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.

Report on the conference in Tbilisi, Georgia

September 22nd, 2016 § 0 comments § 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.

Violation of lawyers’ professional and human rights in Ukraine

August 1st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

28 July 2016, as a follow-up to new cases of lawyers’ rights violations in Ukraine, the CCBE sent a letter to the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. The reported violations that were brought to the CCBE’s attention include, but are not limited to: physical violence, violation of human and professional rights, unlawful search and seizure, refusal of an access to a client, unlawful wiretapping and identifying a lawyer with a client.

Given the crucial role of lawyers in the administration of justice, and in the maintaining and defence of the rule of law, the CCBE condemned the aforementioned violations. It pointed out that, in many of the cases mentioned, it was law enforcement authorities that committed the abuses. In this context, the CCBE stressed the importance of safeguarding lawyers’ rights, as their violation will inevitably have an impact on the right of Ukrainian citizens to a fair trial, as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. As the lawyers are central in ensuring the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the CCBE respectfully asked the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the facts mentioned in the letter, and to take all measures to prevent future abuses.

Conference in Tbilisi on 20-21 June 2016

June 29th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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On 20-21 June 2016, the Georgian Bar Association in partnership with the Council of Europe and CCBE held a conference on ‘Bar associations working towards an independent, qualified and ethical exercise of the profession of lawyer’ in Tbilisi, Georgia. The conference, hosted by Tbilisi State University, was opened with a speech from the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, in which he underlined his regard for the legal profession and the importance of its independent, qualified and ethical exercise.

The event brought together legal professionals, diplomats, scholars and representatives from various international organisations. The conference was attended by over twenty representatives from ten national Bar Associations, including Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Moldova, as well as by members of the Georgian Bar Association. The CCBE was represented by its First Vice-President Ruthven Gemmell WS. During the conference, the participants explored and exchanged their views on the role of bar associations in such areas as professional deontology, lawyers training and defense and promotion of lawyers’ rights. On the initiative of the Council of Europe, an inventory of good practices shared by participants will be prepared after the event.

The programme of the conference is available here.

CCBE highlights concerns about recent killings of lawyers and violations of lawyers’ rights in Ukraine

April 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 5 April 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to the President of Ukraine to express its deepest concern over murders of four lawyers in Ukraine:  Yuri Grabovski, Viktor Loiko, Oleksandr Gruzkov, and Yuriy Ignatenko. The CCBE respectfully urged the President to take effective steps to ensure that these murders are thoroughly and independently investigated and to guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Ukraine are able to perform their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, or harassment.

In a follow-up to this, on 6 April 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to the Ukrainian authorities (President, Prime Minister and Acting Prosecutor General of Ukraine) supporting the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) request to stop violations of lawyers’ rights in Ukraine. The CCBE has received information from the UNBA about numerous cases of violations of lawyers’ rights in connection with the searches and seizures of lawyer’s offices, and of summoning lawyers to witness against their clients. The CCBE strongly condemned these violations and recommended that the Ukrainian authorities take all necessary steps in order to guarantee that all relevant provisions of both international and national law are respected. The CCBE emphasized that lawyers play a vital role in the administration of justice and in maintaining and defending the rule of law and therefore, their rights should not be disregarded.

Twinning agreement between Georgian and Polish Lawyers

April 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The Polish and Georgian Bars organise regular consultations and exchanges of views on matters discussed by the CCBE Standing Committee and Plenary Sessions, and also take part in various events organised by each Bar. After participation of the Delegation of the Polish Bar of Legal Advisers in the 10th Anniversary of the independent legal profession in Georgia, another meeting took place within the framework of the Twinning Agreement signed in Gdańsk last year. On 11 March 2016, two Georgian human rights defenders, Mr Fridon Sikhuashvili and Ms Klara Shukvani, were awarded during the 8th Gala of the Crystal Heart, organised once a year by the Polish Bar of Legal Advisers to honour lawyers with outstanding achievements and activities in the field of pro bono work. Georgian laureates are particularly active in representing lawyers whose rights have been violated, including Mzia Tomashvili the lawyer whose case has been mentioned in the letter of concern sent by the CCBE last year.

For further information please see the letter written by the CCBE on the situation of lawyers in Georgia.

CCBE and IBA report on the CCBE-IBA-ELF-UNBA Joint Conference on Representation by Advocates in Court Proceedings in Ukraine

March 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The report on the CCBE-IBA-ELF-UNBA joint conference on ‘Representation by Advocates in Court Proceedings’ in Kiev on 5-6 June was completed in February 2016. This conference brought together European expert speakers with representatives from the Ukrainian authorities, the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA), advocates as well as representatives from European and international organisations. The final report contains information on presentations of experts during the conference, and recommendations on improving the quality of legal services in Ukraine. The report will assist the Bar in their further dealings with public authorities in order to ensure representation by advocates in courts.

Full report can be found here.

The 10th anniversary of the Georgian Bar Association

November 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

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CCBE President Maria Ślązak receiving the Order of Luarsab Andronikashvili

On 7 November 2015, CCBE President Maria Ślązak attended a conference, in Tbilisi, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Georgian Bar Association. The theme of this conference was “Freedom of Lawyers’ Profession and Institutional Guarantees”. It was attended by expert speakers from the Parliament of Georgia, the Scottish/English Bar, the Netherlands Bar, the Belgian Bar, and the French Bar. There were also other international delegations present from the Polish, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan Bars. The discussion centred on the freedom of the legal profession and lawyers’ rights in Georgia, the international guarantees of free advocacy and European standard, lawyers defending rights of lawyers, and institutional guarantees of legal practice. The speakers’ presentations were highly appreciated by Georgian lawyers who showed great interest in the developments and experience in other European countries. There was a fruitful discussion on the problems faced by Georgian lawyers in their daily practice, which highlighted the need to continuously raise issues at both national and international levels. To date, the CCBE has sent letters to various Georgian and European Authorities to raise concerns about the continuing violations of rights of lawyers in Georgia in February 2014, June 2014 and May 2015. 

 In the framework of the event, Maria Ślązak was awarded with the Order of Luarsab Andronikashvili for her generous contribution to the development of the Georgian Bar Association and to the protection of lawyer’s rights. Maria Ślązak is the first ever foreign lawyer to be awarded with the Order of Georgian Bar Association.

CCBE letter to the Prime minister of the Republic of Albania regarding introduction of fiscal cash registers for lawyers and the VAT rules

October 14th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

012On 12 October 2015, the CCBE sent a letter to the Prime minister of the Republic of Albania reiterating its deep concerns about the implementation of fiscal cash registers for lawyers and VAT rules, and asking for information about the reasoning behind this. In 2010 and 2011, the CCBE sent three letters to the previous Prime minister of the Republic of Albania raising the same issues. The CCBE highlighted in its letter the potential risks which the application of the fiscal cash registers to lawyers will have with regard to access to justice, independence of the profession, professional secrecy or legal professional privilege. Another concern is that all legal services in Albania are subject to 20% VAT regardless of a lawyer’s salary, whereas for other businesses VAT varies depending on income.

In 2011, the CCBE carried out a survey among its members about national VAT and threshold rules. The CCBE survey showed that the Albanian provision, which would foresee that legal services are subject to 20% VAT regardless of a lawyer’s turnover, is contrary to the existing standards and practice of other European countries.

The full letter can be read here.

Joint CoE-UNBA-CCBE event on Strategic Planning, Kyiv, Ukraine.

October 12th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

On the 9 and 10 October 2015, in Kyiv, the Council of Europe, jointly with the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) and the CCBE, held an event on strategic planning. CCBE President Maria Ślązak, along with experts from the Bars of Finland, Lithuania and Scotland, participated in this conference, the purpose of which was to provide examples from their practices which could be of assistance to the Ukrainian National Bar Association.

Oxana Gutu UNBA Head Lidiya Izovitova CCBE President Maria Ślązak

Oxana Gutu, Council of Europe
Lidiya Izovitova, Head of UNBA
Maria Ślązak, CCBE President

The objectives of this conference were that the participants would acquire and upgrade their understanding on the purpose and use of strategic planning; learn from other European Bar Associations’ experiences on Strategic Planning; and be able to formulate the key elements of drafting of the Strategy leading to agreement on high-level strategy (e.g. mission, vision, strategic objectives).

The audience benefited from a combination of presentations of Strategic Planning experiences from European Bar Associations, training methods and practical group work.

The results should help the Ukrainian National Bar Association to formulate a strategy and an Action Plan for the coming five years.