Justice International (JI), Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L), the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) worked together to bring a panel of experts, lawyers and human rights defenders at the OSCE 2017 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM 2017) in Warsaw, on September 20th, 2017 to discuss the important role lawyers play while performing all of their professional functions in challenging conditions under intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
The speakers outlined the main standards of the lawyers’ role as established in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the highlighting the need for more protections by illustrating through specific cases from Belarus, Crimea, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Specifically, the speakers described the circumstances that undermine lawyers’ independence such as licensing, disciplinary, civil, and criminal procedures and how those are used by the executive and judicial branches to put pressure on lawyers working on sensitive cases. The speakers also shared other difficulties they face in their work such as identification with their clients or their clients’ causes, working under physical threats of violence, lack of access to their clients and case information. They also discussed the ways to move towards finding solutions and providing recommendations for international community in defending lawyers working under threat.