The CCBE has granted the Human Rights Award for 2016 to four Turkish lawyers, who have been particularly active in the defence of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, read more here.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a memorandum on the 2 December urging Turkey to take measures for investigating all allegations of human rights violations during imposed curfews and anti-terrorism operations. The Commissioner expressed, inter alia, “deep concern about attempts by the authorities to vilify the activities of human rights NGOs and lawyers bringing to attention allegations of human rights violations which occurred in zones cut from the rest of the world where there were no independent observers”.
On the 6 of December The International Commission of Jurists also stated its concerns on the situation in Turkey after the attempted coup, and “calls on the Turkish government to take urgent steps to guarantee the independence of the legal profession, protect lawyers from arbitrary detention or arrest and provide procedural safeguards to ensure the right to fair trial of lawyers under criminal investigation”.
The UNBA was established in 2012 after the adoption of the ‘Law on the Bar and Practice of Law’ on 5 July 2012 by the Ukrainian Parliament. It is the official regulator and self-governing body of the legal profession in Ukraine.
The UNBA succeeds the Union of Advocates of Ukraine which has been an observer member in the CCBE since 2003.
On 14 November, the National Association of the Romanian Bars (NARB) has informed the CCBE about their concerns with regard to the Ministry of Justice proposals to amend Law n. 303/2004 which establishes the statute of judges and prosecutors. These proposals would allow judges, prosecutors, magistrates and judicial staff assimilated to magistrates, to join the Bar without any examination if they have a minimum of 18 years of professional experience.
It is important to note that regulating the admission to the profession and enrolment of lawyers is one of the main competences and functions of European Bars. However, according to the information available to the CCBE, NARB was not consulted when the work on the draft law was started and only learnt about these proposals when they were already final and made public on the website of the Ministry of Justice.
The Romanian Bar considers this to be contrary to the independence and self-regulation of the Bar. In support of the position of the NARB, the CCBE wrote a letter, in which it stresses that it is of utmost importance that the Bar is consulted on such proposals as they directly affect the legal profession i.e. the access to the profession. The CCBE urged the Ministry of Justice of Romania to establish a proper consultation process which includes representatives of NARB so that the views of the legal profession concerning this important proposal can be properly heard and fully taken into account.
On 18 November 2016, experts from the CCBE – including the former CCBE President, Maria Ślązak – participated in a conference to support the Moldovan Bar’s plans of reform of training of (future) lawyers. The conference was organised by the Council of Europe within the framework of the EU funded ‘Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgian, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus‘ and hosted by the National Institute of Justice of Moldova. Reforms in the justice sector and the fight against corruption are at the centre of the assistance programmes in Moldova.
The conference allowed for a very lively and fruitful exchange between the Moldovan Bar, headed by Nina Losan, and members of the Bar as well as individual Moldovan lawyers, experts from across Europe (Finland, France, Georgia, Ireland and Poland), and representatives of the European Young Bar Association and European Women Lawyers Association.
The morning session of the conference focused on the continuous training (CT) of lawyers. Moldovan lawyers have to undergo 40 hours of training per year which is high compared to other European countries (see CCBE brief layout on CT of lawyers). There was agreement amongst participants that it would be best for the Moldovan Bar to start with a lower number of hours (to be decided by the Bar) and increase it gradually, as was done by the Georgian Bar Association. The number of hours should be set by the Bar, rather than by the Law. Currently, most of the training activities are organised by (foreign) donors and NGOs, in cooperation with the Moldovan Bar. However, the Bar has started considering how it could offer training courses, for instance, by creating a Training center. The presentations of experts have shown that Bars across Europe organise themselves differently in this respect; whereas the Georgian Bar established a training center (4-7 members of staff), the Finnish Bar has no such centre, the activities are organised by the Bar’s training department (2 members of staff), which works closely with the Finnish Bar Education/Training committee. Discussions have shown that the Bars’ decision as to how to deliver training (e.g. through which structure) will very often depend on a number of factors, including the number of lawyers, the training needs in a specific country, and the CT requirement imposed upon lawyers. Training structures are usually financed by the Bars. The courses will – in most cases – not be free, as membership fees are not sufficient to cover them. Very often, lawyers will therefore have to pay – at least part – of the training course fees. For more information on the countries’ systems, see presentations below.
The afternoon session of the conference was dedicated to the admission into the profession – the presentations delivered at the conference showed how different the rules are (see presentations below). Georgia, for instance, requires future lawyers to have ‘Higher Legal Education’, to pass a Bar exam and to carry out a 1 year traineeship, which includes a 3-months training period at the High School Advocates. The exam is done electronically. It was introduced to counter any allegations of corruption. The Finnish, French, Irish and Polish systems are different from the Georgian regime. Discussions have shown that each country’s system will have developed over years, taking into account the legal and cultural traditions as well as training needs in a certain country, which explains these differences. Most Bars will however provide for Higher Education in Law, a traineeship, and a Bar exam. The participants felt that the Georgian model, in particular the electronic Bar exam, could be something to be considered in Moldova.
The CCBE will continue to provide expertise through its members and will follow with great interest the reforms which will be undertaken as a follow-up to the conference.
On 9 November 2016, the European Commission adopted its annual Enlargement Package, which assesses the state of implementation of key political and economic reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.
All reports contain a section on “Judiciary and fundamental rights” and “Justice, freedom and security” and some reports, most importantly the report on Turkey, specifically refer to the situation of lawyers and the lawyer’s profession.
Read more here about the reports’ references to lawyers, the legal profession and legal aid.
On 26 and 27 October 2016, a conference entitled “Stronger when united: Kazakh lawyers facing new challenges” took place in Astana, Kazakhstan. The event was organised by the European Lawyers Foundation (ELF), the International Bar Association (IBA) and the Republican collegium of Advocates of Kazakhstan. As a follow-up to the conference, the ELF published presentations of the speakers, which could be accessed here.
As part of a series of activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Moldovan Bar Association to organise continuous training for lawyers, the “Support to the Moldovan Bar Association” component of the PCF Project on Strengthening the efficiency of justice and support to lawyers’ profession in the Republic of Moldova organised the following events:
- a workshop on the institutionalisation of the lawyers’ continuous training, which took place on 3 November, and
- a training of trainers, which took place on 4-5 November.
Note: the component on the “Support to the Moldovan Bar Association” of the “Strengthening the efficiency of justice and support to lawyers’ profession in the Republic of Moldova” project is funded by the Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. The Council of Europe and European Union are working in partnership with these countries to help them meet Council of Europe benchmarks in human rights, democracy and the rule of law and improve the lives of citizens.
(1) National proceedings prior to the submission of a case to the European Court of Human Rights
(2) Proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights
(3) Content and execution of judgments of the Court in cases of individual applications – Appeals against such judgments
(4) Practical tips on procedure when lodging an application