Fifty lawyers’ organizations urge UN member states to protect lawyers | Joint Letter

IBA urges UN Member States to recognise, uphold and protect the role of lawyers

Call to action PDF (ENG)
Call to action PDF (FR)
Call to action PDF (ESP)

As the 44th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council begins, coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (‘UN Basic Principles’), the International Bar Association (IBA) urges Member States to support the UN Basic Principles and the role of the legal profession in upholding the rule of law, and promoting and protecting human rights.

A joint call for action – signed by 50 bar associations, law societies, and national and international lawyers’ organisations from across the world – has been issued by the IBA together with the International Association of Lawyers and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. It is available in English, French and Spanish.

Horacio Bernardes Neto, IBA President and senior partner of Motta Fernandes Advogados in Brazil, stated: ‘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 by the 8th Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, with the objective of assisting Member States in their task of promoting and ensuring the proper role of lawyers. The UN Basic Principles reiterate rights, such as everyone’s equality before the law, the right to a fair trial and respect for fundamental freedoms, that have been recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the IBA Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession. Sarah Hutchinson, Chair, IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest, commented: ‘No effective justice system can exist without proper access to legal assistance. Ensuring the independence of the legal profession plays a crucial role in that regard. The non-interference principle not only guarantees the independence of lawyers in the discharge of their professional duties, but is also imperative for the maintenance of a functioning democracy.’

The IBA is concerned by instances of UN Member States unduly restricting or completely denying lawyers’ rights and guarantees. Furthermore, the IBA reminds States of the importance of ensuring lawyers’ rights to participate in the legislative process, especially in relation to access to justice and protection of human rights.