Statement of the Human Rights Agenda platform on depriving attorneys of the ability to cooperate with human rights organisations
In the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the consideration of the first reading of a draft law ‘On Legal Practice and Advocacy’ No. 9055 is scheduled for 28 February.
The authors and supporters of the law are striving to prove its progressive nature, strengthening of guarantees of advocacy and empowerment.
However, should the law be adopted, all attorneys who cooperate with human rights organisations will be deprived of the opportunity to engage in advocacy activities within the framework of cooperation with these organisations. Hundreds of cases which have been filed by lawyers of these organisations with the European Court of Human Rights, and thousands of court cases in national courts will become only a reminder of past activities. There will be no one competent to file new applications with the European Court and national courts on behalf of human rights organisations.
In his expert opinion which contains the analysis of the draft law No. 9055, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Diego Garcia-Sayan stated that the restriction, set forth in Article 28 of the draft law 9055, could adversely affect the lawyers who would have to choose between full employment and the work of a human rights defender which, obviously, would adversely affect an access to justice in the country, in particular, for individuals with limited financial means. Also, the report provides a whole number of risks and threats to independent advocacy, such as the procedure of bringing attorneys to disciplinary responsibility, unfounded types of disciplinary sanctions that affect the independence of advocacy and, consequently, affect appropriate defence in court.
Separately, the completely opaque process of work on the draft law is to be mentioned, and this fact has also been noted in the report by Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan. He wrote that consultations with representatives of the legal profession were very limited in nature, and the final draft law was made public by the office of the President without the opportunity to comment on its content.
A lack of transparency, marginalisation of the drafting process and introduction of the draft law, a lack of a high-quality expert examination, for example, by the Venice Commission, and haste with the attempts to implement this law as soon as possible in a parliament’s session confirm the poor quality of the preparation process and the same low-quality content of the draft law itself, which, in its present form, poses a real threat to the protection of human rights in the human rights protection environment of Ukraine and can be regarded as a way of attack and exertion of pressure on the environment.
We hereby urge Members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to prevent the consideration and adoption of the draft law 9055, as requested in the report by Diego Garcia-Sayan, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The text of the draft law No. 9055 must be redrafted, discussed publicly and amended, taking into account the comments made by representatives of the bar community, human rights organisations, and international experts. We demand transparency, honesty and high quality. Today, we cannot see these features in the draft law No. 9055.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Center for Civil Liberties
Regional Centre for Human Rights
Open Dialogue Foundation
Humanitarian Studio "Wave
Luhansk Regional Human Rights Center “Alternative”