Commission communication on the Western Balkans

March 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

On 6 February, 2018 the European Commission adopted a strategy “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans” (COM(2018) 65 and Annex).

The Strategy confirms the European future of the region as a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values. It spells out the priorities and areas of joint reinforced cooperation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations. A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country.

The European Commission also announced six flagship initiatives – specific actions that the EU will take over the next years to support the transformation efforts of the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest. In particular:

  • strengthen the rule of law,
  • reinforce engagement on security and migration;
  • enhance support for socio-economic development;
  • increase transport ad energy connectivity;
  • develop digital agenda for the Western Balkans;
  • support reconciliations and good neighbourly relations.

As regards the rule of law – the existing tools, such as detailed action plans, will be expanded to all Western Balkans countries. Assessment of reform implementation will be enhanced, including through new advisory missions. Greater use will be made of leverage provided in the negotiating frameworks with Montenegro and Serbia.

General information about the enlargement process and the provisional timeline for 2018 is also provided by the European Commission.

9 March 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia – CONFERENCE “Current challenges and opportunities of the bars and law societies of the Council of Europe member states”

February 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The Conference “Current challenges and opportunities of the bars and law societies of the Council of Europe member states” is organised by the Council of Europe Project “Support to the implementation of judicial reform in Armenia”, the CCBE and the Chamber of Advocates of Armenia on 9 March 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia.

The aim of the conference is to provide a platform for sharing information and experience on the current challenges of the bars and law societies, explore detrimental issues in the bar associations and propose concrete steps for strengthening the cooperation and ties amongst the bar associations and law societies of the Council of Europe member states.

The main objective of the Conference is to facilitate a dialogue and exchange of the best practice between the bars and law societies of different Council of Europe member states. The exchange that will take place between professionals from different countries shall create a solid platform for argumentation and it seeks to generate and contribute to a wider debate about the potential improvements in the bar associations and for the profession of an advocate. Even if the directions and the policies of the bar reforms may differ from country to country, discussion on the primary concepts and challenges unites different Council of Europe member states.

The discussions and debates will be held on the following topics:

  1. Advocacy ethics

1.1    The relations between the attorney and court, respectful behaviour towards the court.

1.2    Data protection.

1.3    The scope of rules of ethics: personal, social and professional aspects

  1. Creation of cooperation network between attorneys of different Council of Europe member states — this session is aimed at discussing the possibility of the creation of a platform for more effective cooperation.

Registration deadline: 28 February 2018.

E-mail for registration and additional information regarding the conference:

Program of the conferenceAdditional information. 

CCBE adopted statement on professional secrecy / legal professional privilege

October 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

In response to infringements in several member countries which are jeopardising the confidentiality attached to the relationship between clients and their lawyers, the CCBE adopted at its Standing Committee on 15 September 2017, a statement on professional secrecy / legal professional privilege. The CCBE emphasises that – contrary to a common misconception – the relationship of professional confidentiality, is intended not to protect lawyers but to protect their clients only. Once a client consults a lawyer, they have the guarantee that what they have said to their lawyer will be protected by professional secrecy / legal professional privilege and remain confidential. It would be impossible for lawyers to provide such advice or representation if the client, for fear of betrayal of that essential precondition of confidentiality, withholds information from his lawyer. Without confidentiality, there cannot be a fair trial and without a fair trial the rule of law is at stake. Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of individual freedom in a democratic society

Find the statement here (EN) (FR).

Belarus: CCBE expresses concerns over Belarus lawyers and recertification

September 22nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 12 September 2017, the President of the CCBE addressed a letter to the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko expressing the CCBE’s concerns over the situation of Belarus lawyers, including Mr Pavel Sapelko (who was rewarded with the CCBE Human Rights Awards in 2012).

The Ministry of Justice of Belarus ordered certification of several lawyers, which according to the CCBE can be an instrument of the authorities to pressure the legal community.
Read more here.

ECHR: ‘Decision to restrict communication between lawyer and accused on the grounds of protecting States secrets was contrary to the Convention’

July 27th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

In 2014 a former member of the Netherlands security service (AIVD) was charged of having disclosed state secrets to unauthorised persons. Prior to his trial, he was informed by the secret service that it would be constitutive of a further criminal offence if he were to discuss the matters covered by his duty of secrecy with anyone including his counsel.

During the appeal proceedings he and his counsel complained over the security service restrictions affecting the defence.

The applicant complained before the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that his trial had been unfair and that (inter alia) Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair trial) had been violated. He stated that the security service had exercised decisive control over the evidence, restricting his and domestic courts’ access to it and controlling its use, thus preventing him from instructing his defence counsel effectively.

The Court held that without professional advice, an individual who was facing serious criminal charges could not be expected to weigh up the benefits of disclosing his case in full to a lawyer against the risk of further prosecution for doing so. Consequently, there had been a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) as the fairness of the proceedings had been irretrievably compromised by the interference with communication between the applicant and his lawyer.

Read more here.

UN experts urge the Government of Turkey to release all rights defenders

July 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 5 July 2017 nine human rights defenders and two foreign trainers, including the director of Amnesty International in Turkey, attending a workshop for human rights defenders in Turkey, were detained over alleged membership of a terrorism organisation.

On 14 July 2017 a group of United Nation experts called on the Turkish Government to immediately release them. Amongst others, the experts “expressed concern at reports that a confidential investigation has been opened by the Prosecutor against the group, preventing defence lawyers from accessing the case files, and at reports that a smear campaign is being conducted against them.”

Read more information here.

In June 2017 the Chair of Amnesty International in Turkey, Taner Kiliç, and 22 other laywers were arrested. The CCBE addressed its concerns to the President of Turkey.

Read more here.

ECHR: refusal of the Lithuanian Bar Association to readmit advocate V. Lekavičienė to the Bar had been justified

July 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Vladislava Ramunė Lekavičienė was admitted to the Lithuanian Bar Association as an advocate until December 2003, when her name had been removed  from the list of practicing advocates due to a pending criminal case against her. In August 2004, Ms Lekavičienė was convicted of over thirty instances of forgery and fraud, relating to untruthful claims that she had provided legal services within the framework of the State-paid legal-aid scheme.

In August 2007, after the expiration of her conviction, she requested readmission to the Lithuanian Bar Association. The Bar refused her request on the grounds that she did not possess the requisite high moral character.

After exhaustion of the domestic courts Ms Lekavičienė appealed the refusal before the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that it violates Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

On 27 June 2017, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention. The Court acknowledged that the refusal to accept Ms Lekavičienė to the Bar constituted an interference with her right to respect for her private life. The Court found, however, that the interference had been justified, as it had not exceeded “what had been “necessary in a democratic society” for protecting the rights of others by ensuring the good and proper functioning of the judicial system.” The Court states, inter alia, that “it is not unreasonable to hold that the application’s behaviour when systematically cheating the court system and the State out of sums of money also showed her disrespect for her colleagues and peers, thus undermining the entire ideal of justice. The Court therefore inclines to the view that the reasons given by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court not to hold the applicant as being of high moral character (…).

Read the judgement here.

UN Human Rights Council Resolutions on the Independence of the Judiciary and Lawyers

June 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

During its session from 6-23 June 2017, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolutions on the independence of the judiciary and lawyers, inluding the following:

1. Calls upon all States to guarantee the independence of judges and lawyers and the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors, as well as their ability to perform their functions accordingly, including by taking effective legislative, law enforcement and other appropriate measures that will enable them to carry out their professional functions without interference, harassment, threats or intimidation of any kind;

6. Emphasizes that the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provide that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their function;

7. Emphasizes that lawyers should be enabled to discharge their functions freely, independently and without any fear of reprisal;

10. Expresses its deep concern about the significant number of attacks against lawyers and instances of arbitrary or unlawful interference with or restrictions to the free practice of their profession, and calls upon States to ensure that any attacks or interference of any sort against lawyers are promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated and that perpetrators are held accountable;

11. Calls upon States, in collaboration with relevant national entities such as bar associations, associations of judges and prosecutors, and educational institutions, to provide adequate training, including human rights training, for judges, prosecutors and lawyers, both on initial appointment and periodically throughout their careers, taking into account regional and international human rights law and, where applicable and relevant, the concluding observations and decisions of human rights mechanisms, such as treaty bodies and regional human rights courts;

16. Calls upon States to ensure that legal provisions that are or have been adopted in relation to counter-terrorism or national security are consistent with the international obligations of the State concerning the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty, the right to an effective remedy for violations of human rights and other provisions of international law relevant to the role of judges, prosecutors and lawyers;

The full document can be download here.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers – Advance Report

June 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

In the advance report of 9 June 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur presents his perspective on the mandate.

The Rapporteur identified four broad areas of concern: (1) judicial indpendence; (2) corruption, organised crime and the indepdence judges and lawyers; (3) protection of the legal profession; and (4) restrictions to the right to a fair trial and due process of law.

Concerning the ‘protection of the legal profession’, the Rapporteur states:

89. The Special Rapporteur takes note of the existing barriers and threats faced by lawyers around the world and will analyse this issue in future reports.

119. Bar associations, institutions that have a vital role to play in upholding professional standards and ethics, must assume their responsibilities in this respect and embrace both the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

127. The Special Rapporteur encourages all States, bar associations and lawyers’ organizations to endorse the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and to disseminate their content, so that they may be fully known by all authorities and members of the legal profession.

131. It is the responsibility of States to ensure security and physical protection for all members of the legal profession in order to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. One of the priorities must be to set out a protocol that would allow detecting and dealing with such circumstances.

The Report has been prepared for the Human Rights Council on 6-23 June 2017.


Post of 13 January 2017 on the UN Special Rapporteur.

UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

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.