European Commission acts to preserve the rule of law in Poland

July 26th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Brussels, 26 July 2017 – Press release of the European Commission

The Commission substantiates its grave concerns on the planned reform of the judiciary in Poland in a Rule of Law Recommendation addressed to the Polish authorities. In the Commission’s assessment, this reform amplifies the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland already identified in the rule of law procedure started by the Commission in January 2016. The Commission requests the Polish authorities to address these problems within one month. The Commission asks the Polish authorities notably not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges. If such a measure is taken, the Commission stands ready to immediately trigger the Article 7(1) procedure[1] – a formal warning by the EU that can be issued by four fifths of the Member States in the Council of Ministers…

Continue to read here the full press release of the European Commission.

Poland: President will not sign Act on the Supreme Court and Act on the National Council of the Judiciary

July 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 24 July 2017, the President of the Republic of Poland declared that he will veto the bills on the Supreme Court and on the National Council of the Judiciary. However, the Act amending the Law on the Common Courts Organisation will be signed. Read more here.

Poland: CCBE expresses serious concerns over recent Acts on the judiciary

July 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 18 July 2017, the President of the CCBE addressed a letter to the President of the Republic of Poland expressing the CCBE’s concerns about the amendments adopted to the Polish Act on the National Council of the Judiciary and the Act amending the Law on Common Courts Organisation, as well as the new draft Act on the Supreme Court which the Polish Parliament received.

The CCBE points out that:

– The amendment to the Act of the National Council of the Judiciary gives a substantial role to politicians in the selection and appointment of judges, which contravenes the constitutional principle of independence of the judiciary.

– The Act amending the Law on the Common Courts Organisation – which changes the rules of appointing and recalling presidents of courts – increases the authority of the Minister of Justice by enabling the Minister to arbitrarily recall all the presidents of courts in Poland during their term of office.

– The draft Act on the Supreme Court foresees that all judges of the Supreme Court (save for those designated by the Minister of Justice) will retire immediately upon when the said Act enters into force.

The CCBE calls upon the President of the Republic of Poland to use the right of veto and to refuse to sign the above-mentioned amendments, as they are threatening the autonomy and independence of the judiciary.

Read the CCBE letter here.

The European Commission also discussed the latest developments with regard to the Polish judiciary and related legislative acts. In the Commission’s view “If implemented in their current form, these laws would have a very significant negative impact on the independence of the judiciary and would increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland.” On 19 July 2017, the College of Commissioners held a first in-depth discussion on these new developments, expressed its serious concerns, and looked into the legal and political options available to the Commission to act upon these concerns. The Commission will revert again to this matter next week. For more information, click here.

Western Balkans: Criminal Law Reform Assessment Report, 2016

June 15th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Introduction to the Assessment Report:

The Assessment Report presented in this publication was produced as a result of the Criminal Law Reform Project (CLRP), implemented from July 2015 to September 2016, by the Bar Association of Serbia in partnership with the National Chamber of Advocacy of Albania, Bar Association of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), Kosovo Bar Association and Macedonia Bar Association, as well as the civil society organization Partners for Democratic Change Serbia. (…)

It addresses the main problems defense advocates and their clients face in criminal proceedings in the Region. It further compares legal frameworks and practices in these systems and refers to international standards in that regard. The Report recommends changes to the respective provisions and practices that would enable better protection of rights of the accused and provide conditions for guaranteeing the right to a fair trial in criminal proceedings. Therefore, this report represents a useful advocacy tool for the bar chambers in the Region in their future advocacy efforts for reform of criminal proceedings. (…)

The Report can be downloaded here.

Violations of lawyers’ rights in Georgia

May 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 26 April the CCBE addressed a letter to several authorities in Georgia regarding cases of violations of lawyer’s rights. The letter is based on reports from the Georgian Bar Association detailing circumstances in which lawyers were abused while discharging their functions and harassed or intimidated while defending their clients. The CCBE shared the concerns of the Georgian Bar Association and stands by their call to the Georgian Parliament to tackle the ongoing attacks against lawyers. Read the full letter here.

‘Defence of the defenders’ letters to Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina

March 28th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The CCBE addressed two letters of concern to authorities in Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 28 February, the CCBE sent a letter regarding physical attacks on lawyers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 16 March, another letter was sent to Ukraine, concerning the killings of lawyers Tetyana Popova and Valery Rybalchenko.

Comparative Analysis of Bar Associations in Select European Jurisdictions

March 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The Report ‘Comparative Analysis of Bar Associations and Law Societies in Select European Jurisdictions’, completed by a World Bank team in coordination with experts, amongst which also the CCBE, is published on the website of the Multi Donor Trust Fund for Justice Sector Support. The report looks at 10 distinct countries’ Bars and Law Societies and analyses their role, structure and responsibilities. It aims to provide comparative information for justice reform activities. The covered national jurisdictions are: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, England and Wales, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Serbia and Spain.

Ukraine- Independence and self-regulation of the Bar

February 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On Thursday, 02 February 2017, the CCBE sent a letter to the President of Ukraine, to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and to the Chair of the parliamentary Justice Committee, in which the CCBE emphasises the importance that the state must respect the independence and the self-regulation principles applying to the legal profession, also in regard to the right of the bars to set their own membership fees. Read full letter here.

PECO Country Profile: Ukraine

February 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Ukraine has a population of approximately 43 million and 35000 registered advocates (as of January 2017). The Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) has been established by law in 2012 as an independent self-governed organization. UNBA has joined the CCBE as an observer member in December 2016.

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Key information about the profession:

  • Initial training of lawyers: Complete higher legal education (master’s degree in law), command of official language and two years of practice in the field of law are required to take the bar exam. It is then necessary to undertake a 6-month traineeship program. Upon completion of traineeship, the certificate of right to practice law is issued and the information is entered in the Unified Register of Advocates of Ukraine.Persons who have worked as an advocate’s assistant for at least one year are exempt from undertaking the 6-month traineeship program.
  • Continuous training is mandatory. It is organized by the Ukrainian National Bar Association and regional bar councils, as well as other organizations. All of the lecturers undergo certification by the UNBA Expert Committee to ensure high professional level of the speakers. Failure to comply with the mandatory continuous training is a disciplinary offense.
  •  Specialization is not mandatory. Advocates are free to choose the field in which to practice.
  •  Discipline: Regional Qualification and Disciplinary Commissions of the Bar (QDCB) are in charge of reviewing disciplinary actions against advocates. They are composed of advocates, elected at regional conferences for a 5-year term. The decisions of QDCBs may be appealed to the Higher Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Bar, which is composed of 30 advocates, 27 elected by respective regional conferences and 3, the President and two Vice-Presidents – elected by the Congress of Advocates of Ukraine.
  • Legal Aid: the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine is in charge of the legal aid system in Ukraine. It is financed by the government. Ukrainian National Bar Association has criticized the system on both national and international level and even prepared a special report on the subject. Primary concerns of the UNBA in this regard is the process of admission of advocates by the Ministry of Justice to provide legal aid (additional exams, even though everyone has already passed the bar exam); non-transparent financing; the fact that directors of regional legal aid centers are often not advocates themselves, and advocates have to show the case files to them in order to get paid, thus violating professional secrecy etc.

Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years:

Current concerns:

  • One of the gravest concerns is the continuous violation of advocates’ professional rights and guarantees by government institutions and law enforcement agencies. Since 2015 CCBE has intervened on a number of occasions with letters addressed to the President of Ukraine, the Prime Minister, the Prosecutor General and other notable officials. The Prosecutor General and his deputy even used inappropriate language when addressing advocates during a hearing of a parliamentary committee and on national TV respectively.
  • On 20 December 2016, the parliament of Ukraine approved amendments to the Tax Code of Ukraine, that in turn, amended Law of Ukraine ‘On the Bar and Practice of Law’, thus limiting the existing discretion of advocates’ self-government to set the sum and procedure of payment of yearly membership fees, as well as traineeship fees. Such changes were introduced without any prior consultation with Ukrainian National Bar Association whatsoever. The CCBE has addressed the President of Ukraine with this regard on 23 December 2016.
  • There is a plan for 2017 to introduce amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the Bar and Practice of Law” by the Judicial Reform Council under the auspices of the President of Ukraine. The UNBA, being the regulator of the profession, has not even been invited to delegate members in such an important institution. The planned amendments have not been discussed by the government with the regional bars and UNBA and thus are strongly opposed on both the regional and national levels.

Main challenges:

  • Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine establishing mandatory court representation by advocates have been approved by the parliament of Ukraine in 2016. The amendments come into effect in stages:
    • 1 January 2017 – Supreme Court of Ukraine and cassation courts;
    • 1 January 2018 – Appellate courts;
    • 1 January 2019 – all courts in Ukraine.

These changes are very welcome. However, we expect a significant rise in number of registered advocates, since before this reform one was only required to become an advocate if he wished to practice criminal law. Therefore, as of right now there are a lot of unregulated legal practitioners (the numbers are in the thousands) which will become advocates in the nearest future.

EU and Denmark launch Euro 16 million EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine

February 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The objective of the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative is to strengthen the capacity of the newly created anti-corruption institutions and to enhance external oversight over the reform process by the Verkhovna Rada, civil society and the media. Continue to read here.