The European Court of Human Rights – Questions & Answers for Lawyers

October 31st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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At a recent seminar, the CCBE launched the new edition of the CCBE practical guide for lawyers acting before the Court – ‘The European Court of Human Rights – Questions & answers for lawyers’ . The guide is directed at lawyers intending to bring a case before the European Court of Human Rights. The Guide comprises the following sections:

(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

The Guide can be downloaded here: English version, French version.

Ukraine: EC Support Group Activity Report – The first 18 months

October 28th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The European Commission Support Group for Ukraine published today an Activity Report on the first 18 months of its work. Amongst others, the report provides a summary on reforms spanning anti-corruption and rule of law: “In the justice sector, Ukrainian reform efforts focused on amendments to the Constitution (concerning the judiciary) and – partially linked to that – the vetting of judges and prosecutors. (…) Another main area of reform is the system for the enforcement of judgments. Draft legislation envisages the introduction of a profession of private bailiffs which would coexist for a transitional period with the state enforcement officers. (…) Latterly it has been decided that an overall programme in support of rule of law reform should be developed, in order to bring EU resources to bear in a more comprehensive and effective manner. The new programme is due to start in 2017.”

The report can be downloaded here; see also the EC fact-sheet.

WJP Rule of Law Index 2016

October 27th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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On 20 October 2016, the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2016 has officially been launched. The WJP Rule of Law Index is the world’s leading source for data on the rule of law, which measures how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide. Performance is measured across such primary rule of law factors as: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

According to the latest data, when compared globally, countries in the Western Europe and North America continue to top the WJP Rule of Law Index, with Denmark remaining the highest-ranked country in rule of law followed by Norway. Romania was the biggest mover in the region’s rankings, rising 4 positions to 32nd out of 113 countries worldwide over 2015 rankings. Meanwhile, France and Hungary each lost 3 positions, to 21st and 49th respectively. Georgia, ranked 34th, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Apart from Albania, Turkey, and Russia, most countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region remained largely unchanged since 2015. Albania dropped 9 positions to 72nd globally; Turkey fell 8 positions to 99th; and Russia moved down 6 positions to 92nd.

For the full report, please click here.

You can also access an interactive online platform for country-specific data by clicking here.

The legal profession in Belarus

October 19th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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I. GENERAL INFORMATION

Belarus has a population of approximately 9.5 million and 1991 lawyers (in 2016).

According to the Belarusian legislation, only advocates are entitled to provide professional legal assistance. Other legal degree holders are not permitted to be defenders or representatives in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings.

II. TRAINING

Initial training of lawyers: Law degree. Traineeship of 3-6 months (for those with work experience in the legal field of at least 3 years) or 6-12 months (for those with less than 3 years of work experience) followed by the qualification exam.

The activity of an advocate in Belarus is licensed. Licenses are issued by the Ministry of Justice upon the decision of the Ministry Board on the advice of the Qualification Commission.

Continuous training: The issue of further continuous training of advocates is administered by the National Bar Association, which organises qualification upgrade courses.

III. DISCIPLINE

The Ministry of Justice has the power to regulate the legal profession. In practice, the Ministry of Justice does not interfere with the activities of advocates except for licensing issues.

The Law determines the establishment and the competence of a separate body, which considers the advocates’ disciplinary liability issues: the Disciplinary Commission. The Disciplinary Commission is created by the supreme body of advocates’ self-management and is in charge of disciplinary proceedings.

IV. LEGAL AID

Free legal aid is provided on the basis of Art. 28 of the Law “On Advocacy and Advocatory Activities” and is funded by bar associations as well as from the budgets of the republican and (or) local authorities.

V. CURRENT CONCERNS OF THE BAR

Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years: the status of a lawyer, legal aid and independence of the legal profession

Independence: One of the most fundamental issues in the work of an advocate is the regulation of relations between the profession and the state. An advocate needs to be independent so he or she can provide effective assistance.

An advocate, who feels the pressure, cannot provide adequate legal advice. For that reason, the question of the quality of work arises. If an advocate is not independent or is afraid to speak openly, the protection will be of poor quality.

For the full text of the article on the legal profession in Belarus, please click here.

Joint CCBE-Albanian Bar seminar

October 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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CCBE-Albanian Bar PECO seminar, 30/09, Tirana

The CCBE and the Albanian Bar Association held a seminar on 30 September 2016 in Tirana. The seminar brought together representatives of the Albanian Bar and European experts – around 60 people – to discuss the core values of the profession and their enforcement, as well as the training of lawyers. A representative of the Ministry of Justice emphasised at the seminar the very good work which has been carried out by the Bar over the past years. The continuous lack of trust of people in the administration of justice overall is, however, an issue which affects all legal professionals and which remains a challenge for all stakeholders in the justice system. Participants discussed in the morning session the functioning of disciplinary proceedings, including the number and type of disciplinary decisions and the most frequent violations of the code of conduct. After the fall of the communist regime, the disciplinary system in Albania has been brought up to European standards and works well. Disciplinary proceedings are seen as an important means to strengthen the trust in the profession. However, often lawyers are identified with their clients or their clients’ causes, which has become a problem. The afternoon session allowed for a good discussion and exchange on the rules of initial and continuous training in Albania, France and England & Wales (solicitors). Practical questions such as the financing of law schools and teachers, the composition of boards of law schools, etc. were discussed. The World Bank presented to the audience a draft version of their comparative analysis of Bars and Law Societies in selected European jurisdictions. The Council of Europe – HELP – reported about the continuous work on Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals.

To access the programme of the seminar and presentations, please click on the links below.

Programme of the seminar

R. Gemmell, CCBE

M. Haxhia, Albania

A. Bitinas, Lithuania

M. Jobert, France

M. Semini, Albania

J. Crewe, England and Wales

V. Boz, Council of Europe

EU: Council conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina

October 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

In its conclusions of 17 October 2016, the Council calls on Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue focussing on its EU integration process, including by the effective implementation of the Reform Agenda, which is necessary for addressing the economic and social challenges, as well as in the areas of rule of law and public administration. The Council further calls on Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions to demonstrate renewed efforts in particular regarding the functioning of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime as well as the fight against radicalisation and terrorism”. The full text of the conclusions can be downloaded here.

The rule of law chapters will be at the fore of the EU accession negotiations

October 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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On 26 September 2016, the European Parliament published on its website a briefing entitled “The Western Balkans and the EU. Enlargement and challenges”. It is explained in the paper that evolving enlargement policy of the EU has “set the bar for accession higher for the current candidate, and potential candidate countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia”. One of the novelties is that a new EU approach brings rule of law to the fore, and as from now the rule of law Chapters 23 and 24 will be opened first in the negotiation process. An argument in favour of this approach is that post-accession monitoring has not proved efficient.

Commissioner for Human Rights published memorandum on the human rights implications of the emergency measures in Turkey

October 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The memorandum, published today, follows-up on a visit of Commissioner Nils Muižnieks to Ankara at the end of September. The Commissioner insists on the urgency of reverting to ordinary procedures and safeguards, by ending the state of emergency as soon as possible. With regard to on-going criminal proceedings, the Commissioner refers, inter alia, to drastic restrictions to access to lawyers, as well as limitations on the confidentiality of the client-lawyer relationship. As far as the relevant procedural safeguards are concerned, including the period of custody, restrictions to access to lawyers, as well as other deviations from criminal procedure, notably regarding restrictive measures taken directly by prosecutors, the Commissioner urges the Turkish authorities to revert to the situation before the state of emergency as a matter of urgency.” The memorandum can be downloaded here.

The CEPEJ published a report on European judicial systems

October 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The CEPEJ-STAT, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe, published a report, which contains findings about the main trends observed in 45 European countries in the field of the functioning of judicial systems. In addition to the report, the CEPEJ-STAT opened access to a new interactive database, which enables viewing information by the country.

The report provides a detailed overview of the performance of the judicial systems, their budgets, the situation of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, as well as the organisation of courts in the 45 participating member States and in one CEPEJ observer State (Israel).

As far as lawyers are concerned, the report contains data on the number of lawyers in each state or entity, with the specification whether this figure includes or not legal advisors who cannot represent their clients in court. Furthermore, the paper draws attention to the issue of lawyers’ monopoly on legal representation. For a more detailed information, please see the Chapter 3.4 (pages 158-163) of the report.

The report also gives information on the Annual public budget allocated to legal aid (pages 66-79).

The new interactive database is of particular interest as it has a specific section devoted to country-specific data, including a chapter on lawyers.

PECO Country Profile: Lithuania

October 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Prof. Dr. Ignas Vėgėlė, President of the Bar Council of the Lithuanian Bar Association

President of the Lithuanian Bar Association, Prof. Dr. Ignas Vėgėlė

Lithuania has a population of 3 million, and has 2130 lawyers (as of February 2016). The Lithuanian Bar Association was set up in 1918, and has been a full member of CCBE since 2004.

Key information about the profession

Initial training of lawyers: Master’s degree in law, or a lawyer’s professional qualification degree (one-cycle university education in law).

The period of an apprenticeship as an advocate’s assistant is two years. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, a candidate can take the bar exam. Alternatively, they can continue their apprenticeship as an advocate’s assistant, until he/she takes a decision to take the bar exam.

Continuous training: Continuous training is mandatory and is organised by the Lithuanian Bar Association. There are also possibilities of continuous training outside the framework established by the Lithuanian Bar Association. Failure to undergo continuous training may lead to a disciplinary action against an advocate.

Specialisation: Advocates have a right to choose a field of law in which they would provide legal services.

Discipline: the Disciplinary Committee conducts an initial investigation of disciplinary violations. The conclusions drawn by the Committee are submitted to the Bar Council. On the basis of its conclusions, the Bar Council decides if the disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated. Disciplinary actions against advocates are heard by the Court of Honour of Advocates which consists of five members accomplished with at least ten years of experience as an advocate.

State legal aid: state-guaranteed legal aid is financed from the state budget. Legal aid is available on all legal issues and is organised by state-guaranteed legal aid services.

Current concerns of the Bar

The national legal system: latest changes of the Law on the Bar

One amendment was adopted and came into the force on the 17th of January 2016 – the Bar Council has been assigned a new function – the recognition of advocate’s assistants practice under the Law on the Recognition of Regulated Professional Qualifications (article 60).

Laws / decisions related to the Bar

Mediation

The new Law on Conciliatory Mediation in Civil Disputes was drafted and discussed by the Government. Due to the efforts of the Lithuanian Bar Association, the Government has adopted the draft on Law on Conciliatory Mediation in Civil Disputes with the provision prescribing that advocates (who practice as an advocate for period longer than 5 years) have no obligation to pass a mediator exam. This draft legislation will be discussed in the committees of the Parliament.

Qualification Exam

The draft law on the Common Qualification Exam for judges, prosecutors, notaries, and advocates is currently under consideration in the Committee of the Legal Affairs of the Parliament. The Lithuanian Bar Association is of the opinion that a special exam for advocates should be organised by the Lithuanian Bar.

Protection of clients’ rights

According to the article 51 of the Law on the Bar, the Lithuanian Bar Association is a pre-trial authority in the disputes arising between clients and advocates on standard unfair contractual terms of the contract for legal services. On the 29th of December 2015, the Bar Council adopted the “Work Regulations of the Commission of the standard unfair contractual terms of the contract for legal services”, and nominated the members of this Commission.

In addition, there are positive developments in the areas of state-guaranteed legal aid, representation by advocates in courts and social security for lawyers.

For a more detailed information, please read the full PECO country profile of Lithuania.