There are a number of international declarations and resolutions which guarantee the right to a fair trial; the right to legal representation by an independent lawyer; and the right to the free exercise of the legal profession. These international standards stipulate, amongst other points, that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions; nor can they be attacked by reason of the exercise of their profession. This is notably the message of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the United Nations in 1990.
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers confirms that Governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers also highlights the importance of law societies and their supervisory role regarding norms and professional ethics as well as their role of protecting members against violations to their privacy and undue restrictions or interference. They allow access to legal aid without restrictions or discrimination and incite governments and professional associations to adopt measures of informing the population of their rights. Moreover, they include special protections in matters of criminal law.
Unfortunately, these fundamental guarantees are often discarded. In various countries of the world, lawyers are murdered, physically attacked, forced into exile, imprisoned, threatened or prosecuted in disciplinary, administrative or judicial proceedings due to the exercise of their profession; or forcibly silenced. Lawyers may be often subject to grave depravation and violation of the rights and protections afforded by the above-mentioned norms and international standards
In circumstances where selective and immediate intervention may be required, LWBC have developed protocol for verifying the information and consent of a person who may be subject to intimidation or interference, as well as giving an overall contextual analysis of a situation and its associated risks. Following this, LWBC may organize a mission of international accompaniment, favor dialogue and engage with the relevant authorities, activate a network of alerts amongst relevant stakeholders on the ground, publicly denounce a situation or put in place any other suitable measures for providing assistance.
LWBC also seeks to uphold the security and independence of lawyers through programmed and institutional intervention which may include, among other forms of intervention, reinforcement activities with professional associations or law societies, training sessions and general advocacy on a number of access to justice issues.
LWBC these offers services through its employees and volunteers both in the field and at LWBC headquarters together with its various partners and volunteers which include LWB Brussels, the International Legal Network and its Article 16 Program and the International Observatory for Lawyers, in which LWB France participates.