The case for drafting a European Convention on the Profession of Lawyer

The ICJ welcomes the proposal of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in its Recommendation 2121(2018) calling for the development of a Council of Europe Convention on the Profession of Lawyer.

The ICJ believes that such a Convention could make an important contribution to strengthening the rule of law and the protection of human rights in the Council of Europe region, building on existing Council of Europe standards and jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

The ICJ particularly welcomes PACE’s call for an effective control mechanism to be put in place under a new Convention, as recent developments in a number of Council of Europe Member States show a significant gap in implementation of Council of Europe standards on the independence and security of lawyers.

Lawyers, along with judges and prosecutors, are one of the pillars on which protection of the rule of law and human rights through the justice system rests.

Recognizing this, the ICJ, since its foundation in 1952, has worked to protect lawyers under threat and to develop international standards for the independence, role and integrity of the profession.

Successive ICJ Declarations, adopted by leading jurists from all regions of the world, have affirmed that the role of the legal profession is “paramount in safeguarding human rights and the Rule of Law” (2008 Declaration on Upholding the Rule of Law and the Role of Judges and Lawyers in Times of Crisis (ICJ 2008 Declaration).

In any legal system, the legal profession plays a pivotal role in ensuring access to justice and effective remedies and accountability for violations of human rights, as well as upholding the right to fair trial, right to liberty and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment in the criminal justice process.

In defending criminal cases, in advising and representing victims of human rights violations and their relatives or in challenging before the courts national legislation or policy that is contrary to human rights , lawyers give practical effect to human rights guarantees and rule of law principles.

The importance of this role has been recognized by international standards as well as in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, which has emphasized the “specific status of lawyers [having] a central position in the administration of justice as intermediaries between the public and the courts”.

It is thus of fundamental importance that lawyers are able to fulfill their professional duties without interference. As the European Court of Human Rights has held, “persecution and harassment of members of the legal profession strikes at the very heart of the Convention system.”

Full text in ENG (PDF): Europe-Drafting-a-EU-Convention-on-the-Profession-of-Lawyer-2018-ENG