September 22nd, 2016 § § permalink
At its 106th Plenary Session (Venice, 11-12 March 2016), the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe adopted the ‘Rule of Law Checklist’. The document discusses the interactions between the Rule of Law and democracy and human rights. It also develops the various aspects of the Rule of Law, such as: legality, legal certainty, prevention of abuses of powers, equality before the law and non-discrimination, and access to justice. Finally, it provides two examples of particular challenges to the Rule of Law (corruption and conflict of interest, and collection of data and surveillance).
The checklist is meant to be used as an assessment tool for a variety of actors. For instance, Parliaments and other State authorities when addressing the need and content of legislative reform, civil society and international organisations, including regional ones – notably the Council of Europe and the European Union.
In the chapter on access to justice, the document addresses the issue of independence and impartiality. In this context, particular attention is paid to the independence and impartiality of the Bar, as it plays a fundamental role in assisting the judicial system. It stresses that the main features of the Bar’s independence should be enshrined in the legislation, and that access to the Bar should be sufficiently open. In addition, there should be effective and fair criminal and disciplinary proceedings in place.
To access the checklist, please click here.
September 22nd, 2016 § § permalink
On 14 September, the European Parliament passed a resolution, which calls upon the Polish government to solve the country’s constitutional crisis within the timeframe set earlier by the Commission. MEPs pointed out that the paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal and the refusal of the Polish Government to publish all its judgements represent a threat to democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law in Poland. The European Parliament is also concerned about recent legislative developments with respect to such matters as the right to freedom of expression, procedural rights, the fundamental right to a fair trial, etc. Sharing these concerns, the CCBE had already stressed the importance of the secrecy of client’s communications with their lawyer in the letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Polish Parliament.
For more information, please click here.
September 22nd, 2016 § § permalink
An international conference on ‘Bar associations for independent, qualified and ethical exercise of the profession of lawyer’ took place on 20-21 June in Tbilisi, Georgia. In addition to Georgia, the following countries were represented at the event: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Turkey, the UK, Ukraine. The CCBE was represented by the CCBE First Vice President Ruthven Gemmell WS.
The conference was divided into three sessions:
- Bar associations’ practices in lawyers training;
- The roles of the bar associations in professional deontology;
- Bar associations role in defending lawyers’ rights.
As the discussions during session on ‘Bar associations’ practices in lawyers training’ revealed, the participating bar associations have similar training models and systems. In the sphere of continuous training, all bar associations retain independence from point of view of planning, funding, and content of training courses. The main difference lies in the number of training units and time periods over which these units shall be accumulated.
At the session on ‘The roles of the bar associations in professional deontology’, it was emphasised that the functions of discipline and ethics should be separated. Among other points, the participants discussed the effectiveness of disciplinary sanctions, noting that they should be proportionate to the violation.
In the course of discussions during the session on ‘Bar associations role in defending lawyers’ rights’, it was identified that further activities should be carried out with regard to the following issues: freedom of expression, free access to client, safeguarding of confidentiality, for instance, inadmissibility of search of a lawyer’s office/home without informing a bar association, ensuring equal treatment by courts of defence lawyers and prosecution. The participants also spoke about importance of international cooperation.
To read the full report of the conference, please click here.
September 13th, 2016 § § permalink
On 8 July 2016, the Third Republican Conference of the Bar Councils’ Delegates took place in Astana, Kazakhstan. In their resolution, the participants of the event noted that there is a growing number of cases of violation of lawyers’ rights by the Kazakh national authorities, which are undermining the independence of the Bar.
They also pointed out the attempts of violation of freedom of expression on matters of legality, law reform, and observance of human rights, including freedom of expression in social networks and the media.
In their common statement, the delegates addressed the national authorities, listing the measures which could strengthen the rule of law and guarantee everyone protection of their rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial. In particular, the delegates of the conference called on the Kazakh state authorities to observe the guarantees of lawyers’ professional activities set forth by international law and Kazakh national legislation.
September 12th, 2016 § § permalink
In partnership with the International Bar Association (IBA) and the Republican Collegium of Advocates of Kazakhstan, the European Lawyers Foundation (ELF) will organise a conference entitled “Stronger when united: Kazakh lawyers facing new challenges”. The event will take place on 26 and 27 October 2016 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The topics covered by the conference will focus on the importance of lawyer regulation in international legal services, international trade in legal services, an economic view of representation in courts, including representation by regulated lawyers, and continuous legal education.
September 2nd, 2016 § § permalink
In his post of 29 August 2016, Commissioner of the Council of Europe for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks pointed out to the importance of human rights defenders work for redress to victims of enforced disappearance. According to the Commissioner, the absence of effective investigations into violations committed by state and non-state actors against human rights defenders, targeted because of their human rights work, remains a major problem in a number of European states. The situation of human rights defenders is negatively affected by various factors such as judicial harassment, threats and intimidation, abusive control and surveillance, confiscation and destruction of working materials, unlawful arrest or detention, ill-treatment, disappearance, and death. Among the issues mentioned in ‘The way forward’, the Commissioner notes that “law enforcement officials, judges and lawyers should be trained on the importance of combating impunity, as well as standards, legal obligations and good practices related to cases of enforced disappearances” and “that human rights defenders should continue interacting and exchanging experiences and help each other to work on cases of missing persons and enforced disappearances”.
September 1st, 2016 § § permalink
In his post of 23 August, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muižnieks stated that there is a growing number of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights which are pending implementation by the member states of the Council of Europe. This is inconsistent with the rule of law which requires all judgements to be implemented promptly, fully and effectively. Moreover, the Commissioner emphasised that prolonged non-implementation of the Court’s decisions is a “challenge to the Court’s authority and thus to the Convention system” as a whole. As possible solutions to the problem, Mr. Muižnieks proposed: improving domestic implementation of the Convention thus reinforcing subsidiarity, improving the efficiency of the procedures before the Court, and improving the Committee of Ministers supervision of the implementation process.