December 18th, 2015 § § permalink
Ranko Pelicaric is a practicing lawyer based in Zagreb, Croatia. He is a former President of the Croatian Bar Association (from 2000 to 2006). Since February 2015, he has been chairman of the CCBE PECO Committee. He is also member of the Board of CBA, past President of the Local Bar of Zagreb and past representative of the CBA to the UIA.
1.What does PECO stand for?
PECO is an abbreviation of the French ‘Pays de l’Europe centrale et orientale’ which simply means ‘Countries of Central and Eastern Europe’.
2. What is the main role of the PECO Committee?
The PECO Committee aims to promote the Rule of Law and support the law reform process in Central and Eastern Europe. It has 38 members. The PECO Bars and Law Societies meet on a regular basis – around four times a year – in order to discuss developments concerning the legal profession in their countries or to voice any concerns. On these occasions, a Bar or Law Society might, for instance, simply report about reforms which are being carried out in its country but it may also ask the CCBE to intervene in a national matter or provide assistance, for example, when it believes that lawyers’ rights are being violated or the core values of the profession are at stake. The CCBE – through its PECO Committee – will look into the concerns raised by Bars and may provide assistance by issuing expert views and letters of support, or by carrying out surveys on national rules, or by sending expert lawyers to meetings and conferences in PECO countries, or by organising conferences and seminars on professional issues such as training of lawyers, ethics or mediation. The type of assistance will very much depend on the specific needs of the relevant PECO Bar/Law Society.
3. Which were the main concerns of the PECO Committee in the past? Which are the main concerns nowadays?
The main concerns of the PECO Committee in the past remain the same as nowadays, in my view. Our main concern is the situation of legal profession in PECO countries, where lawyers’ rights are continuously violated as a result of their professional work (e.g. harassment, imprisonment, disbarment). The Committee has also been dealing with a number of other issues of different nature – I would like to give two examples of recurrent matters:
– Rights of audience: for example, in Moldova, in 2014 and 2015, a number of members of the Moldovan Parliament promoted an initiative to amend the Code of Civil Procedure in order to expand the list of persons to be allowed to appear as representatives in proceedings before civil courts. The CCBE wrote to the Parliament to raise its concerns with these initiatives. The matter is also under discussion in Ukraine. Under current Ukrainian legislation, any person in Ukraine – without legal education – can provide legal advice to clients and represent them in courts in civil proceedings. Again, the CCBE intervened with a letter. It also participated in a conference on this theme in Kiev in June 2015.
– Legal aid: national legal aid regimes have caused some problems and concerns, for instance in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine. For example, in Ukraine, legal aid is provided by Legal Aid Centers. Lawyers working in these Centers have to pass a competition organized by the Ministry of Justice. Many say that these centers are not independent. The CCBE has started looking into the problems and concerns raised by the various Bars.
4. What are the plans of the PECO Committee for 2016?
- In May 2016, the CCBE Plenary will decide on the membership application of the Ukrainian National Bar Association. This is an important moment. The CCBE has already developed close relations with the Bar over the past two years, and in particular this year, when it organised together with the International Bar Association and the European Lawyers Foundation a conference in Kiev in June, in support of the Ukrainian National Bar Association and their plead for lawyers’ representation in civil court proceedings.
- The Committee is planning to organise a seminar on legal aid together with the Bar Association of Albania. The date and the details of the programme are to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
- The Committee will continue to follow very closely developments in Georgia. The physical violations which lawyers have been subject to over past years, as well as the violation of lawyers’ rights have caused particular concern in the CCBE. The CCBE wrote about it to the Georgian authorities in February 2014, June 2014 and 2015 and it has also taken up the issue at a European level. There have been improvements, but more needs to be done.
- Turkey has been in the centre of a number of discussions in the PECO Committee. The overall situation for lawyers in Turkey has been very difficult over the past years. The PECO Committee will continue to monitor this situation.
- The Committee will continue strengthening its contacts with the Bars in Belarus and Azerbaijan.
5. Can you tell us about the current challenges for lawyers in Croatia?
There are many, I could write an essay on the topic but, if I am to mention the two most important ones, it would be strengthening the professional and the social image of the lawyers and of the Bar. I am aware that it is very wide statement, but I really believe that with professional and with social image in our métier everything begins and everything ends. These two prerogatives are sine qua non for changing the lawyer’s position to better.
December 16th, 2015 § § permalink
Turkey has a population of approximately 78 million and 87 000 lawyers (in 2015). The Union of Turkish Bar Associations was set up in 1969 and has been an observer/associate member of the CCBE since 1995.
Prof Dr Metin FEYZİOĞLU, Esq. President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations
Key information about the profession:
- Initial training of lawyers: Generally, the duration of undergraduate education in law schools in Turkey except the ones which has obligatory preparation class is 4 years. The overall duration of traineeship period is one year: the first six months are spent in courts under the authority of judges and prosecutors, the second six months are spent in a law office under the supervision of a lawyer who at least has five years of experience. There is no bar exam in Turkey.
- Continuous training: There is no compulsory continuous or permanent training for lawyers in Turkey.
- Specialisation: There is no regulation with regard to specialisation in Turkey.
- Discipline: All local bars in Turkey are self-regulatory disciplinary bodies. There is a “Disciplinary Board” in each bar association. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations also has a Disciplinary Board which is the authority for complaints. After the final decision, it is possible to apply to the Administrative Court.
- Legal Aid: According to Turkish law, real persons, public benefit associations and foundations are all entitled to legal aid. Legal aid provides to its beneficiary: i) temporary exemption from all the judicial and enforcement proceedings expenses, ii) exemption from assurance regarding judicial and enforcement proceedings expenses, iii) other necessary expenses arising from judicial and enforcement proceedings to be paid in advance by State, iv) providing an attorney, whose fee to be paid later. A request for legal aid will be made to the legal aid office or its representatives at the enforcement court where the proceedings take place. If the request for legal aid is rejected, the requestor may apply to the president of the bar association verbally or in writing. The decision of the president of the bar association will be final. In the criminal procedures, all proceeding costs shall be covered by the state.
Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years:
- The number of law faculties is increasing, however there are not enough lecturers which leads to a decrease in the quality of education.
- Laws passed by the Parliament which do not lead to certainty and predictability of the law.
- Turkey is the only country in Europe which does not have an examination for becoming a lawyer therefore this situation makes elimination impossible, as well as making the need to uphold the dignity of the profession and control of the quality of services difficult.
- Pressures against lawyers and the profession because of the general political conditions of the country.
- Uncontrolled number of lawyers in Turkey which lowers the quality of profession.
- Due to internet technology, the tendency to provide web-based legal services which lowers the quality of services and causes uncontrolled quality of services. It also prevents in-person contact and causes problems with regard to the tax related matters and unfair competition.
- As the interdisciplinary practices (accountants and lawyers) intensify day by day, this situation causes a decrease of control over the legal profession’s monopoly on the practice of law.
December 14th, 2015 § § permalink
On 12 October 2015, the IBA’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) presented a report “Still under threat: the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Hungary”, which was released on 10 December 2015.
According to the report, there is no doubt that the restructuring of Hungary’s judicial administration model has improved efficiency in the judicial system, however, the judicial independence could be strengthened further.
The IBAHRI delegation concluded that, contrary to international standards, the administration of justice is not governed by an independent authority with a substantial representation of the judiciary, and shares the conclusion of one of its mission interviewees, that the arrangement of the National Judicial Office (NJO) and the National Judicial Court (NJC) should be viewed as an interim solution. According to the delegation, a nationwide assessment of the justice sector be undertaken, as well as the government should be encouraged to engage the judiciary in a participatory, transparent and nondiscriminatory review of Hungary’s model of justice administration. The IBAHRI delegation also recommends a review of the composition of the committee nominating Constitutional Court judges to remove the perception of politicised judicial appointments.
The IBAHRI’s 2012 report expressed concern that the Hungarian lawyer’s oath had been changed by the government, without meaningful input by the Hungarian Bar Association, so as to require lawyers to ‘practise the duties and rights of the office of attorney for the benefit of the Hungarian Nation’, and also omitted any reference to the duty of confidentiality. As recommended in the IBAHRI’s 2012 report, the government had conducted a consultation with the Hungarian Bar Association with the result that the current lawyer’s oath is now in compliance with international standards. Lawyers no longer work for the ‘benefit of the Hungarian Nation’; rather they act in the interest of the client and ‘in the course of doing… safeguard all secrets of which [they] gain knowledge’.
The full report can be read here.
December 10th, 2015 § § permalink
Today is European Lawyers Day, a day which marks European lawyers honoring World Human Rights Day. It is a national day to celebrate the rule of law and the legal profession’s intrinsic role in its defence, as well as lawyers’ common values and contribution to the justice system.
This year’s theme is Freedom of Speech, and refers to all forms of expression, including lawyers’ own freedom of speech.
Bars and Law Societies throughout Europe are organizing events and activities to publicly acknowledge the importance of freedom of speech and to highlight the role of the legal profession within the administration of justice.
More information on European Lawyers Day can be found here.
December 7th, 2015 § § permalink
Russia has a population of approximately 143.5 million and 75 000 lawyers – called ‘advocates’ (in 2015). The Russian Federal Chamber of Lawyers was set up in 2003 and joined the CCBE in 2013.
The President of the Russian Federal Chamber of Lawyers, Yury Pilipenko
Key information about the profession:
- Initial training of lawyers: Law degree; Bar exam – at the end of a 1-year traineeship in a law firm (or for those who have 2 years of work experience in the legal domain).
- Continuous training: Lawyers with less than 1 year experience: 30 hours of training; lawyers with more than 1 year experience – 20 hours annually or at least 100 hours in 5 years. Training is provided by the Chamber and private bodies with yearly control. Sanctions for non-performance – disbarment or suspending the advocate’s status.
- Specialisation: no mandatory specialisation.
- Discipline: the Qualification commissions at the regional bar chambers are in charge of disciplinary proceedings.
- Legal Aid: is financed and organized by the State and the Bar and available for criminal and civil cases.
Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years:
- Merger of the legal profession
- Achievement of high-quality measures applied at all stages of the criminal proceedings, strengthening professional guarantees for protection of lawyers’ rights
- Maintaining high professional and ethical standards for advocates. Consistent and effective application of disciplinary system against advocates who violate the Advocates’ Code of Professional Ethics
- Anti-corruption measures against so-called “pocket lawyers”, especially in outlying regions
- Reform of the legal services market
- Main challenge: reform of the Russian legal services market under the“Justice” National Programme. There are a large number of so-called “unregulated” legal professionals, non-advocates, that exist outside of the legal framework. This lack of regulation can have a negative impact on:
- professional ethical standards,
- quality of legal assistance,
- protection of trial rights,
- access to justice,
- implementation of the Rule of law principle.
December 4th, 2015 § § permalink
‘HELP in the 28’ meeting
‘HELP in the 28’ annual meeting, 6 November 2015: The meeting – which brought together the HELP Focal Points (National Training Institutions) and Info Points (Bars/Law Societies) – examined the implementation of the HELP Programme in the EU countries and discussed perspectives for future cooperation with National Training Institutions and Bar Associations in the framework of the project. This year’s meeting focused on a number of topical matters, relating to new courses which are currently being developed, such as Fight against Racism, Xenophobia, Homophobia and Transphobia; Labour Rights; Data Protection and privacy rights; Right to the Integrity of a Person (bioethics). For more information, please follow this link.
December 2nd, 2015 § § permalink
Today, the CCBE wrote a letter to the President of Turkey, Mr Tayyip Erdoğan expressing its shock and consternation over the killing of Mr Tahir Elçi in Sur on 28 November 2015. Mr Elçi was a Turkish human rights lawyer and President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
In the letter, the CCBE condemned in the strongest terms the killing of Mr Tahir Elçi and respectfully urged Mr Tayyip Erdoğan to launch a full and impartial investigation into his killing with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards. In addition, the CCBE asked to guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Turkey are entitled to freedom of expression, and able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, or harassment.
The CCBE would also like to express its support and solidarity with Mr Tahir Elçi’s colleagues at the Diyarbakır Bar Association, and with all Turkish lawyers.
The full letter can be found here.