10 July 2020

IBA urges to UN Members States more protection for lawyers

The International Bar Association (IBA) has issued a statement addressed to United Nations Member States in support of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (UN Basic Principles). 

Through this call, the IBA wants justice for legal professionals to be protected, as well as the inherent human rights. That is why this call for action has been signed by 50 actors in the legal sector (such as bar associations, law societies, and international and national lawyers' organizations from different countries of the world).

The president of the IBA, Horacio Bernardes Neto (who is also a senior partner of Motta Fernandes Advogados in Brazil) has made the following comments on the subject:

“The UN Basic Principles are the most comprehensive international set of guidelines aimed at safeguarding the independent functioning of the legal profession. They must be given more acknowledgement and support from the global community, especially at a time when the struggle to keep the rule of law and respect for human rights intact is heightened.’ He added: ‘The worldwide increasing frequency of attacks against individual lawyers, as well as the independence of the legal profession, is deeply troubling to the IBAHRI. We urge governments to firmly and unequivocally recognise that lawyers (who are and must always remain independent) should never be identified with their clients”.

The UN Basic Principles were adopted in 1990 through the 8th Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders

The measures advocated in the communiqué include the following: 

Adopt effective and creative mechanisms to respond to new realities and threats against lawyers and the legal profession, and, in law and in practice, to fully comply with, codify, and implement the Basic Principles, as well other national and international norms and standards relating to the independence and functions of lawyers.

Ensure prompt, practical and effective access to independent legal representation, without discrimination, for all persons within their territory, including from the early stages of, and throughout, the criminal proceedings. Any limitations to the access to legal representation must be consistent with international human rights law. 

Ensure to all lawyers in the exercise of their profession, guarantees of protection from any kind of interference by state and non-state actors. States should be proactive in providing additional protection and safeguards to lawyers practising their profession who might be specifically targeted by various state and non-state actors when, for example, representing unpopular or anti-government citizens/causes; when allegations of threats to national security are invoked; or when the rule of law is undermined. Lawyers must themselves be guaranteed at all times the right to representation, a fair trial and attendant due process. 

Ensure that the principle of the independence of the legal profession and the corresponding principles of non-identification of lawyers with their clients and/or causes and lawyers’ civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings, are never derogated from as absolute guarantees. 

Ensure that guarantees for lawyers that allow them to function effectively in their profession, including the lawyer-client privilege; a lawyer’s right to adequate opportunity, time and facilities to meet and communicate freely and in full confidentiality with his/her clients, including in the case of detained clients; a lawyers’ right to a reasonable fee for his/her work; and a lawyer’s ability to travel and consult freely with his/her client, are never curtailed by any domestic laws and provisions, except in exceptional circumstances justified by the interest of justice.

Recognize and promote the right of lawyers to form independent and self-governing professional associations of lawyers accessible to all members of the profession, as guardians of the core values of the legal profession and ensure protection of this independence, including through domestic legislation. 

Ensure the right of lawyers and professional associations of lawyers to participate in the legislative process as it relates to the legal profession and access to justice, and respect and protect lawyers’ rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including via social media, in their role as critics of the administration of justice. 

Copyright © The Impact Lawyers. All rights reserved. This information or any part of it may not be copied or disseminated in any way or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of The Impact Lawyers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of The Impact Lawyers.

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