Today, the ICJ expressed concern at the criminal proceedings against Andriy Domanskyi, a lawyer practicing in Ukraine, known for representing individuals facing political prosecution and defending journalists.
The ICJ has called on the Ukrainian authorities to drop any criminal proceedings which may result from the identification of the lawyer with his clients and to ensure that the lawyer’s rights are protected and that he can continue to carry out his professional activity without improper interference, intimidation or threat.
On 5 April Domanskyi was issued a note of suspicion in a criminal proceeding reportedly initiated in 2013 concerning the “privatization of municipal premises”.
Criminal proceedings were initiated one day after the commencement on 4 April of a trial of his client Kirill Vyshynskyi, Chief Editor of RIA Novosti Ukraine recently changed with high treason and a number of other crimes.
Domanskyi considers these criminal proceedings against him are linked with his professional activity and are a means of putting pressure on him as a result of work on this high-profile case.
Earlier this year, on 17 January, while Domanskyi represented Vyshynskyi in a court hearing on the lawfulness of his arrest in Kherson, the lawyer’s home, office premises and his assistant’s relatives’ premises in Kyiv were searched by the officers of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
This took place only a few days after the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) publicly announced that the investigation regarding Vyshynskyi had been terminated.
While these searches were sanctioned by the court, another search was conducted on the same day and was sanctioned by an investigator rather than the Prosecutor General or his Deputy or the Prosecutor of Kyiv City, as provided by the Law of Ukraine “On advokatura and advocates’ activity”.
The lawyer connected these searches to the fact that at that time he repeatedly filed motions to release Vyshynskyi on bail, with himself acting as a guarantor on the bail.
Any criminal proceedings against the lawyer amounting to harassment or reprisals for his professional activities would be highly problematic.
In recent years, the ICJ has witnessed an alarming increase in the number of cases of interference with the work of lawyers, including use of legal proceedings, threats or physical attacks on lawyers in Ukraine.
As was confirmed during an ICJ mission carried out only last month, searches of lawyers’ premises are often performed without due respect to procedures prescribed by law and result in undermining the independent work of lawyers and respect of procedural rights guarantees under national and international law.
Principle 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that, “lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
As affirmed by the Basic Principles, governments must ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” and “shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”
“Investigative and other law enforcement authorities in Ukraine must stop harassment of lawyers, including by improperly associating them with their clients or their clients’ causes, and carrying out searches of lawyers’ offices and documents in violation of national law and procedure as well as international human rights standards,” said Temur Shakirov, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser.
“In this regard, the ICJ stresses that this troubling pattern of attacks affects not only individual lawyers but also the legal professional as a whole. The Ukrainian authorities should take prompt and effective measures to ensure that lawyers are not identified with their clients or their client’s causes and that the safety and independence of lawyers is guaranteed in law and in practice,” he added.
On 4-8 March, the ICJ carried out a research mission to Ukraine on the independence and security of lawyers. Following the mission, the ICJ called on the Ukrainian authorities to take urgent steps to ensure the physical safety of lawyers and to bring to justice those responsible for a series of violent attacks against them.
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