Russia: Submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the Russian Federation | Joint submission

Full pdf joint submission

On 5 April 2023, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada joined Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) in submitting a report for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Russian Federation. The next UPR of the Russian Federation will take place in November 2023.

The joint submission highlights concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to guarantee that lawyers may function without harassment and hindrance, as set out in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (Basic Principles) and other instruments.

Among the issues highlighted in the submission are the consequences of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine for the judicial system and lawyers. The government of the Russian Federation has passed or misused laws in violation of international law and standards. The independence of Russian courts is constrained, particularly in cases the government considers politically sensitive. Access to the European Court of Human Rights has also been blocked.

Another concern is the illegitimate designation of lawyers as “foreign agents”  under the Russian Foreign Agent Act. Such designations create severe challenges for the practice of law in Russia. The submission also discusses Russia’s law on “undesirable organisation.” This law has been used to label any organizations with relationships with international human rights organisations as “undesirable.” This has affected many lawyers.

In addition, Russian censorship laws are wrongly impeding lawyers’ freedom of expression. Designation as a “foreign agents” constitutes de facto censorship, as Russian lawyers must be careful about what they say in public about their work. They also fear censorship and penalties under the overbroad Code of Administrative Offences, Article 20.3.3, or the Criminal Code.

Difficulties with access to clients in detention is also highlighted in the Submission. L4L, IBAHRI and LRWC registered concerns about the introduction of the ‘Fortress protocol’ at police stations during demonstrations. This protocol has denied detainees access to their lawyers for several hours. L4L, IBA and LRWC are also concerned about lawyer-client confidentiality, which is not always guaranteed. See the full submission (.pdf).