “the Report of the 95th meeting of the European committee on legal co-operation (CDCJ) containing the Draft Terms of Reference for a Committee of Experts tasked with drawing up a draft European legal instrument on the profession of lawyer”. The decision adopted by the Committee of Ministers is available here. As regards the next steps, the Council of Europe will have to adopt a budget for the committee of experts to start its work in January 2022. A meeting of the CCBE European Convention Working Group will be held in May to prepare the organisation of the future work in this regard.
Access to legal assistence needs improvement | the Dutch example
CCBE is paying attention to the access to legal assistance. It reminds of the latest developments in the Netherlands: the ‘toeslagenaffaire‘ (that caused the fall of the Dutch government) and ‘SyRI‘ have shown how important legal assistance is for citizens in cases against the government. The Dutch National Ombudsman recently warned (article in Dutch) that access to justice in the Netherlands is inadequate and that lawyers providing services in social legal cases (‘sociale rechtsbijstand’) need adequate funding.
Endangered lawyers shown by CCBE in its newsletter: