CCBE addresses Ukrainian National Bar Association concerns

January 12th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The CCBE addressed concerns communicated by the Ukrainian National Bar Association during the last weeks of December in a letter sent to the president of Ukraine, Mr. Petro Poroshenko. The UNBA has informed the PECO committee that a bill was passed in the morning of the 21 December that would amend provisions in the Law on Advocacy, especially regarding the lawyers’ self-governing bodies’ discretion on establishing the sums and the procedure of paying yearly Bar membership fees. On another note, the CCBE was concerned with worrying information from Ukraine regarding defamatory  language addressed to lawyers in national media and in the national parliament. The UNBA feels that such language influences negatively public opinion on the legal profession. The UNBA has become an observer member of the CCBE in December 2016.

Ukrainian National Bar Association has become observer member of the CCBE

December 6th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The application of the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) for observer membership was approved by the CCBE Plenary on 2 December 2016.

The UNBA was established in 2012 after the adoption of the ‘Law on the Bar and Practice of Law’ on 5 July 2012 by the Ukrainian Parliament. It is the official regulator and self-governing body of the legal profession in Ukraine.

The UNBA succeeds the Union of Advocates of Ukraine which has been an observer member in the CCBE since 2003.

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.

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.