June 29, 2018
The right to defence is one of the fundamental human rights that is enshrined in a number of international agreements. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the principle of equality of all before the law, the presumption of innocence, and the right to be examined openly and with all the requirements of justice by an independent and impartial court.
In order to exercise their right to defence, prosecuted persons must have full access to legal services provided by independent lawyers and attorneys. According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, everyone has the right to ask any lawyer for help in defending their rights and protecting them at all stages of criminal proceedings.
According to the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights, lawyers play a key role in maintaining public confidence in the judicial system and act as intermediaries between the public and courts. Thus, they are an important element of the rule of law.
As noted in paragraph 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions in an environment free from intimidation and improper interference. Also, lawyers shall not be prosecuted or sanctioned for any acts committed as part of their professional duties.
Unfortunately, in countries where democratic institutions are poorly developed and the rule of law does not work, lawyers and attorneys often become victims of persecution as well as various kinds of pressure and restrictions. This especially concerns those who participate in politically motivated cases.
Lawyers and attorneys are attacked both by state institutions and authorities and by various criminals, against which the state is unable to protect them. This prosecution also involves professional associations that proclaim their aim to protect the rights and interests of lawyers, but are not independent of state bodies.
At the moment, there are no effective mechanisms for monitoring the interference of the state and other entities in the activities of lawyers and attorneys. The solution could consist of adopting a special document that would protect lawyers and attorneys at the international level.
The statutory goals of the Open Dialog Foundation provide for the protection of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in the post-Soviet space. This report examines cases of harassment and attacks on lawyers and attorneys in countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine,and Turkey. The latter is not a post-Soviet state, but it is a member of the Council of Europe and therefore has international obligations in the field of standards of law, democratic development, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.