Ukraine: ICJ report casts light on alarming disbarments and suspensions of lawyers

An ICJ report published today raises concerns at the effect that the recent reform is having on the organization and effective functioning of the legal profession in the country.

The report casts light on a conflict in the legal profession, which has led to apparently arbitrary disciplinary action against a significant number of lawyers.

The report, Ukraine: conflict, disbarments and suspensions in the legal profession, reveals the escalating dispute in the legal profession following the implementation of a new law, signed by the President on 5 July 2012, which significantly changed the organization of the profession and provides for the establishment of a new bar association.

The law, which provided an opportunity to strengthen the independence of the profession, in practice has led to a serious split between rival groups of lawyers and to the abuse of the disciplinary process.

The conflict in the profession came to a head when a number of lawyers were prevented from taking part in the founding Constituent Congress for the establishment of the new bar association, in November 2012.

This led to those lawyers forming a parallel Congress and to the establishment of two rival National Associations of Lawyers.

“The fact that approximately half of the delegates were unable to take part in the main founding Congress of the National Association of Lawyers points to a worrying fracturing and weakness in the institutions and procedures of the profession,” Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser of the Europe Programme, said today. “More generally, the way in which the reform was implemented has led to instances of abuse of powers within the legal profession, through for example imposing disciplinary sanctions.”

After the conclusion of the Congress, seemingly unwarranted disciplinary action was taken against lawyers who were active in one of the two rival National Bar Associations.

The report finds a consistent pattern in the decisions to initiate such disciplinary proceedings, suggesting reasons other than those related the lawyers’ professional conduct.

These disciplinary proceedings raise serious concerns in regard to possible violations of rights to freedom of association and the right to participate in the governance of the legal profession.

The ICJ noted that the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, require the State to ensure that disciplinary sanctions are not unfairly or arbitrarily imposed on lawyers for action taken in accordance with the legitimate exercise of their professional duties, and in accordance with accepted standards of professional conduct.

“We call on the authorities to investigate the conflict in the profession and subsequent disciplinary action,” said Temur Shakirov. “They must ensure that lawyers are able to carry out their duties in an atmosphere free of intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”


Róisín Pillay, Director, ICJ Europe Programme, roisin.pillay(a)

Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser, ICJ Europe Programme, temur.shakirov(a)

Ukraine – Conflict, Disbarments And Suspensions In The Legal Profession – publications-report-2014-eng (full text in pdf)

Ukraine – Conflict, Disbarments And Suspensions In The Legal Profession – publications-report-2014-ukr (full text in pdf)

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