Pressure on lawyers is an indicator of human rights violations in Ukraine – UNBA

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13:14 Thu 09.05.24 114 Reviews
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The growing pressure on the bar threatens to deteriorate the human rights situation in Ukraine. The statistics on violations of the guarantees of the practice of law indicate a threatening situation for the effective and safe professional activity of defense lawyers.

Lidiya Izovitova, the President of the UNBA, BCU appealed to Rustem Umerov, the Minister of Defense and the Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets in connection with numerous violations of the rights and guarantees of the legal profession by employees of the territorial centers for recruitment and social support (TSC) in the course of professional defense of Ukrainian citizens. These are facts of interference in the activities, violence against defense lawyers, illegal deprivation of liberty, seizure of personal belongings, including those containing attorney-client privilege - actions that directly impede the practice of law and violate the human right to defense and legal aid.

One of the latest violations was committed by the TCC employees on May 3. The lawyer received five assignments from the Southern Interregional Center for Free Legal Aid and provided legal aid in Reni, Odesa region.

The investigator inspected the scene with the participation of the lawyer and witnesses. Before the investigative action, the lawyer was informed that if he provided active defense, he would have problems with the local TCC, the territorial center for recruitment and social support, as he was allegedly wanted. The advocate perceived this message as an attempt to put pressure (since there was no information on his wanted list in the Diia app) and continued to fulfill the duties assigned to him by law.

But later, police officers and armed masked men appeared and ordered the lawyer to immediately go with them to the local TCC. The lawyer said that he was ready to come to the recruitment and social support center in accordance with the procedure established by law, but at the moment he was defending persons in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code. In response, the armed men grabbed the lawyer, forced him into a car and took him to the recruitment center.

All the events were recorded on video by numerous witnesses.

The manner in which the lawyer was actually detained is particularly cynical, according to the UNBA, since such detention was carried out with humiliation of honor and dignity, as well as business reputation of the well-known defense lawyer in the city of Reni.

In addition, as it became known later, the detention protocol was not drawn up, and the FLA center was not notified of the relevant detention. The advocate was detained against his will in the premises of the TCC on the order (allegedly) of the police authorities of Odesa region.

Such actions of the TCC employees constitute a gross violation of the advocate's rights, pressure on him and obstruction of his professional activity, which deprives the citizens of Ukraine of the opportunity to receive proper and high-quality legal aid guaranteed by the Constitution.

The UNBA noted that such detentions of attorneys by the TCC are not uncommon and are becoming systemic.

Thus, on April 26, 2023, the lawyer arrived at the Chernihiv Regional Office of the TCC and CS in connection with the provision of legal aid to a client. The employees of the center detained the lawyer and kept him for a long time without explanation. Later, the TCC employees served the lawyer with a summons.

On January 28, 2024, officials of the Khust District TCC and the JV of the Transcarpathian region detained a lawyer and his client, after which they were taken to a training center in Rivne to undergo the so-called selection for military units. At the same time, the lawyer, who provided legal assistance, was deprived of his personal belongings, including a cell phone containing the attorney-client privilege.

On February 16, 2024, the lawyer fulfilled an assignment to provide free legal aid in the Primorskyi District TCC and JV of Odesa. After the completion of the procedural actions, the center's employees blocked the exit for the lawyer and his client and tried to serve the summonses.

On March 28, 2024, the lawyer provided free secondary legal aid to a detainee in the Zavodskyi District TDC and CS, where the defense counsel, who demanded the client's release, was served with a summons requiring him to appear in the same TCC.

Such violations of the rights of lawyers in the course of their practice of law cannot be justified by martial law, - the UNBA believes. - After all, the Constitution grants everyone the right to professional legal assistance and recognizes the independence of the advocacy.

And the use of physical force or other unlawful influence on an advocate in connection with the performance of his or her professional duties is an obstruction of the practice of law and a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens.

The TCC's disregard for the guarantees of the practice of law violates not only national legislation, but also international standards set forth by the UN in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Ultimately, the violation of the rights of advocates by the TCC indicates pressure and interference in their activities, which makes it impossible to properly protect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen!

In view of this, the UNBA called on R. Umerov and D. Lubinets to take response measures in all regions of Ukraine to ensure the protection of the rights of lawyers and guarantees of the practice of law to prevent further violations. In particular, by bringing the guilty employees of the TCC to justice under the legislation of Ukraine.

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